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Agricultural research, technological change and small farmer participation: A case study of north-east Brazil.

Frederico, Renato Augusto (1998) Agricultural research, technological change and small farmer participation: A case study of north-east Brazil. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis discusses technological change among a group of small and resource-poor farmers in North-East Brazil. The core of the dissertation analyses the processes involved in the generation of a new technology and attempts to identify and assess the socio-economic impact of such a technology upon those farmers. They live in the Caruaru region, a semi-arid area of the Agreste of Pernambuco, and practice rain-fed agriculture. The nature of the technological change was carefully considered and is very important because it was part of a new initiative involving local agricultural researchers. After a long history of failing to provide small farmers with a relevant type of new technology, IPA (Institute of Agricultural and Livestock Research of Pernambuco) researchers tried to move away from what is often called the transfer-of-technology (TOT) approach to agricultural development or a top-down, linear and researcher centred research methodology. After adopting a Farming Systems Research (FSR) methodology in the late 1970s, scientists together with farmers realized, among other things, that without a higher degree of farmer participation, it would be very difficult, if at all possible, to promote technological changes which would meet farmer's needs and improve their livelihoods. The case study selected illustrates that agricultural research and the processes of generation of new technologies are anything but well defined, carefully planned and a systematic set of actions. Agricultural research is part of a dynamic process which involves overcoming competing world views, changing alliances and conflicting interests. Improvisation and adaptation on the part of agricultural researchers, as well as farmer participation, proved very important when developing a new research methodology which appears capable of generating technologies which meet farmers' needs. Farmers, not in isolation but organized in their own association which they managed without the interference of outsiders, played a crucial role in promoting the technological change discussed in the following chapters. Contrary to what many have believed, the small farmers of Caruaru, like so many small farmers around the world, possess a vast degree of knowledge or ITK (Indigenous Technological Knowledge) and are constantly experimenting and looking for solutions for their agricultural problems. The thesis concludes that there is scope and a large potential for participatory and systemic/holistic forms of technological change to promote the betterment of small farmers livelihoods in a sustainable manner.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economics, Agricultural
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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