Plant Health Program, Doctor of


First Advisor

Gary L. Hein

Document Type

Doctoral Document

Date of this Version



Fortner, N. D. 2022. Bridging the Gap Between Research and Smallholder Farmers through Community-Based Development Organizations. Doctor of Plant Health Doctoral Document. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DOCTORAL DOCUMENT Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Plant Health, Major: Plant Health, Under the Supervision of Professor Gary Hein. Lincoln, Nebraska June 2022

Copyright © 2022 Nathan D. Fortner


Food demand is expected to increase 30% to 62% by 2050 according to recent estimates. Yet, annual increases in agricultural productivity have slowed and plateaued since the green revolution increases of the 1960’s. Two strategies to help address future food demand are reducing post-harvest loss and consumer waste, and closing the yield gap between potential and farmer realized yields. Some of the largest yield gaps are those of smallholder farmers. While solutions may exist to close these gaps, delivering and integrating solutions into smallholder production systems is a complex process involving research, extension, cultural factors, government policy, NGOs, private industry, transportation infrastructure, and marketing. Agricultural extension has evolved from top-down models inherited from colonial era extension approaches, to bottom-up farmer participatory approaches, to a more comprehensive and dynamic model currently being pursued. Examples of these models include agricultural innovations systems (AIS) and agricultural research for development (AR4D), that attempt to engage all stakeholders throughout the process of agricultural intensification. These models specifically prioritize feedback loops of monitoring, learning, and adaptation to enable projects to react and change course according to realities on the ground.

A major component of these models are partnerships between research entities and community-based development organizations (CBDO). CBDOs hold a unique position within an AIS or AR4D, being permanently located within smallholder communities, with existing community relationships, as well as staffing and processes for monitoring their impact. There are also CBDO’s who work in other aspects of development, yet see a need to expand into agricultural development. I believe these organizations represent underutilized local networks through which researchers can scale solutions to smallholder agricultural intensification. This document outlines the complementary roles of CBDOs and researchers, expectations of CBDOs entering the agricultural development arena, and important first steps for CBDOs assessing opportunities to participate in agricultural development.

Advisor: Gary Hein