This article describes the exploratory and preparatory phase of a research project designed to use co-operative enquiry as a method for transformative and participatory action research into relations between donors and recipients in two developing countries, Bolivia and Bangladesh. It describes the origins of the idea, the conceptual challenges that the authors faced in seeking funding, and what they learned from this first phase. The authors analyse why the researchers, as well as the potential subjects of the research, were uncomfortable with the proposed methodology, including the challenges arising from their own positions and the highly sensitive nature of the topic. They explain why they decided to abandon the project, and they reach some tentative conclusions concerning the options for participatory action learning and research in development practice.
The author identifies the key problem of agricultural research and extension in the Peruvian Andes as the result of a clash of two incompatible knowlege systems: one based on Western science, hegemonic in Peru since the Conquest and actively propagated in the practices of top-down agricultural research institutions, the other based on an Andean world-view in which cosmology, metaphor, and ritual still largely determine the semantic categories used by Andean peasants to explain their agricultural practises. Taking the potato as an example, she contrasts peasant discourse with the Greeen Revolution approach still dominant in potato research and advocated by the International Potato Centre (CIP). Improving the communication skills of researchers by understanding the Andean world-view is posited as the only way agricultural and extension in the Andean region can begin better to address the real needs of Andean peasants. She registers some positive developments in this direction: the emergence of bilingual education programmes, the workshopping boom in which peasant and other experts are increasingly sharing and exchanging knowledge, and the postgraduate course in Andean peasant agriculture at the University of Ayacucho in which professionals learn how to perceive reality in Andean categories with courses such as : Holistic conceptions in Andean agriculture, agrocentric culture, the endogenous vision of Andean culture, the organisation of the peasant community, Andean agro -astronomy, and Andean cosmology and religion.