How agricultural development can better attune to farmers’ perspectives and practices
Av Klara Fischer
A core topic of development studies is understanding the mechanisms behind why development projects often fail to improve the situations of the people targeted. There are countless examples, including from my own research, of these kinds of development failures. It has been shown how ideas of development as unidirectional put blinds to alternative ways of acting and thinking; how the Western view of ‘the Other’ still makes development projects focus on changing individual smallholders’ ‘mind-sets’ rather than looking at structural and non-local reasons behind local poverty; and how attention to (particular) technology and expert knowledge as key tools for reaching development depoliticises interventions. One thing that these different explanations tell us is that a key reason to why development interventions fail is that they do not sufficiently adapt to local contexts, practices and knowledges.
In this talk I therefore want to discuss how agricultural development can be done in a way that is sensitive to local knowledges and practices. This is something that I have engaged in during recent research projects and which I also aim to take further in forthcoming research.
I will talk about how we as researchers can contribute to making local peoples’ knowledges and practices more visible in, and influential of, agricultural development policies and interventions. I will draw examples from my research including a recent study in Uganda where I collaborated with veterinary researchers to study Basongora pastoralists’ ‘situated knowledges’ on cattle disease, and a study in its start-up where we collaborate across disciplines to find suggestions for locally acceptable implementation of control interventions for African swine fever in Uganda. I will suggest how multi- and trans-disciplinary dialogue can make knowledge production in e.g. veterinary research better anchored in farmers’ situations, and associated recommendations better attuned to and easier to act on in local contexts. Methodologically I will suggest how a grounded theory approach and embracing complexity and heterogeneity rather than entering field work with fixed research questions can facilitate this openness to other ways of thinking and acting.