Livestock Research for Rural Development 14 (3) 2002

The efficacy of participatory development of technologies: experiences with resource-poor goat-keepers in India

C Conroy, Y Thakur* and M Vadher**

 Natural Resources Institute,  University of Greenwich,
Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent, ME4 4TB, United Kingdom
* BAIF Institute for Rural Development (Karnataka), ‘
’ S.B.I Colony, Kelgery Road, Kusumnagar, Dharwad, Karnataka. 580 008, India
** BAIF/RRIDMA, 103 Subhash Nagar Ext., Ajmer Road, Bhilwara 311 011,
Rajasthan, India    Tel + 91 1482 38116



The adoption by resource-poor livestock-keepers of technologies developed by livestock and forage researchers has been poor. It has been argued that a participatory approach to technology development can help to ensure that new technologies are more appropriate to  livestock-keepers’ needs and circumstances, and hence increase the likelihood of adoption.

This paper describes trials conducted in India by a goat research project that adopted a participatory approach, and assesses to what extent the postulated benefits of participatory technology development have been realised, and the factors affecting this. It describes trials involving two of the most promising technologies developed by the project. It then discusses: (a) the prospects for adoption of these and other technologies investigated by the project; (b) methodological issues relating to control groups; and (c) the challenges associated with achieving a high degree of participation by livestock-keepers.

Finally, it identifies what conclusions can be drawn, and lessons learned, from the project’s experiences.

Keywords: Goats, participatory technology development, ethnoveterinary medicine


Scientists have acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge about feed resources and ruminant production, nutrition and health in tropical countries. Despite this, resource-poor livestock-keepers’ adoption of technologies developed by researchers has been limited, in relation to: 

This is partly because technologies have often been developed without the involvement of the intended users, and without an adequate understanding of their farming systems and constraints. Constraints on any of the factors of production – land, labour or capital – can inhibit take-up of new technologies. By definition, such constraints are most severe among resource-poor livestock-keepers, for whom effective new technologies are most needed.  

Some examples of constraints affecting livestock feed technologies, relating to each factor of production, will now be given. Insufficient land may make it impossible to grow fodder crops, because the farmer does not have enough arable land and the fodder crops compete with food or cash crops;  insufficient labour may make stall-feeding, based on cut-and-carry, an unattractive option; and scarcity of cash may discourage livestock-keepers from purchasing inputs, such as green fodder, compound feeds or concentrates.  

Government veterinary services in developing countries, although they may be free of cost in principle, tend not to reach resource-poor farmers. As little as 15-20% of the livestock populations in LDCs have enjoyed regular and affordable access to modern veterinary medicine and “there is little prospect that these percentages will change much in the foreseeable future” (McCorkle et al 1999). There is a need, therefore, to develop low-cost health-related technologies, based on locally available materials or expertise,  that can be acquired without regular access to state veterinary services. Participatory Technology Development (PTD) can also contribute here by identifying, testing and developing such technologies with livestock-keepers. 

The potential advantages of farmer participation 

Livestock research and development work has tended to lag behind crop production work in the development and application of methods for PTD. It is clear from reviewing the literature on PTD or farmer participatory research (FPR) that there are relatively few documented examples of projects in which livestock are a central focus (Chambers et al 1989; Clinch 1994; Okali et al 1994; van Veldhuizen et al 1997). Perhaps only five percent of case studies have a livestock focus. However, there has been increasing recognition that livestock research needs to give greater emphasis to farmer participation (Sidahmed 1995); and some researchers now believe that “participatory approaches are mandatory” for the development of forage options (Peters et al 2001).   

It has been argued that PTD can help to ensure that new technologies are appropriate to farmers’ and livestock-keepers’ needs and circumstances, and hence increase the likelihood of adoption (Conroy et al 1999; Reijntjes et al 1992). More specifically, greater participation of the intended users can mean that:  

The BAIF/NRI Goat Research Project

Since October 1997 the BAIF Development Research Foundation (India) and the Natural Resources Institute (UK) have been managing a research project to identify and address feed-related constraints affecting goat production in India. The project has been working in various semi-arid regions, including south Rajasthan and Dharwad district, Karnataka. The project has worked primarily with poor people, belonging to scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, who either have small farms or are landless. 

The project aims to develop technologies to ease or remove the constraints identified, based primarily on a collaborative relationship with goat-keepers, as described in Table 1. A collaborative approach is more participatory than the contract and consultative modes, which have probably been the ones most commonly used in on-farm livestock research. (The degree of farmer involvement increases in the modes to the right hand side of the table.) This article focuses on two of the most promising technologies developed by the project. It then discusses: (a) the prospects for adoption of these and other technologies investigated by the project; (b) issues relating to the use of control groups; and (c) challenges associated with achieving a high degree of participation by livestock-keepers. Finally, it identifies what conclusions can be drawn, and lessons learned, from the project’s experiences.

Table 1:  Four different modes of farmer participation in agricultural research (Source:  Biggs 1989)

1. Contract

2. Consultative

3. Collaborative

4. Collegiate

Farmers’ land & services are hired or borrowed: e.g. researcher contracts with farmers to provide specific types of land

There is a doctor-patient relationship.  Researchers consult farmers, diagnose their problems and try to find solutions

Researchers and farmers are roughly equal partners in the research process & continuously collaborate in activities

Researchers actively encourage & support farmers’ own research & experiments


Materials and Methods

Methods used in diagnosis and needs assessment

The BAIF/NRI project team began by doing surveys in prospective project villages. The surveys involved rapid rural appraisals with groups of goat-keepers, using semi-structured interviews and mapping and diagramming.  The surveys generated descriptions of the goat production and feeding systems.  In PTD it is essential to identify priority needs: simple ranking was used to identify major problems and their relative importance, and the results of the ranking were generally cross-checked with other survey findings. This was sometimes followed by participatory problem tree analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the constraint [The use of this and other PRA methods is described in a recent publication of the project (Conroy 2002)].   

If an important feed-related problem was identified through the group discussions, more detailed livestock productivity data (e.g. on kid mortality) were often sought subsequently through individual interviews, using the ‘participatory herd history’ method (described in Conroy, 2002), as such data can help to identify critical periods in the nutrition of the animals.

Methods used in the trials

The project then established some ‘in village’ [Some of the participating goat-keepers were landless, so the usual term, ‘on-farm’, is not appropriate] trials to address the problem or need identified. The first few trials focused on supplementation of feed at critical points in the year, but more recent trials have included ones in which the treatments were anthelmintics. A summary of some of the trials is given in Table 2. 

Table 2: Some trials on goats conducted by the BAIF/NRI Project

Challenge# addressed

technology tested

Timing of treatment

Key indicators

Monitoring period

Poor reproductive performance of female goats (low conception rate)

Tree pods supplement (combined with barley in first trials)

Daily for 10 weeks during scarcity period(mid-May to end July)

Conception and number of kids born

7-8 months, from mid-May to December

High mortality in kids (< 60 days) in rainy season (in Karnataka)

Dewormer:- commercial  OR- based on locally available material

Applied to does in late pregnancy and on day of kidding

Mortality during first 60 days after kidding
Growth rates

3 months

High mortality in kids (< 60 days) in rainy season (in Karnataka)

Feed supplement

Applied to does in last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy and for one month after kidding

Mortality during first 60 days after kidding
Growth rates

3-4 months

High mortality of young goats (6-9 months) in the rainy season (in Rajasthan)

Urea molasses granules (UMG)

Daily for 10 weeks during late dry season and early rainy season (mid-May to end July)

Mortality during early rainy season

4 months

Faster growth of young male goats to increase income

Barley supplement

Daily for 2-3  months for goats aged 3-6 months

Sale price and weight at time of sale

About 9 months – from start of treatment to age at which most males had been sold

Earlier sexual maturity of young females, to increase no. of kids produced

Barley supplement

Daily for 2-3  months for goats aged 3-6 months

Age at which females reached sexual maturity

About 15 months## – from start of treatment to age at which females came into heat or conceived

# A challenge can be a problem or an opportunity
## Data from the 2001 trial are not yet available

 The process of designing, monitoring and evaluating the trials was intended to involve goat-keepers actively.   The trials were designed with a treatment and control group in the same village, so that a ‘with/without’ comparison could be made.  This has been done either (a) by selecting different goat-keepers of similar socio-economic status for the two groups; or (b) having treatment and control animals belonging to the same owners. Non-experimental variables have not been controlled in any way, and, apart from applying the treatment, goat-keepers have been encouraged to follow their normal practices.

The project team concluded at the outset that it would be necessary to subsidise treatments to some extent, in order to: (a) encourage participation; and (b) to compensate people in the treatment groups for any potential risk to which their animals might be exposed, and for the time they contributed to the monitoring of the trial. People in the control groups were also provided with material incentives of a different nature that would not affect the outcome of the trial (e.g. provision of a breeding buck). However, the project team also considered it important that goat-keepers contribute to the costs of the treatment, as a demonstration of their interest in the technology to be tested and the problem being addressed. The project’s approach has been to phase out subsidies where technologies prove to be effective.  

Methods used in monitoring and evaluation

In most trials there has been a two-pronged monitoring system, comprising: fortnightly monitoring of goat productivity parameters (e.g. milk production); and monthly meetings with participants to discuss how the trials were progressing. The former provides quantitative information, while the latter provides qualitative information, including the goat-keepers’ perceptions of how the animals are responding to the treatment and any issues that are concerning them. One or more literate persons from each trial village has been given training by the project in how to measure and monitor the relevant goat productivity parameter(s), and has been paid for doing this. Joint evaluation meetings with participants (from both the treatment and control groups) have been held at the end of the trials. 

The trials

There is not space to describe all of the trials in this article. Instead, the focus is on describing two sets of trials involving the most promising technologies, namely: 

Set 1:  The use of tree pods to improve kidding rates

In Bhilwara District of Rajasthan there was evidence that feed scarcity in the dry season could be acting as a constraint on the reproductive performance, particularly conception rates, of female goats belonging to poor people. In on-farm trials in 1998 and 1999 breeding does were fed a mixture (250 grams/day) of Prosopis juliflora pods and barley for 10 weeks, during the later part of the dry season when fodder scarcity is most acute. Prosopis juliflora pods are a good source of protein and energy, possessing 12-14% crude protein on a dry basis (Wood et al 2001). The pods were collected when they appeared on the trees in April and early May and stored for use later. In 2000 and 2001 similar trials were conducted, but this time the treatment (again 250 grams/day) was entirely Prosopis julifora pods.

Set 2:  The use of a local plant material as a dewormer

In the Karnataka project area high kid mortality during the rainy season was identified by goat-keepers as their main problem, and the project conducted trials in 2000 and 2001 to address this. It was hypothesized that the kid mortality was linked to the worm burden of the does at that time of the year. Two treatments have been tested: (a) a commercial de-wormer, Fenbenzadole; and (b) a locally available material known to have anthelminthic properties. There is evidence that mortality rates are higher for kids of does that have a heavy worm burden, so the treatments were given to does in late pregnancy and on the day of kidding.   

The locally available material that was used was the trichomes (hairs) from the pods of a leguminous creeper, Mucuna pruriens. The dose, which is mixed with a lukewarm sugary solution (jaggery), is 20 mg per kg body weight. The idea of using this material came from the fact that members of a local caste specialising in buffalo-keeping were known to use it.

Results of the Two Sets of Trials

Set 1:  The use of tree pods to improve kidding rates

The treatments had the desired effect, with does in the treatment groups having higher conception rates than those in the control groups. The conception data are summarised in Table 3. The difference in conception rates between the treatment and control groups is significant at the 5% level for the 1998 and 2000 data, using an exact chi-squared test; whereas the p-value for the 1999 data was almost significant at 0.055. 

Table 3: Conception data for mature does






Not Pregnant


Not Pregnant


Not Pregnant















# Data from the 2001 trial are not yet available

 The incidence of twinning was also higher in the treatment groups (see Table 4), but the difference was not significant at the 5% level.  An exact chi-squared test gives values of 0.37, 0.35 and 0.37 for the 1998, 1999 and 2000 data respectively.

Table 4: Twinning rates for does that kidded*


























* Does that aborted are excluded
T = Treatment Group  C = Control Group

 The combination of higher conception rates and higher twinning rates results in higher kidding rates in the treatment groups, as can be seen from Table 5. Another way of expressing the data is in terms of the mean number of kids per doe. To see if the differences are significant an asymptotic Mann-Whitney test, adjusted for ties, was used. The p-values show that at the 5% significance level there is clear evidence that the mean number of kids per doe is higher in the treatment group in all three trials. 

Table 5:  Kidding rates (percent)

















Set 2:  The use of a local plant material as a dewormer

Mortality in kids less than one month old was less than 10% in the treatment group and control group, as is shown in Table 6. A chi-square test indicated that there was no significant difference in mortality rates between the three groups.  

Table 6:  Mortality* of kids from birth to one month of age


 No. of kids born

No. of kids died

Mortality rate (%)

















* Kids that died accidentally were not considered for analysis
# In group MP the treatment was the trichomes of Mucuna pruriens pods, and in F it was Fenbenzadole.


Table 7:  Comparative parasitical egg count of does of different groups before  and after treatment*




No.of does

Mean number of eggs/g of faeces

Difference between mean number of eggs on Day 0 and Day 7



‘P’ value

Day  O

Day 7






+ 267

- 5.59


















* In group MP the treatment was the trichomes of Mucuna pruriens pods, and in F it was Fenbenzadole. C = control group

The parasitical faecal egg counts were significantly lower on the 7th day after deworming in both of the treatment groups, whereas the faecal egg count in the control  group increased  significantly (Table 7).   

Table 8:  Mean weekly weight of kids during first month after birth


Sr. No.



Weights (kg)


1st week

2nd week

3rd week

4th week

Weight gain at 4th week








2 .00








2 .60









Statistical analysis of the data summarised in Table 8 showed that the mean growth rates of kids in groups MP and F were significantly higher than that of the kids in the control group. The apparent difference in mean growth rates between the two treatment groups  was not significant.


This section focuses mainly on methodological issues and prospects for adoption.

Trial results
Set 1

The mature does in the treatment groups had higher conception and twinning rates than those in the control groups, and hence higher kidding rates.  The mean number of kids per doe in the treatment groups was significantly higher than that in the control groups, providing clear evidence that the treatment results in does producing more kids than they would otherwise have done. Using Prosopis juliflora pods alone gave better results than a mixture of pods and barley. One possible explanation for this is that the goats are protein-deficient in the late dry season, but not energy-deficient. A large proportion of their feed is chopped cactus (Opuntia spp) at this time of the year (C. Wood, pers. comm.), which is a good source of energy, but not protein (C. Wood et al 2001).

Set 2

The faecal egg count data and the growth rate data strongly suggest that the Mucuna pruriens-based treatment is as effective against helminths in pregnant does as the commercial anthelminthic, Fenbendazole. Two factors could have caused the faster growth of kids in the treatment groups. It may be that the lower parasitical load in treatment group does during the preparturient period resulted in less parasitical infestation of their kids (Smith and Sherman 1994). It may also have resulted in increased milk production, and hence greater availability of milk to the kids. 

The low mortality rate of kids in the control group (8.5%), as compared with observed rates of about 50% the previous year, is thought to have been due to differences in rainfall between the two years. Rainfall in 2001 was only about half of that in 2000, and the monsoon rains arrived later than usual: as a result, worm burdens of does may have been lower in 2001.

Prospects for adoption of technologies

There are several reasons why the Prosopis juliflora pods technology has excellent prospects for widespread adoption by poor livestock-keepers in India, namely: 

 The cost:benefit ratio for this technology is in the range 1:2.5 to 1:5, depending on the assumptions made.  

Both of the deworming treatments have very favourable cost: benefit ratios. That for Fenbenzadole is 1:39, while that for the Mucuna pruriens treatment depends on what opportunity cost, if any, is attributed to the labour involved. The participating goat-keepers said that in future they expect to use the Mucuna pruriens treatment, rather than the commercial one, because no cash expenditure is required. Mucuna pruriens is also quite widely distributed in India, and the labour required to collect the necessary number of pods, and process them, is minimal. 

By comparison, the prospects for adoption of some other supplements tested by the project, such as barley and UMG (see Table 2), are not good. Barley is valued by goat-keepers as a high quality supplement, but there are problems with its adoption. If the barley is grown by the farmer it competes for plot space with other crops, notably wheat, which is an important staple: so more food for the goats means less food for the family.  If barley has to be purchased, a similar dilemma arises for the family over allocation of scarce resources.

Although UMG makes use of a locally available waste material, molasses, it was more expensive (per kg) than other high quality supplements, such as barley or groundnut cake. In addition, livestock-keepers had a general preference for the  traditional products.

Methodology - control group issues
Importance of control group

Some research trials have two or more treatment groups, but no control group, the comparison being made between the different treatments. However, the BAIF/NRI project’s experience shows that it is important to have a control group. This is because without a control group, it would be necessary to make a ‘before and after’ comparison, and these can be misleading due to inter-annual variability. For example, as noted above, data collected in the Karnataka project area in the year 2000 revealed high kid mortality in the rainy season; while data collected during the trial in 2001 show that mortality was very low in the control group and treatment groups. Without a control group, it would have been tempting to infer, incorrectly, that the low mortality was due to the treatments.

Advantages and disadvantages of different control group arrangements

 When making ‘with and without’ comparisons, between treatment group and control group animals, it is important that proper care is taken to minimise inter-animal variations. For example, in a feed supplementation trial it would be important that the general diet of the animals from the two groups was broadly comparable. This can be difficult to achieve if the owners of the control group animals are different from the owners of the treatment group animals. The former could be wealthier, on average, and hence giving their animals more high quality supplements; or control group members could be grazing their goats on different (and superior) pasture land to that of treatment group members. Both of these situations have arisen in trials of the BAIF/NRI project.  

It is easier to avoid bias by having animals from different groups within the same herds, rather than making a ‘between herds’ comparison. However, the ‘within herd’ approach can be problematic for certain types of treatments, particularly ones involving feed supplementation, as there is a risk that control group animals will get access to the treatment. Nevertheless, our experience has shown that it can work if the owner understands and agrees with the purpose of the trial design; and if there is a good rapport between the researchers and the livestock-keepers, and frequent visits by the researchers.

Methodology - degree of goat-keeper participation

The project worked in villages where BAIF already had an operational presence, which greatly facilitated the establishment of a good rapport between the goat-keepers and the research team. Nevertheless, achieving a high degree of participation by livestock-keepers was a major challenge. It was achieved in the two sets of trials described in this article, but not in all of the trials. Livestock-keepers are likely to lack confidence and trust to begin with, while researchers and development professionals may find it difficult to give up their conventional roles of being experts who know (or are expected to know) the solutions to farmers’ problems.

Addressing of a priority need

The research team generally sought to address a priority need of the goat-keepers. However, in a few of the trials it is questionable whether the project actually succeeded in this aim, due to inadequate discussions with them about the precise nature of the constraint and/or the suitability of the proposed treatment to address it.

Determination of treatment

In PTD, ideas for technologies to be tested are expected to be provided by participating farmers, as well as researchers, but in most of the project’s trials it was the researchers who proposed the treatment to be used. Nevertheless, this was based on knowledge of livestock-keepers’ experiences with similar technologies in other localities. In most trials, the participants appeared to agree that the proposed treatment was a sensible one, and made contributions ranging from 33% to 100% of the cost of the treatment.

Factors hindering a participatory approach

It is important to be aware of, and to address, factors that may hinder the adoption of a participatory approach.  These include (see also Conroy et al 1999):

Factors facilitating increased participation

A high degree of participation is not usually possible from the outset. However, if researchers are committed to achieving it there is likely to be a gradual shift along the spectrum towards greater participation. In the experience of the BAIF/NRI project this may be due to one or more of the following factors:


A number of conclusions can be drawn, and lessons learned, from this project. 

  • evidence that the researcher had done a thorough needs assessment (upon which the case for the trial is based) and understood well the problem or opportunity; and

  • quantified estimates of the cost of the proposed treatment and the likely or possible benefits, indicating good prospects for the treatment to be profitable.


We would like to thank all of our colleagues in BAIF Development Research Foundation who took part in this project, without whose work this article would not have been possible. We would also like to thank the goat-keepers who participated in the trials; and Mr David Jeffries for providing biometric advice on analysis of some of the trial results. This article is an output from a project (R6953) funded by the Livestock Production Programme of the UK’s Department for International Development, for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID. DFID’s support is gratefully acknowledged.


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Received 1 March 2002

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