Farmer innovation system in the Loess Plateau of China: An international research and training network
Sustainable ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in China's Loess Plateau - an ecologically fragile area suffering from serious soil erosion and massive poverty - involves changing the perceptions and production behaviours of the rural poor.
This is a difficult and challenging task, according to two decades of development practices in this area, as top-down government intervention often ignores the complexity of local ecosystems, the diversity of the needs of the rural poor, and alternative livelihoods. Nonetheless, farmer participatory technology learning and project design are being paid increasing attention in China and specifically in the Loess Plateau.
By establishing a UK-China research and training network, this project attempted to bring the rural poor into the centre of ecosystem services and poverty alleviation programmes. The network brought together key researchers to investigate a range of issues relating to farmer innovation systems and poverty alleviation in the Loess Plateau, in order to understand the complexity of local ecosystems, the diversity of farmer production behaviours and coping strategies, the potential of farmer innovation, and the limitations of government development intervention.
The network carried out a number of activities aimed at enhancing the capacity to conduct research in this area. In particular it collected, analysed and disseminated the good practices of farmers leading innovation nationwide; brought a group of UK experts to north Shaanxi to carry out interdisciplinary observation and communication with Chinese scholars, local authorities and farmers directly; and arranged for a Chinese delegation to visit Britain in order to enhance collaboration with policy makers, research institutions and representatives of international environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the UK.