Interactive design of farm conversion : linking agricultural research and farmer learning for sustainable small scale horticulture production in Colombia

R.A. Lee

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <BASEFONT SIZE="3"><p><font size="""2" FACE="Times Roman" COLOR="#000000">Key words: interactive conversion design / vegetable production / small farms / sustainable farming / Colombia / learning processes / facilitation / agricultural research methods<p><font size="""2" FACE="Times Roman" COLOR="#000000">Economic and ecological pressure on small farmer production in Colombia has increased since the globalisation of trade in the early 1990s. Although the climate allows for year-round production, the farmers live precariously due to a high dependence on external inputs, poor access to different sources of information on production technology and lack of control over market prices. Mechanisms are required to help these producers find alternatives to stabilise their income while reducing the negative effect their farming practices have had on the environment.</font></p><p><font size="""2" FACE="Times Roman" COLOR="#000000">This book describes an innovative situation where agricultural research provides a viable methodology for moving towards sustainable agriculture involving new (technical) learning for the farmers and parallel capacity building to ensure long lasting effects of these efforts, at both farm and landscape level, using a case study approach. With the European prototyping as a starting point, a methodology for farm conversion is designed interactively with the farmers to ensure appropriateness to their situation. It is then applied by them using, and in some cases verifying, organic, botanical and biological management strategies based on scientific research. It looks at how conditions for using biological control at the farm level can be created at the landscape level. It looks at building a marketing strategy among small farmers. And it addresses the issue of replicability.</font></p><p><font size="""2" FACE="Times Roman" COLOR="#000000">Emerging from the facilitation of the farmer learning process came a sequence of coherent and novel research activities designed to generate farmer learning: understand the context, implement participatory diagnostic research to anchor the work in real problems, encourage the creation of a learning platform, interactively (with farmers) design a system based on the fanners' priorities that is effective at the farm level, and that is acceptable to fanners, identify and test science-based applicable technologies at the farm level, scale up this system from the farm to higher system levels, and ensure long-term project impact and farming community autonomy by providing the tools for accessing new information and training local facilitators.</p><br/><font size="""2" FACE="Times Roman" COLOR="#000000">By studying the interface between the farmer learning pathway and the set of research activities involved in its facilitation, it became apparent that the farmers learning pathway is divided up into four phases. These are: 1. participatory diagnosis and the beginning of the creation of a learning platform, 2. improvement of production at farm level due to better technical knowledge leads to the realization of the importance of working together as a community, 3. this in turn leads to the search for solutions on a larger scale as a tool for regional development, and 4. building the capacity of the farmers to stand on their own. Each phase is related to the progress made by the farmers throughout the research based on accomplishments in the three dimensions of the development project: technical know-how for appropriate farm management, the creation of a cooperating group of farmers, and long-term sustainability through autonomy and self-reliance.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Wageningen University
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    • Goewie, E.A., Promotor
    Award date17 Sep 2002
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789058087492
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


    • horticulture
    • agricultural production
    • small farms
    • conversion
    • sustainability
    • agricultural research
    • farmers
    • extension
    • farm management
    • colombia
    • agricultural extension


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