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The role of Internet and social media in the diffusion of knowledge and innovation among farmers

Authors:

Abstract

The impact of the use of information technology (IT) has been gaining relevance recently in the way it can facilitate communication in the agricultural sector. Farmers can share innovations and knowledge alongside solving problems through social media, or other uses of the Internet. Farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing is an important source of information, but potential obstacles to effective communication can include distance and the amount of time farmers can invest in knowledge sharing activities. The Internet has therefore become an effective way to overcome those obstacles. The internet allows farmers to share their experiences, which traditionally would have been over a farm-gate, via YouTube, web forums and online groups. There are Twitter feeds that farmers can go to, ask questions, or share experiences. Whilst some conventional farmers are also using these tools, they have become a lifeline for farmers hoping to or currently farming more sustainably. These farmers are likely to be disparate throughout the UK, may no longer share with their neighbours, but instead rely on social media for advice and mentoring. Key annual farming events are broadcasted live via Twitter. Farmers and other participants are encouraged to share highlights of the conference sessions, their comments on the speakers and event itself, allowing others unable to attend to receive information from the event. Internet and social media have a growing role in the diffusion of knowledge and innovation within the agricultural sector, allowing a greater number of farmers, researchers and practitioner to share information and experiment so as to facilitate innovative farming practices.
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The role of Internet and social media in the diffusion of knowledge and innovation
among farmers
Burbi, S.a and Hartless Rose, K. a
a Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, Ryton Organic Gardens, Wolston
Lane, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, CV8 3LG, United Kingdom
Keywords: social media; farmer innovation; agroecology; internet.
Abstract
The impact of the use of information technology (IT) has been gaining relevance recently in the way it can
facilitate communication in the agricultural sector. Farmers can share innovations and knowledge
alongside solving problems through social media, or other uses of the Internet. Farmer-to-farmer
knowledge sharing is an important source of information, but potential obstacles to effective
communication can include distance and the amount of time farmers can invest in knowledge sharing
activities. The Internet has therefore become an effective way to overcome those obstacles. The internet
allows farmers to share their experiences, which traditionally would have been over a farm-gate, via
YouTube, web forums and online groups. There are Twitter feeds that farmers can go to, ask questions,
or share experiences. Whilst some conventional farmers are also using these tools, they have become a
lifeline for farmers hoping to or currently farming more sustainably. These farmers are likely to be
disparate throughout the UK, may no longer share with their neighbours, but instead rely on social media
for advice and mentoring. Key annual farming events are broadcasted live via Twitter. Farmers and other
participants are encouraged to share highlights of the conference sessions, their comments on the
speakers and event itself, allowing others unable to attend to receive information from the event. Internet
and social media have a growing role in the diffusion of knowledge and innovation within the agricultural
sector, allowing a greater number of farmers, researchers and practitioner to share information and
experiment so as to facilitate innovative farming practices.
1. Introduction
When evaluating farmers’ knowledge in relation to various agroecological farm management practices, it
is important to consider that even though some farmers acquire information from family-led or traditional
practices, Ingram (2008) pointed out that farmers tend to lack in-depth knowledge of specific scientific
phenomena e.g. related to chemical or physical processes in soil management. In fact, farmers are more
likely to rely on experience limited to their farm or that of someone close to them, family member or
relative (Ingram et al., 2010). However, peers-exchange remains an important source of knowledge for
farmers, in particular regarding current hot topics such as greenhouse gas emissions or more broadly, the
sustainability and environmental issues related to agricultural sector (Klerkx and Jansen, 2010). As a
result, networks of influence represent a valuable source of information for farmers, as well as advice and
support (Klerkx et al., 2012). Examples of such networks in the UK include groups with different focuses:
they can be specific interest groups (e.g. Pasture-Fed Livestock Association), have a geographic focus
(e.g. Tamar Valley Organic Group), or a political focus (e.g. Conservative Rural Affairs Group), and they
can span at local, regional or national level.
Rural communities in the UK have struggled for many years receiving slow internet connection, limiting
farmers’ possibilities to access internet communication outlets, platforms to engage with the wider
community and globally (Helsper, 2011; Ofcom, 2013). As a result, the Internet has been slow to become
part of everyday life in many farmers lives in the UK. However, the development and introduction of
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smartphones, broadband, and 3G mobile networks have provided opportunities for farmers to connect
with their peers in spite of the distance separating them. Farmers can use internet tools such as web
forums for discussion and debate, internet searches, digital versions of farmer magazines (Farmers
Weekly, 2016a) to learn new knowledge, query problems, and access information on their phones, even
in the middle of a field. Moreover, social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or a Google group, enables
them to instantly communicate, over an electronic hedge, with online peers who may never meet face-to-
face, but can advice, sympathise and relate, for instance, from a farmer in a tractor in the Scottish
Highlands, to another farmer in Cornwall. Finally, several studies suggest that farmers tend to prefer
kinaesthetic (“learn by doing”) or audio/visual learning to other learning styles (Franz et al., 2010;
McLeod, 2006). As a result, IT now can allow farmers to view or record videos, listen to recordings and
watch live web-streaming of conferences, with the subsequent benefit of enabling them to develop their
knowledge and learning without having to leave their farms.
The need for more interaction and collaboration between farmers and researchers in order to promote
innovation and knowledge exchange is highlighted by the surge in initiatives such as the Soil Association
Field Labs (Soil Association, 2016). Open to all farmers, regardless of their farming system, e.g.
conventional, organic, the labs are aimed at encouraging farmers to voice the issues and problems they
would like to be researched, and then promote the sharing of information on innovative technologies,
practices and collaborative research programmes that can foster greater environmental sustainability
between the farmer and researcher.
In a recent study on farmers’ attitudes to climate change, a series of interviews were carried out by
researchers, followed by a focus group meeting to engage with all the participants and develop future
action in a collaborative environment with the researchers (Burbi et al, 2016). The focus group was
organised over a day, allowing for sufficient time to travel. However, several farmers could not attend the
meeting because they had limited or no staff to replace them at the farm when away. In order not to lose
the opportunity to engage in the discussions, some farmers who could not attend called the researchers
prior to the meeting, voicing the topics they were more concerned about and would have liked to discuss
during the focus group. Other farmers acted as rapporteurs, collecting information from those who could
not attend and reporting on the results of the meeting. Alternatives were found, but it has to be
considered that family-run farms or small-scale farms often rely on limited labour force and cannot stay
away from the farm for extended periods of time, sometimes even just 1 day. Distance and time may
therefore hinder they possibility to engage with other farmers and researchers in person, making the
Internet medium a more attractive option for them.
This paper is going to look at the authors’ research on the use of IT learning. An initial review of literature
helped identify issues, which were examined in farmer interviews and focus groups across England.
2. Methodology
The authors interviewed a total of thirty farmers, farming mixed arable and livestock systems, with a
combination of conventional and agroecological techniques. The interviewees were spread across
England. The interviews were aimed at acquiring information on how the farmers accessed and
implemented learning. The interviews were followed by two focus groups, which encouraged peer
learning, and further consolidated the data gathered through the interviews.
3. Issues facing diffusion of knowledge and innovation
3.1 Farmer knowledge exchange
Contacts and interactions with other farmers, especially if they are happening regularly, can influence
greatly a farmer’s attitudes and perception of innovation,(Rydberg et al., 2008) Influences external to the
farmers immediate community can come from the media and extension officers, as well as consumers
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group. Swanson and Rajalahti (2010) suggest that one of the greatest challenges facing the agricultural
sector in the UK, as well as in other European countries, is that over the past 30 years governments have
gradually reduced the funding for extension and advisory work. This has resulted in extension services
having varying degrees of efficiency and impact, because they now rely mostly on private companies
providing agricultural consultancy services in a rather fragmented manner (Oreszczyn et al., 2010). In
England, it has been observed that some farmers who rely on networks of influence (i.e. a farmer’s own
family and peer-to-peer exchange group) to acquire and exchange knowledge among peers tend to resort
to agricultural consultants only when these networks of influence do not succeed in providing the farmers
with the advice needed (Klerkx and Proctor, 2013). Such premises foster even more fragmented and
inconsistent external advice. Moreover, according to Buhler (2002), since more than a decade ago,
funding for agricultural research in the UK has been shifted from collaborative projects involving both
farmers and researchers to a system that relies on private funding, therefore reducing government
expenses on extension services. Buhler further comments that this seems to be impacting on the
reluctance that some farmers show in adopting new technologies or innovative practices (2002). More
recently, Islam et al. (2013) has observed several case studies in the developing world and concluded
that the combination of formal and non-formal education (i.e. inside and outside the classroom) has a
positive impact on farmers uptake of innovation, as opposed to approaches that focus just on technical
advice, without taking into account social implications that such innovations could have on farmers’
livelihoods. The combination of formal and non-formal education and interaction with researchers has
multiple advantages. It can be considered a step forwards in trying to compensate for the reduction in
government funding by generating knowledge transfer activities and promoting advances and innovation
in the agricultural sector, fostering knowledge sharing and ensuring transparency. This is vital because it
also helps ensuring that the advice provided takes into account not only the technical aspects of an
innovative practice, but the social and economic implications of it as well, giving the farmers the
opportunity to choose the best option based on the farming system adopted (Islam et al., 2013;
McKenzie, 2011). Therefore, two-way communication represents a broader approach to extension: it
enables farmers and researchers to share and co-generate knowledge; whilst enabling researchers and
policy makers to gain deeper knowledge of the underlying factors that can influence the decision-making
process in the case of farmers and the means that the sectors uses to exchange and generate knowledge
on innovation (Kings and Ilbery, 2010). As a result, such collaborative action can be considered beneficial
in that it focuses on information directly of interest to the farmers in a practical way, and it attempts to
avoid neglecting the environmental, social and economic implications that could also interest policy
makers, not only researchers. The clear benefit from such knowledge exchange and interaction is the
opportunity to facilitate the implementation of future policies, such as the ones focusing on promoting
Good Agricultural Practices and, more broadly, the sustainable management on natural resources by the
farming community (Islam et al., 2013; Röckmann et al., 2012).
Therefore, it can be suggested that in order to promote effective innovation in the agricultural sector it is
highly important that farmers, researchers and policy makers engage in successful communication. As an
example, Burbi et al. (2016) have addressed the issue of climate change, which is highly debated in these
recent years and has to face obstacles both related to scepticism from some farmers and financial
limitations in adopting innovative technologies that could reduce the impact of livestock farming in terms
of greenhouse gas emissions from manure storage and treatment. The authors found that farmers tend to
state that they would like to have access to unbiased scientific knowledge on climate change. This was
likely to be related to the sense of confusion experienced by some farmers, combined with a lack of trust
over government action. As a result, farmers expressed a preference for direct interaction with
researchers and scientists and preferred collaborative work focused on finding practical solutions for the
implementation of innovation (much like the Farm Labs project mentioned above). In such a context, it
can also be considered that scepticism and confusion could result in opposite reactions from farmers:
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some farmers could be discouraged from taking action and engage with a wider community of farmers
and researchers, but at the same time, some farmers could be motivated to look for knowledge
originating from other resources, especially is such alternatives are considered more valuable by farmers
themselves.
3.2 Access to IT
As mentioned in the introduction, rural areas of the UK still lack access to broadband and experience
slow connectivity (Ofcom, 2013), which can limit farmers’ online access to knowledge and innovative
techniques. Furthermore, slow connectivity can result in access to social media taking significantly longer
than a farmer has time to spare, plus lack of experience of using social media can slow down a farmers
access and use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook (Hartless Rose, 2016).
Another issue the farmers interviewed have experienced is the risk of missing useful information due to
the speed of its flow online, or the difficulty in finding specific, relevant, reliable and applicable information
amongst the mass of online sources of knowledge (Hartless Rose, 2015a).
Ultimately the Internet represent an accessible means to obtain knowledge and promote the interactions
between farmers and researchers across the country that may otherwise have little chance to engage in
face-to-face interaction.
4. Possible solutions based on IT technology
4.1 Internet
In the UK, most farmer magazines and newspapers now have digital editions such as Farmers Weekly,
and the Farmers Guardian (2016), while more localised farming regions also now release digital editions
of their news (Three Counties Farmer, 2016). Farmers can access news, listings and other information
relevant to their activities, with the possibility of sharing links to specific information or news to their peers,
or leave comments directly on the website.
Although it is important to acknowledge that there are still rural areas in the UK where broadband and
3/4G mobile Internet are weak, it has become a common phrase to ‘Google it’ to find out information
about specific topics of interest. Moreover, with the introduction of smartphones and tablets, answers to
questions can be found instantaneously, even outside of the farmhouse. Search engines can be used to
look up products for the best value suppliers, ordering goods, learning a new technique or simply booking
a ticket for an agricultural show (RWAS, 2016).
Alternatively, web forums such as The Farming Forum (TFF) have become places popular for discussions
amongst the farming community in the UK. It allows farmers from every spectrum to debate, discuss,
advertise and share knowledge on a variety of topics. As with every online community where participants
come from a wide range of differing backgrounds, discussions may occasionally turn into heated
exchanges of opinions between participants passionately sharing their own views on specific topics, but
overall, discussion topics are useful for those who use the Forum to gain knowledge or find innovative
ways of improving their farming (TFF, 2014).
Massive Open Online Courses such as the Farmers Weekly Academy, allow farmers to keep up with their
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) by signing up to online courses and expanding their
knowledge (Farmers Weekly, 2016b). As another example, Lancaster University offers a free online
course on soils of the duration of 4 weeks, with the possibility of watching classes online in basic or high
definition, depending on the student’s Internet access speed, as well as downloading transcripts of each
class for reference. At the end of the course, which is expected take approximately 3 hours per week of
study, students will be issued a certificate of attendance (Future Learn, 2016). The flexibility of such
courses can be seen as an advantage in the case of farmers who spend most of their time running their
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farms and may have limited time to spend online or it may be difficult for them to keep a regular schedule
to attend classes, even in the case of online classes at fixed times during the week.
Interest groups also provide specific courses that can interest farmers, in particular those adopting
agroecological practices. For instance, RegenAG UK (2016a) has been organising courses for a number
of years, led by practitioners from various backgrounds and aimed at farmers, as well as researchers and
the general public. Even though these courses are not online and require farmers to leave the farm for at
least 1 day, the internet medium represents a source of knowledge that is easy to access and allows
farmers to explore a variety of options in terms of courses, one-day events or workshops on the topics
that most interest them at a specific moment in time. The courses are also followed up with resources
sent to the attendees via email. Training is also offered by organisations like Holistic Management
International (HMI, 2016b), the Biodynamic Association UK (2016) and the Permaculture Association UK
(2016b). These institutions provide free access to range of information and knowledge base that could
interest farmers, and they also list courses available throughout the year, some of which, such as the
Permaculture Design Course, are available as online learning (Permaculture Association UK, 2016c). An
interesting example of how farmers organise themselves and share knowledge among their peers and the
general public is the website of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, where one can find a section titled
“Learn More” and one titled “Research News” (PFLA, 2016b). These sections feature news of direct
interest to members of the association, mostly farmers, and the general public, with links to events and
other sources of information of easy access. The PFLA itself was founded by farmers and can therefore
represent an example of self-organisation within the farming community, with the aim to share knowledge
and innovation adopting IT technologies and social media.
4.2 Audio/visual media
Audio or visual media can provide a valuable source of information for farmers. YouTube has enabled
farmers, both in the UK and around the globe, to record new techniques that they are using on their farms
and share the videos online for others to watch, learn and use. As an example, through farmer interviews,
it was revealed that one farmer was feeling isolated in Northumberland (in the North of England), with
neighbouring farms not implement the same farming techniques. However, he had found videos filmed by
another farmer in another area of the country, showing successful and less successful implementations of
a specific grassland management option (Havard, 2015) and he stated that he considered the videos to
be as helpful as the more traditional farm walks (Hartless Rose, 2015b). Although this is just an example
and it obviously cannot be generalised, it has to be noted that in recent years it has become more
common practice at conferences to have sessions and keynote speakers broadcasted live via YouTube
or other similar online video channel (IPCUK, 2015; ORFC, 2016). Videos can be broadcasted also using
software such as Skype (Kasesalu and Tallin, 2003), allowing farmers to follow what interests them the
most in spite of the distance. Farmers who could not attend the events, such as the Oxford Real Farming
Conference (ORFC, 2016), for financial reasons, distance or due to limited time available can then
retrieve videos and transcripts of each session online. The farmers interviewed also followed live updates
from the events via Twitter or Facebook (Hartless Rose, 2015b).
4.3 Social media
Twitter has become a way for some distantly diverse farmers to chat as well as debate and exchange
information. Some farmers belonging to groups such as #ClubHectare (Twitter, 2012) or the account
@AgriChatUK (Twitter, 2011a) often greet each other at dawn, or whilst eating their lunch, sharing
knowledge of how their day has gone. Following its establishment in the US, AgriChatUK debates topical
farming issues every Thursday between 8-10pm. Whilst some farmers feel that AgriChatUK has peaked
and has become less relevant (Hartless Rose, 2015c) there are still very lively discussions each Thursday
amongst regular Twitter users. Among the latest topics addressed during the Thursday online meetings
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was "How to use IT effectively to make better business decisions" (17/03/2016), which further highlights
the importance that IT tools are taking in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, farming conferences such
as the Oxford Real Farming Conference use their Twitter account (2011b) to broadcast to those who
cannot attend the event, and ask questions during the plenary debates from Twitter and Facebook users.
Facebook pages and groups are a growingly popular platform for farmers, in particular those farmers
adopting management systems such as holistic management (HMI, 2016a), permaculture (Permaculture
Association UK, 2016a) and, more globally, about sustainable farming across the globe (Farmers for a
Sustainable Future, 2016). Some farmers also use Facebook to connect with their peers in the same
area, as it is the case, for example, of the Warwickshire Rural Hub (2016), which organises regular
meetings and farm visits for their members, free of charge, and share practical, up-to-date information
regarding National Farmers Union (NFU) membership and activities, rural payments or other legislative
requirements farmers need to be aware of, whether they farm conventionally, or organically or follow
other guidelines. RegenAG UK is particularly active on Facebook, sharing information on courses aimed
at farmers and the general public, including researchers (RegenAG UK, 2016b). It even has a space
dedicated to biofertilizers, which is a topic of great interest among small-scale farmers choosing not to
apply industrial fertilisers (RegenAG UK, 2016c). Farmers are also using Facebook to become more
political about issues that they feel strongly about, for example in the under-30s branch of the Farmers
Club (2016). The use of social media isn’t limited to farmers outside of the mainstream agricultural sector,
i.e. conventional, organic, but it has become a widespread tool to communicate even for Farmers Weekly
and Farmers Guardian, who feature on their website links to their social media accounts.
Google groups are another example of a means for farmers to share experiences and interact,
overcoming the issue of distance and financial limitations to attend events, conferences or even farm
walks organized by farmers groups. The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA, 2016a) are frequently
asking questions to each other, or sharing experimentations with each other via their Google group, with
advice offered alongside. Access to the group is allowed to all PFLA members and supporters.
Researchers can also be given access, in order to communicate with members of the association, seek
knowledge exchange or conduct surveys on a number of topics of farmers’ interest, such as climate
change, soil health, farm management or grassland productivity.
5. Conclusion
Farmers across the UK face a number of challenges with regards to attending activities and events that
promote knowledge exchange among their peers, as well as engage in co-learning programmes with
other researchers. Issues such as the cost of attending conferences and courses, or the distance and the
time farmers have to take off their businesses can reduce the motivation to engage in knowledge
exchanges, potentially slowing down the uptake of innovative practices on-farm. Limitations in the use of
IT and social media still include access to fast and reliable interconnections and the availability of spare
time to browse through the mass of Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and forum feeds. However, the
Internet and social media are becoming increasingly useful in enabling farmers from across the whole
country (if not the globe) to share views and experiences, successes and failures, creating online
communities that contribute to the diffusion of knowledge and innovation across the agricultural sector.
Moreover, a number of initiatives provide free online courses for farmers, whilst social media platforms
such as Twitter, Facebook, Google groups or YouTube have the multiple benefits of promoting farmer-to-
farmer exchanges, as well as the broadcasting live of national and international events and conferences.
Such growing interest in the Internet and social media is likely to help avoiding the feeling of isolation that
some farmers may experience, especially those farming in remote areas of the country, have
smallholdings or implementing agroecological practices and therefore may be reluctant to follow advice
provided explicitly for conventional or organic farms. This leads to the possibility of research institutions to
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further adopt social media as a means to communicate with farmers, collect data and information for
research and creating continuing interaction, albeit online, between farmers and researchers in the UK,
as well as globally.
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https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=%23clubhectare&src=typd
Twitter (2011a). Account @AgriChatUK. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/AgriChatUK
Twitter (2011b). Account @orfc. Oxford Real Farming Conference official account. Retrieved from:
https://twitter.com/orfc
Warwickshire Rural Hub (2016). Official Facebook Page. Retrieved from:
https://www.facebook.com/Warwickshire-Rural-Hub-638060366217440/
Word Count: 4,326 words
... Some studies have found that farmers find video content as effective as traditional top-down extension Maredia et al., 2018;Thomas et al., 2018), with many farmers preferring audio-visual formats (PLAID project, 2017;Bello-Bravo et al., 2019). Bliss et al. (2019) found that farmers participating in the OK-Net Arable project exhibited a clear preference for visual modes of dissemination, whilst Baugher et al. (2017) Campenhout et al., 2021;Stone et al., 2012;Thomas et al., 2018;Karubanga et al., 2019). Bello-Bravo et al. (2019) found that videos shown to farmers in Mozambique led to 97.9% and 89% knowledge retention and solution adoption respectively, whilst Zoundji et al. (2018) found that 96% of surveyed farmers in Benin (n = 120) found video-mediated learning 'extremely' useful. ...
... Bliss et al. (2019) found that farmers participating in the OK-Net Arable project exhibited a clear preference for visual modes of dissemination, whilst Baugher et al. (2017) Campenhout et al., 2021;Stone et al., 2012;Thomas et al., 2018;Karubanga et al., 2019). Bello-Bravo et al. (2019) found that videos shown to farmers in Mozambique led to 97.9% and 89% knowledge retention and solution adoption respectively, whilst Zoundji et al. (2018) found that 96% of surveyed farmers in Benin (n = 120) found video-mediated learning 'extremely' useful. Moreover, Chowdhury et al. (2015) found that video-mediated learning worked better than face-to-face extension, with farmers who were shown videos developing a better understanding of how pesticides control pests. ...
... Moreover, Chowdhury et al. (2015) found that video-mediated learning worked better than face-to-face extension, with farmers who were shown videos developing a better understanding of how pesticides control pests. In addition, videos are memorable; Bello-Bravo et al. (2019) found that 97.9% of farmers retained information on how to use an improved postharvest bean storage system two years after they were shown videos on this topic. This increased knowledge resulting from video content can lead to practice change, experimentation, and the uptake of new techniques. ...
Technical Report
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Videos and podcasts as potential approaches for knowledge exchange with farmers: testing their potential role in ELM. Results from a literature review and an empirical study in England. Report published with Agricology, funded by Defra.
... Par exemple, dans leur étude sur les collectifs de Pâtur'Ajuste, Girard et Magda (2018) Elle précise cinq façons dont la coopération locale inter-agricole aide les agriculteurs à développer une agriculture durable : la satisfaction de nouveaux besoins matériels induits par la diversification, la facilitation de l'auto-approvisionnement et la réorganisation des modes de travail, la gestion de l'incertitude et du risque, et l'émergence de dialogues techniques qui encouragent la coproduction de connaissances locales. Certains travaux ont également étudié la contribution des collectifs numériques à la communication entre agriculteurices ou à celle entre agriculteurices et services de vulgarisation (Bruce, 2016;Burbi & Hartless Rose, 2016;Phillips et al., 2018). Phillips et al. (2018) ont analysé le contenu des groupes Facebook et ont interprété l'utilisation de la publication et des commentaires comme une contribution favorable et positive à la validation des connaissances, à la prise de décision à la ferme, aux changements dans la pensée de la gestion agricole, aux modes d'exploitation et à la gestion stratégique. ...
... She specifies five ways in which local inter-farm co-operation helps farmers in the development of sustainable agriculture: the satisfaction of new material needs induced by diversification, the facilitation of self-provisioning, and the reorganization of work patterns, the management of uncertainty and risk, and the emergence of technical dialogues that encourage the coproduction of local knowledge. Some scholars also studied the contribution of digital collectives to the farmer-to-farmer communication or the farmer-to-extension services one (Bruce, 2016;Burbi & Hartless Rose, 2016;Phillips et al., 2018). Phillips et al. (2018) analyzed the content of Facebook groups and interpreted the use of publishing and commenting as a supportive and positive contribution to the validation of knowledge, the onfarm decision-making, changes in farm management thinking, modes of operation, and strategic management. ...
Thesis
Le processus de transformation des situations des agriculteurs et agricultrices dans le cadre de la transition agroécologique (TAE) est au cœur de cette thèse. Les collectifs de pairs, à travers leurs échanges, sont perçus comme des ressources clés pour la transition agroécologique des agriculteurs et agricultrices sans pour autant que leur rôle dans la transformation de l’expérience soit précisé. Pour éclairer ce point, j’ai choisi d’étudier l’articulation entre ce qui s’échange dans le collectif et l’évolution des situations de travail des agriculteurs et agricultrices du collectif. Pour saisir ce qui se joue dans cette articulation, nous avons mobilisé une épistémologie de la pratique, proposée par John Dewey, à travers les théories de l’enquête et de la valuation. Ainsi, dans une perspective motivée par les enjeux d’accompagnement de ce processus de transformation de l’expérience, mon objectif est de construire une intelligibilité de la manière dont les échanges entre pairs s’inscrivent dans une enquête dans les situations de travail et viennent mettre en mouvement la situation des agriculteurs et agricultrices et, ainsi leur expérience.Pour cela, j’ai travaillé avec deux collectifs. Le collectif A, suivi pendant 2 ans, est un groupe d’une quinzaine d’agriculteurs du réseau BASE, se réunissant lors de tours de plaine pour échanger sur leurs pratiques agricoles tout au long de la campagne agricole. Le collectif B, dont nous avons suivi les échanges via une plateforme numérique de type WhatsApp pendant 7 mois, est quant à lui un groupe d’une centaine de personnes, avec une diversité d’acteurs, affilié aux programmes DEPHY et Fermes 30 000. J’ai traduit une partie des données empiriques en récits d’expériences, un intermédiaire qui me permet d’appréhender la dynamique de l’évolution des situations des agriculteurs et les articulations avec le collectif. Le dialogue entre ancrage dans les théories de l’enquête et de la valuation et nos données empiriques a permis de construire des cadres d’analyse pour étudier : 1) l’étayage de l’enquête dans les échanges entre pairs, 2) l’induction de l’indétermination par les échanges entre pairs, et enfin 3) le soutien effectif des échanges à la transformation des situations des agriculteurs et agricultrices enquêtées.Ainsi nous montrons qu’en s’engageant dans la transition agroécologique, les agriculteurs et agricultrices s’inscrivent dans une série d’enquêtes sur des situations indéterminées qui émergent dans le cours de leur travail. Les contenus échangés entre pairs sont saisis et deviennent un soutien à la transition quand ils viennent nourrir le processus d’enquête là où l’agriculteurice se trouve dans son cheminement : en induisant l’indétermination, en contribuant à l’institution de la problématique, en suggérant des solutions ou en favorisant le développement de raisonnements et l’expérimentation de ces solutions. Ce soutien s’inscrit aussi dans la transaction de l’individu et de son environnement en participant aux mouvements entre les éléments expérientiels de la situation et des éléments idéels pour résoudre l’indétermination. Ce mouvement est médié par l’examen des conséquences, projetées ou concrètes, et leur valuation. Nous montrons que l’activité de valuation est au cœur de l’enquête du sujet de sorte qu’elle oriente l’action dans une direction souhaitable et soutenable pour le sujet.Dans une perspective d’accompagnement, mes propositions conceptuelles et méthodologiques sont des pistes à développer dans des contextes d’intervention et de formation. Elles ouvrent une voie pour penser l’accompagnement d’agriculteurs et agricultrices considérées comme des acteurs et actrices créatives de leur travail situé. Elles éclairent aussi le rôle d’étayage de l’enquête par des pairs, et plus largement des acteurs du développement agricole tout en mettant en lumière les enjeux de recherche, de formation et d’intervention associés.
... Cuendet et al. (2013) found out that in countries with low-literacy level farmers, tools providing speech-based interfaces to present videos in local languages failed to become fully inclusive. However, since the audience of TNs is mostly at the European level, the level of literacy of farmers is sufficiently high to read subtitles, even in remote rural areas (Burbi, S., Rose 2016). Another aspect related to reaching remote rural areas may be poor digital connectivity. ...
... Finally, although the use of interactive platforms brings people together and could be important in promoting social capital as in today's world experience, face-to-face contact is also important in its own right in facilitating knowledge exchange (e.g., Burbi and Hartless Rose 2016;Leema et al. 2018). Hence, this study supports further research that explores the integration of both strategies to enhance the interactive exchange of knowledge and innovation of agroecology within the AKIS and AIS systems. ...
Thesis
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Abstract Nigeria is still predominantly an agrarian society; the agricultural sector employs around 40% of the entire labour force. Over the last four decades in a bid to enhance agricultural production, various agricultural policies and programmes have been introduced by the government. Based on conventional agricultural techniques these policies have done little to support smallholder farmers and have resulted in negative environmental impacts. Despite all these efforts, Nigeria remains a food deficit nation and a net importer of agricultural produce. Increasing global food and environmental crises, particularly in Africa, have created renewed interest in the viability of alternative approaches to agriculture and food systems such as agroecology for ameliorating these issues. This study had three broad aims: 1) to understand how agroecology is practised and understood in Nigeria; 2) to evaluate the opportunities for wider adoption of agroecological techniques; and 3) to understand the challenges to transitioning from the current conventional farming system to a more agroecological approach. From these aims, five objectives were developed, and these were addressed using a variety of qualitative methods. This study adopted an inductive approach which incorporates participatory action and design science research. A theoretical framework provides the rationale for the study and justification for the methods chosen as this project intersects at different research fields. Qualitative methods were successfully utilised for data collection and analysis, these included focus groups, semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. The fieldwork research activities took place in Imo and Abia states, in south-east Nigeria. In total, 70 participants took part in the study, this comprised of 40 farmers, 20 extension personnel and 10 agricultural university lecturers, purposively and randomly selected. The farmers interviewed in this study were not familiar with the term agroecology although they understood what organic agriculture was and were concerned about the impact of conventional practices on their environment. Further work is needed to determine if this is replicated in other regions of Nigeria. The examination of the existing agricultural knowledge exchange systems (AKIS) in Nigeria identified two clear strands, a top-down formal system determined by government policy and facilitated by the extension services and a bottom-up, informal system of peer-to-peer knowledge exchange between farmers. Currently, information on agricultural techniques and innovation is provided to farmers through the extension services. A key organisation is the National Extension and Advisory Liaison Service [NEARLS]. Interviews with NEARLS personnel revealed that government agricultural policy was based solely on intensive or conventional farming techniques and there was no expertise within the vi organisation on agroecology. As the top-down information AKIS is driven by government policy, this is difficult to influence and change in the short-term. Therefore, this study explored potential options to facilitate a bottom-up approach to agroecological transition. Peer-to-peer knowledge exchange is a key aspect of this approach and mobile applications (m-apps) could be used to facilitate this. A scoping review of currently available m-apps in Nigeria, revealed none which support agroecology. The SmartAgroeocology m-app was developed and demonstrated to farmers and extension agents, feedback from participants was positive. In conclusion, this study found that farmers are concerned about the negative impacts of the conventional techniques they use, and they are interested in adopting agroecological practices although they need support to do this. Currently formal support is provided by the extension services, but this is based on government policy which does not include agroecology. This top-down approach therefore does not currently support transition towards agroecological systems. Encouraging farmers to support each other and facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge exchange using mobile technology could instead facilitate a bottom-up approach to agroecological transition. In this study in southeast Nigeria, the potential of this was demonstrated by the SmartAgroecology app. The farmers in this study were very positive about its potential but further work is needed to determine whether these findings are representative of farmers in Nigeria. Keywords: agroecological systems, transition challenges and opportunities, interactive knowledge exchange.
... • Engaging stakeholders in educating farmers in biofertilization [310,311]. • Monitoring farmers' and stakeholders requirements and feedbacks on the biofertilization efficiency on crop production for continuous improvement [312][313][314]. ...
Chapter
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The ever-increasing global population, climate change, as well as pest and disease outbreak remains as challenges to the horticultural crop production. There is an urgent need to intensify crop production using sustainable methods. Plants are associated with rhizospheric microbes, which have the ability to promote crop growth and stress tolerance, enhance plant nutrition, and improve vegetation propagation. Thus, the formulation and application of biofertilizers containing these beneficial microbes is a promising approach to improve horticultural crops. In this chapter, the impact of applying biofertilizers will be discussed comprehensively which will include the possible mechanisms of biofertilizers in conferring plant growth promoting and stress tolerance traits in crops. This chapter will also look at the possible challenges that will arise from biofertilizer application and recommend solutions to ensure the most efficient use of biofertilizer in the horticulture industry.
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The IPM WORKS IPM Resource Toolbox (Toolbox) has been developed as an interactive, online repository of integrated pest management (IPM) resources. Populated with high priority resources for farmers and their advisors during the project, its structure enables additional resources added over time. The repository is a public interactive website, available to anyone looking to access, understand, and implement IPM. Built on an open-source content management system, the toolbox is designed to require minimal post-production site maintenance and support, while being easily expanded to integrate resources from future initiatives. To ensure an efficient but comprehensive website design, population, maintenance, a survey of target user needs was conducted. Different type of IPM stakeholders, both internal and external to the IPMworks project, ranked the key requirements for the Toolbox, such as practical information about diseases and pests’ management and economic thresholds: 343 feedbacks and answers from a survey of 10 questions, carried out across Europe in four languages, provided the key elements and foundation for the IPM Resource Toolbox website development and specification. The Toolbox resources are explained in different languages, with images, divided by topics, with the possibility to find additional details and accessible by smartphone.
Article
The IPM WORKS IPM Resource Toolbox (Toolbox) has been developed as an interactive, online repository of integrated pest management (IPM) resources. Populated with high priority resources for farmers and their advisors during the project, its structure enables additional resources added over time. The repository is a public interactive website, available to anyone looking to access, understand, and implement IPM. Built on an open-source content management system, the toolbox is designed to require minimal post-production site maintenance and support, while being easily expanded to integrate resources from future initiatives. To ensure an efficient but comprehensive website design, population, maintenance, a survey of target user needs was conducted. Internal and external IPM stakeholders indicated the relative importance of key requirements such as practical information about diseases and pests’ management and economic thresholds. The resources were explained in different languages, with images, divided by topics, with the possibility to find additional details and accessible by smartphone. Feedbacks and answers from the survey, carried out across Europe in multiple languages, by different stakeholders provided the key elements and foundation for the IPM Resource Toolbox website development and specification.
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This study aims to investigate the impact of social media, as a moderator variable, on farmer's resilience to climate change. According to the lack of investigation on the social impacts of social media, this study examines the direct and indirect effects of social media on the livelihood capitals and resilience of farmers to climate change. The purpose of the current study is categorized as applied research. Data collection was done through the survey method. Also, data analysis was done using a non-experimental and descriptive-correlation method. The statistical population consists of 36281 farmers who live in the drainage basin of the Ghezel Ozan River in Zanjan province. The sample size estimated 384 people through Krejcie and Morgan's table. Also, stratified random sampling was used by the appropriate assignment. The validity and reliability were evaluated through the convergent and discriminant validity method, and combined reliability, respectively. Data processing was done through structural equation modeling based on the partial least squares method. Results indicated that social media affects, directly and indirectly, the farmer's resilience through livelihood capitals. Also, livelihood capitals have a significant positive impact on farmer's resilience to climate change.
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Successful sustainable transitions require an understanding of the drivers and resources needed to support the required changes. While the importance of farmers' collectives in these transitions is underlined by various scientific studies and public policies, we lack an overview of how scholars are dealing with this topic. This paper has two main objectives: i) a review of the studies that explore the interplay between exchanges among collectives and the farmers' transition pathways to sustainable agriculture, and ii) a conceptual framework to analyze this interplay. Drawing on a review of 43 scientific articles, it highlights a variety of possible theoretical and methodological approaches and interpretations to inform our understanding. Based on the literature, we have distinguished four perspectives in this field: i) the way farmers rely on collectives during their transition process; ii) the collectives as complex organizations; iii) the collectives as loci for knowing; and iv) learning processes among collectives. We also show that these studies fail to provide insights on the interplay between the farmers' dynamics of transitioning towards sustainable agriculture and those of the collectives, and the way it contributes to supporting professional transition. To illuminate this interplay, we introduce a conceptual framework based on Deweyian pragmatism and developmental approaches that allows us to analyze the transition process as one of farmer empowerment. We focus on the farmers’ experience, on the way they are affected by their working situations, and on how support for inquiry can help them rebuild meaning and continuity in their transitions. This work should contribute to informing the circulation of agroecological knowledge issues and enable stakeholders who support these processes to find the most appropriate levers for a diversity of farmers and farming systems.
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Full-text available
In recent years, huge efforts have been made to implement ICT innovations in the agricultural sector in order to increase its competitiveness. The question that can be posed is what depends on the successful implementation of ICT innovations among farmers. Numerous scientific papers were published with the purpose of identifying factors that affect acceptance of particular innovation by users. The aim of this paper was to determine whether the farmer innovativeness influences the acceptance and the degree of using the Internet and social media by farmer. Additionally, statistically significant correlation between the demographic factors of the farmers and their innovativeness was investigated. The research was conducted using survey method. Descriptive statistics, Correlation analysis using Pearson's correlation coefficients and Chi-square test were used as statistical methods. Obtained results confirmed the initial hypotheses and based on that recommendations for the creation of a marketing strategy for introducing new ICT solutions in the field of agriculture are made.
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Full-text available
Few studies have examined the types of educational delivery methods preferred by farmers (Eckert & Bell, 2005; Eckert & Bell, 2006). The research project reported here explored the preferred learning methods of farmers in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia. Data on learning methods collected directly from farmers were compared with preferred teaching methods of Extension agents and specialists. The findings should shape agent and specialist perspectives on appropriate educational delivery methods when educating farmers and working towards farmer adoption of new practices.
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Full-text available
The process of knowledge brokering in the agricultural sector, where it is generally called agricultural extension, has been studied since the 1950s. While agricultural extension initially employed research push models, it gradually moved towards research pull and collaborative research models. The current agricultural innovation systems perspective goes beyond seeing research as the main input to change and innovation, and recognises that innovation emerges from the complex interactions among multiple actors and is about fostering combined technical, social and institutional change. As a result of adopting this innovation systems perspective, extension is refocusing to go beyond enhancing research uptake, and engaging in systemic facilitation or what has been called ‘innovation brokering’. Innovation brokering is about performing several linkage building and facilitation activities in innovation systems, creating an enabling context for effective policy formulation and implementation, development and innovation. Conclusions are that an innovation systems perspective also has relevance for sectors other than agriculture, which implies that in these sectors knowledge brokering as enhancing research uptake and use should be complemented with broader innovation brokering activities.
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Knowledge generation and the interactions that allow for knowledge exchange are key processes of innovation. Yet these processes are not well understood at the farm level, nor are they well reflected in policy approaches for agricultural innovation. Farmers in New South Wales have used diverse ways to implement innovations in land management. They employ a range of strategies including observing signals from the landscape, independent testing and trialling, use of agronomists, participation in farmer groups and in farmer-driven research programmes. Steps to foster farmer-driven innovations and knowledge-intensive agricultural systems require greater subtlety to enable flexibility, the incorporation of contemporary scientific knowledge and support for sustainable initiatives. More research on innovation and on policy engagement is required to foster on-farm innovative capacity.
Article
Although climate change is a major challenge facing the world today, a considerable proportion of the general public in the UK and other Western countries have been found to be sceptical of the issue. Given that livestock farming is a major contributor to climate change, this study explored the extent to which climate change scepticism prevailed among Scottish dairy farmers, the factors that affected their scepticism, and the lessons that could be derived for dealing with this challenge. According to Rahmstorf's (2004) typology of trend, risk and attribution scepticism, appropriate statements were developed and measured on Likert-type scales. The factors that affected these three categories of scepticism were identified by using a Structural Equation Modelling approach. The prevalence of trend and attribution scepticism was quite low among the farmers, but the prevalence of risk scepticism was considerably high. The extent of these scepticisms was significantly affected by farmers' age, economic status, education, experience with disease and pest infestations, use of media, contacts with agricultural extension consultants, environmental values, and economic values. The effects of these factors on scepticism and the directions of these effects were however different for the three categories of scepticism proposed by Rahmstorf. The theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.
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Little comparative work has been conducted on the environmental belief systems and behaviours of conventional and organic farmers, especially in relation to farming culture, the environment and lowland farmland avifauna. Adopting a modified behavioural approach, this paper analyses the ways in which the environmental attitudes and understandings of farmers in central-southern England influence their behaviour. Key stakeholder and farmer interviews and a focus group discussion showed how some organic farmers tend to have small, diverse and untidy farms, ecocentric attitudes and a non-exploitative approach towards farming which includes an appreciation of farmland birds. This often contrasts with the tidy, well-organised conventional farmers with their larger, specialised farms, technocentric attitudes and exploitative view of nature, frequently related to creating pheasant cover and the belief that corvids and birds of prey are vermin and should therefore be eradicated. However, these attitudes and behaviours may not necessarily be representative of any differences between those farmers loosely labelled as ‘organic’ and ‘conventional’.
Article
The New Zealand Dairy industry is committed to developing the knowledge and skills of its farmers by investing time, energy and money into training activities. What is uncertain is how effective this training is in terms of learning. It has been proposed that effectiveness of training is largely determined by the learning styles of the participants relative to that of the trainer. The term "learning styles" refers to an individual's characteristics and preferred way of gathering, organising and thinking about information. An individual's learning style is expressed as either a single preference or, most commonly, multi-modal. In the study reported here, questionnaires to determine their learning styles were delivered to every dairy farmer supplying Fonterra (n=8000). From these data reasonable assumptions can be made as to the most appropriate and effective extension and training materials to promote learning. Results showed definite single mode preferences for read/write (24%) and kinaesthetic (18%) and a lower percentage of multimodal preferences compared with the reference database. Dairy farmers over 35 years of age showed a definite preference for single mode read/write compared to those younger who were predominantly single mode kinaesthetic. There was also a difference between the learning style preferences between sexes, women displaying a single mode preference for read/write and men almost even preferences for read/write and kinaesthetic modes. Of significance are the low scores for aural and visual learning styles as single preferences. However, as discussion groups are still one of the most common extension activities conducted, this may explain why the current modes of delivering training to the dairy sector are apparently falling short of participants' expectations. Three Key Learnings: (1) NZ dairy farmers have a greater proportion of single mode preferences, compared with other populations researched who favour multi-modal learning styles (55-70%). Therefore they have less flexibility in switching modes and will be distracted from learning when information is presented in their less preferred modes. (2) NZ dairy farmers have a stronger preference for Read/write and Kinaesthetic learning styles than for either Aural/oral or Visual learning styles. (3) NZ dairy farmers can be segmented on the basis of their different learning style preferences and gender and/or position in the industry. Background The New Zealand Dairy Industry is committed to developing the knowledge and skills of its farmers by investing time, energy and money into training activities. What is uncertain is how effective this training is in terms of cognitive learning and changed attitudes and/or behaviours as a consequence. The industry understands the training needs in terms of skills and knowledge required from an industry perspective, but little is understood about the needs of the participants as learners, to ensure they get maximum benefit from their training.