Innovative concepts towards sustainability in organic horticulture: testing a participatory technology design

M. Blom, H. van Keulen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Horticulture in the Netherlands is an economically strong sector. However, current organic horticulture does not comply with the standards for sustainability, because of its contribution to environmental pollution and exhaustion of natural resources. Transition towards more sustainable agro-ecosystems is inevitable for horticulture in the Netherlands to maintain its international competitive position. In this paper, we describe a study commissioned by the Dutch government aimed at testing an approach for participatory technology design and at generating commitment of stakeholders.
Horticulture in the Netherlands is an economically strong sector. However, current organic horticulture does not comply with the standards for sustainability, because of its contribution to environmental pollution and exhaustion of natural resources. Transition towards more sustainable agro-ecosystems is inevitable for horticulture in the Netherlands to maintain its international competitive position. In this paper, we describe a study commissioned by the Dutch government aimed at testing an approach for participatory technology design and at generating commitment of stakeholders. In brainstorming sessions with representatives from research, extension and the horticultural sector, three draft scenarios were defined, based on political, societal and scientific goals for sustainable production systems. However, these draft scenarios were mainly formulated in a 'top-down' approach and within the sector no shared problem perception existed. So, strong identification with the sector was necessary to formulate more appealing scenarios. In interviews, various stakeholders, selected from the primary sector, the retail sector and other interested organizations were asked for their opinions about the scenarios, possible perspectives of the approach and their interest in participating in further development. In response to their interests in a participatory process, reformulation of the scenarios involved profound adaptation of both, objectives and pathways, and resulted in two modified scenarios, an economically driven organic production system and a socially driven organic city greenhouse. It is concluded that the approach of participatory technology design, the model of iterative learning and practice change, worked well. We learned that entrepreneurs are not inspired by long-term perspectives without clear short-term gains. Hence, the long-term aims of the government were translated into a series of steps, each in the short term resulting in partial realization of the goals. So, we experienced that we can affect the adoption behaviour of the entrepreneur by matching long-term aims with short-term interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-207
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • organic farming
  • horticulture
  • sustainability
  • innovation adoption
  • system innovation
  • social learning
  • rural appraisal
  • agriculture
  • management
  • framework
  • relevant
  • issues
  • models

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