Livestock Researchers learn Social Research in Timor

By Dr Joanne Millar

Livestock researchers and veterinary workers get to grips with social research in West Timor

Course participants, facilitators and farmers in West Timor.

Course participants, facilitators and farmers in West Timor.

‘Learning by doing’ is the catch cry term often applied to farmer learning- but it also the best way for research and extension staff to learn social research methods so they can improve their work with farmers. An enthusiastic group of 28 livestock researchers and veterinary practitioners from West Timor in Indonesia participated in a four day ‘learning by doing’ training course from 12-15 October 2015 in Kupan.  The course was facilitated by social scientists, Dr Joanne Millar from Charles Sturt University, NSW and Dr Muktasam Abdurrahman from Mataram University, Indonesia.

Participants started with sharing their experiences and understanding of how farming families in West Timor make decisions about livestock management, what motivates or limits farmers in trialing new practices and how to design an effective farmer learning process over 5 to 10 years. The next step was to learn how to identify and evaluate social impacts from livestock development programs. Farmers from a village growing leucaena for cattle feeding, kindly agreed to be interviewed as a practical exercise. The course participants were divided into small groups, with each group using a different social research technique to gather data from farmers about their experiences and impacts (positive and negative) from using leucaena. Groups analysed and presented the results to their peers with vigorous feedback and discussion about interview techniques, ethics, rigour of the data and value of using mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative and observation).

The course has laid a solid foundation for staff working on ACIAR and government livestock projects in West Timor. A new pig systems project funded by ACIAR will start next year to develop improved pig husbandry and health in traditional farming systems. Pigs play an important cultural and livelihood role in West Timor and Timor Leste for building wealth and negotiating wedding obligations between families. Social research will form a major part of this project to make sure husbandry practices are compatible with cultural contexts.

 

Animal health workers in Timor Leste learn to use social research methods to measure livelihood impacts

Animal health workers in Timor Leste work in remote, mountainous districts with traditional farmers. Livestock are free range (pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens), grazing on sparse vegetation

District veterinary staff working on a farmer learning design for pig husbandry

District veterinary staff working on a farmer learning design for pig husbandry

and crop residues. Veterinary workers often walk for many miles to treat sick animals, give advice or vaccinate against the myriad of tropical livestock diseases. These staff have the potential to improve farmer livelihoods by broadening their work to include livestock management extension and evaluation. To build their capacity to facilitate livelihood changes, a four day course was held in Dili on the “Social Dimensions of Livestock Research and Extension in Timor Leste” from 19-22 October 2015.

The course was facilitated by social scientists, Dr Joanne Millar from Charles Sturt University, NSW and Dr Muktasam Abdurrahman from Mataram University, Indonesia, who have both worked on many ACIAR projects across Indonesia. Eleven district staff from 10 districts, and four animal health lecturers from the University of Timor Leste attended the course. Ages ranged from 25 to 49 with many years of experience between them. Participants shared their experiences and understanding of how farming families in Timor Leste  make decisions about livestock management; what motivates or limits farmers in trialing new practices and how to design an effective farmer learning process over 5 to 10 years for pig and goat husbandry, cattle raising using improved fodder, and reducing parasites in buffaloes.

The next step was to learn how to identify and evaluate social impacts from livestock development programs using social research methods. Since there were no livestock development programs within a days drive from Dili, we visited a village to interview farmers about pig raising. The course

Group photo outside University of Timor Leste campus

Group photo outside University of Timor Leste campus

participants were divided into small groups, with each group using a different social research technique to gather data from farmers about their experiences and impacts (positive and negative) from raising pigs using local and commercial feeds. Groups analysed and presented the results to their peers with feedback and discussion about interview techniques, ethics, rigour of the data and the value of using mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative and observation).

The course has laid a solid foundation for staff working on ACIAR and government livestock projects in Timor Leste. A new pig systems project funded by ACIAR will start next year to develop improved pig husbandry and health in traditional farming systems. Pigs play an important cultural and livelihood role in Timor Leste for building wealth and negotiating wedding obligations between families. Social research will form a major part of this project to make sure husbandry practices are compatible with cultural contexts.

About ilwscsu
The Institute for Land, Water and Society is one of four Centres of Research Excellence within Charles Sturt University, Australia. Its principal focus is on integrated research which contributes to improved social and environmental sustainability in rural and regional areas.

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