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Evidence for farmers' active involvement in co-designing citrus cropping systems using an improved participatory method

Le Bellec F., Rajaud A., Ozier Lafontaine H., Bockstaller C., Malézieux E.. 2012. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 32 (3) : p. 703-714.

Agricultural policymakers are addressing the sustainable development issue by designing new agricultural systems. Farmers are ultimately asked to make deep changes at field scale. Designing cropping systems has previously been done using prototyping methodologies. Prototyping methodologies use a five-step designing process at field scale and request multicriteria analysis of the resulting prototypes. However, sustainable dynamics implies considering changes at larger scales, farm and region, as well as creating feedback and facilitating participation of all the stakeholders involved in the process. Here we studied citrus production in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, where farmers must reduce pesticide loads despite unresolved weed control issues. We designed the DISCS method, which stands for "participatory redesign and assess innovative cropping systems", to improve classical prototyping methods by implementing a multi-scale, multi-stakeholder, participatory approach. Compared to classical prototyping methods, the DISCS method differs by implementing three progress loops, at experimental field, farm, and regional scales. Three categories of professional stakeholders are involved: farmers, researchers, and agricultural advisers, who are collectively in charge of designing and testing cropping system prototypes. In addition, local public stakeholders including representatives of state institutions are consulted. Progress is assessed using scale-specific sets of indicators. The DISCS method was applied to develop lowpesticide citrus cropping systems. Five weed control prototypes were jointly designed by citrus farmers and researchers, and two multicriteria assessment tools were built for use at the experimental station and on the farms. Results show that involved farmers transferred the new techniques to their own farms on their own initiative, thus spontaneously becoming pilot farmers. TheDISCSmethod is therefore the result of a codesign process between farmers and researchers. The DISCS method creates an ongoing dynamic relationship between agricultural and public stakeholders to build a solution that can continuously be adjusted to stakeholders' expectations. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : approches participatives; système d'aide à la décision; herbicide; système de culture; participation; méthodologie; innovation; mauvaise herbe; citrus; guadeloupe

Thématique : Mauvaises herbes et désherbage; Systèmes et modes de culture; Méthodes de recherche

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