Tropentag, September 20-22, 2017, Bonn
Socio-ecological transitions and bio-cultural shifts”
Participatory Video Proposals: A Tool for Empowering Farmer
Groups in Transdisciplinary Innovation Processes?
Pamela Ngwenya, Maria Jose Restrepo Rodriguez, Ra´
ul Fernandez, Brigitte
German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Germany
With the intention of developing more democratic processes of knowledge production to
support innovation processes, a critical methodological approach was developed within the
frame of two transdisciplinary “research for development” projects in Kenya and Tanzania.
In the discovery phase of the transdisciplinary projects, ﬁve smallholder farmer groups
were invited to apply for action funds to co-develop innovations to enhance livelihoods.
Employing participatory video (PV), groups applied for the grants using a ‘video proposal’.
Group members collaboratively produced videos representing their problems, aims and
innovation plans. The underlying motive of this approach was to strengthen the role and
the decision-making power of the farmers in the research process, to support them in jointly
conceptualising innovation processes, while at the same time creating a ‘space of inclusion’
in which power relations could be renegotiated.
However, power and empowerment are fuzzy concepts and have been variously theorised
in terms of “power-over”, “power-to” and “power-with”. With regard to these three mo-
dalities, this presentation critically examines how power relations were aﬀected by the PV
proposal process with particular attention to: i) researcher-participant relations, ii) intra-
group relations, and iii) group-community relations. We then critically address the questi-
on: “in how far are PV proposals a tool for empowering farmer groups in transdisciplinary
A qualitative approach was employed to gain insight into farmers’ perspectives. This
included 40 semi-structured interviews and 5 narrative interviews. Initial observations
conveyed the process as contributing to empowerment with regard to enhancing group
‘capacities to act’, in terms of strengthening group members´ pride in, control over and
sense of ownership of their innovation processes. However a more critical understanding
of power enables one to highlight the context-speciﬁc limitations to empowerment, inclu-
ding issues of patronage, gender norms, project longevity and economic circumstances. In
conclusion, the method presented can serve as a useful tool for supporting transformative
processes of knowledge co-production and action research, and has cautionary possibilities
for supporting empowerment processes.
Keywords: Empowerment, farmer groups, innovation processes, methods, participatory video, trans-
Contact Address: Pamela Ngwenya, German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Stein-
strasse 19, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany, e-mail: email@example.com