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Cirad

Methods for strengthening farmer innovation : a glance on social appreciation of farmers' roles and abilities

Lucas V., Silveira L., Galvao Freire A., Sabourin E., Gafsi M.. 2010. In : Coudel Emilie (ed.), Devautour Hubert (ed.), Soulard Christophe-Toussaint (ed.), Hubert Bernard (ed.). International symposium ISDA 2010. Innovation and sustainable development in agriculture and food : Abstracts and papers. Montpellier : CIRAD, 1 p.. International symposium ISDA 2010, 2010-06-28/2010-07-01, Montpellier (France).

Making agriculture more sustainable is a challenge, especially for family farming and peasantries. Their innovation and participation processes to become an agent of their own development are particularly decisive, as they are often conceived as marginalized people. Some efforts sought to address these challenges : some for supporting farmers in innovation generation, others for enabling rural people to better organize themselves and influence institutions' actions. Some studies about devices built for improving farmer innovation (Hocdé, 1998; Van de Fliert & al, 2007) point out that these experiences may drive them, in some conditions, to assert themselves as protagonist actors : building of common values and visions, emergence of subjects more self-confident, taking in charge the collective interest, etc. Following these observations, we analyse effects produced by support methods for farmer innovation in Brazilian semi-arid north-east, in Agreste of Paraiba's State. How devices which seek to facilitate farmer innovation can appreciate and activate rural people's abilities to organize themselves and lead their own development processes ? To address this question, our study looks at a support program which intends to develop farmers' agroecological experimentations. Two organizations lead this project : a family farmers' union federation in Borborema Territory, the Pólo Sindical, and an ONG, the As-Pta (Family Farming and Agroecology). In this family farming region, with both smallholding and large scale units, rural communities remain in exclusion and domination situation. Program's actors use diverse methods and processes, such as appraisals (Rapid and Participatory Agroecosystem Appraisal), support devices for farmers' experimentation (training, exchange visits, systematisation and sharing of knowledge), solidarity revolving funds and community seed bank (Sabourin, 2007). These actions aim to guide farming systems intensification strategies, through productions diversification and natural resources restoration. Following agroecology principles (Altieri, 2002), these practices also seek to elaborate agricultural systems more autonomous, so as to reduce reliance on external inputs. We base our work on direct observation of collective activities and actors interviews (farmers, union and community leaders, technicians). We mobilize Röling (1992) and Darré theories (1996) to analyse how farmers build new visions about natural resources and about their knowledge, based on their innovation experience's interpretation. Then, we attempt to highlight phenomena of abilities mutual recognition, which occur in learning and interactions between farmers (Honneth, 2000). From our first results, we suggest that larger use of local biodiversity, as well as specific systems for improving rainwater conservation and harvesting (cisterns, sub-surface storage dams, etc.) allow farmers to escape from subordination relations organized through these strategic resources : seeds and water. Besides, this farmer innovation support experience creates responsibility's values among farmers about natural resources management, and about ecological knowledge sharing and generation. With abilities appreciation, and clientelism relations breaking off, this awareness of new roles enables farmers to take initiatives in their communities and organizations. This study aims, therefore, to strengthen current knowledge about methods for facilitating marginalized rural people's innovation. We seek to enrich these tools so that they could allow better emancipation and empowerment of these specific social groups. (Résumé d'auteur)...
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