Learning to be sustainable. Does the Dutch agrarian knowledge market fail?

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    The availability of adequate knowledge is an important prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable forms of agriculture. It will be shown that the nature of the knowledge necessary for this differs from that which forms the basis for conventional agricultural practices. The generation of such knowledge requires other forms of research and extension than those that are currently widespread. It is now necessary, more than ever before, to direct efforts towards the organisation and support of joint learning processes aimed at the development of new technologies (and accompanying social-organisational arrangements) at local level. While the first part of this article outlines some basic methodological elements that may be relevant in this respect, the second part addresses the question of whether changes occurring in the Dutch agricultural knowledge network are helpful in bringing about the required forms of experiential learning and interactive technology development at local level. It is argued that market-oriented knowledge policies in agriculture (e.g. in the form of privatisation of research and extension institutions and 'output-financing') pose a number of threats to this. It is suggested that the idea of a 'knowledge market' is logically connected to outdated forms of linear thinking with regard to the source of innovation processes. In relation to this, a number of aspects causing friction are identified in the co-operation between farmers, extensionists and researchers. With reference to insights from (institutional) economics, it is concluded that other institutional arrangements than markets are probably more suitable when the aim is to support experiential learning and interactive design towards sustainable agriculture. In such processes, applied knowledge and information cannot be treated as marketable 'end-products', but are better regarded as 'building-blocks' that need to be re-arranged and re-shaped through numerous creative 'transactions' and exchanges. If all of these transactions have to be paid for, innovation is unlikely to emerge.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)79-92
    JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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