But the question is one of abstract knowledge versus practice. In
conventional extension, farmers are encouraged to adopt practices that make
their farms look more like agronomy experiments in hopes that the
'scientific' solutions will have more chance of working the way they did in
the experiments. This standardized concept of farming, in part to fit to
agriucultural machinery, also tries to create the "controled conditions"
that the field trials were conducted under.
With organic farmers I think extension has to take a different approach,
more farmer participatory and more adapted to the way farmers do things,
rather than trying to make the famers do things in a preconceived way. Of
course this makes it difficult to get research published in the usual
journals! But the context of practice is crucial.
Unlike large coroporate farming, smallholders the world around use an
extraordinary multiplicity of means to achieve their production goals,
means adapted to local ecological conditions and to the needs of family
labor etc. I'm sure you've run into to situations where farmers in a
particular place have solved problems in a way that would be difficult for
other farmers, in other situations, to copy. So often there aren't
standard solutions to problems that can be sent out on the internet--"this
is the way you control pill bugs in mulch, folks". It just isn't true--it
We can't just come up with "systems" on our experimental plots and then
ship them out as packages for organic farmers to adopt. The whole model has
to be different. Nonetheless, what you say is true--there are some things,
microbiological processes in the soil, complex insect life cycles and many
other things that only the scientist is equiped to figure out and these are
important for organic production. I think the key, though, is to be
working side by side with the farmers.
Mexico, D.F. & San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas
Tel. y FAX 525-666-73-66 (DF)
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