Journal Article

Group-based and citizen science on-farm variety selection approaches for bean growers in Central America

Participatory approaches for crop variety testing can help breeding teams to incorporate traditional knowledge and consider site-specific sociocultural complexities. However, traditional participatory approaches have drawbacks and are seldom streamlined or scaled. Decentralized on-farm testing supported by citizen science addresses some of these challenges. In this study, we compare a citizen science on-farm testing approach — triadic comparisons of technology options (tricot-PVS) — with the benchmark state-of-the-art group-based participatory variety testing approach (group-PVS) over a set of socioeconomic outcomes. We focus on on-farm testing of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in the Trifinio area of Central America. We measure the impact of these two approaches on bean growers in terms of on-farm diversification and food security. We use data from 1978 smallholder farmers from 140 villages, which were randomly assigned to tricot-PVS, group-PVS or control. Utilizing a difference-in-difference model with inverse probability weighting and an instrumental variable approach, we observe that farmers involved in group-PVS, and tricot-PVS had comparable levels of on-farm varietal diversification with respect to control farmers. Nonetheless, group-PVS appears to be significantly more effective in boosting household food security, which can be attributed to improved agronomic management of the crops. This study contributes to the next generation of innovations in exploring trait preferences to produce more inclusive, demand-driven varietal design that democratize participatory varietal selection programs.