This paper analyses the difficulties in achieving the alignment of actors playing different roles in innovative processes. In so doing it seeks to further our understanding of transitions towards sustainable agriculture. We use an analytical framework that combines the Multi-level Perspective with the Actor Oriented Approach in order to examine the emerging ‘novelties’ generated by family farmers producing medicinal plants in ecological systems in the South of Brazil. We identify the characteristics that fit a definition of ‘innovation niche’. We describe the main weaknesses preventing the complete emergence of a niche, and analyse the misalignment of the various actors’ expectations. This is partly due to the incumbent regime’s strong relationship with the dominant technical-scientific fields, which contrasts with ecological agriculture that is known for its remarkable connection to social, technical, organisational, and behavioural changes. The novelty production of medicinal plants clearly illustrates some of the broader transitions at work in rural development. The case study also highlights the importance of finding ways to effectively manage these ‘niches of innovation’, in order to strengthen the internal coherence of their sociotechnical dynamics and to reinforce the social networks. As part of this process, there is a clear need to institutionalise new professional identities that are willing and able to question and even disrupt existing commitments.
|Title of host publication||System Innovations, Knowledge Regimes, and Design Practices towards Transitions for Sustainable Agriculture|
|Editors||M. Barbier, B. Elzen|
|Publisher||Inra - Science for Action and Development|
|Number of pages||264|
|Publication status||Published - 2012|