, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 39-47

How farmers research and learn: The case of arable farmers of East Anglia, UK.

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Abstract

This study of arable agriculture in East Anglia, UK, draws on the experiences of farmer participatory research and the use of indigenous knowledge in agricultural development in less developed countries. Farmers were found to be continually doing research, although agricultural science has tended to play it down. Farmers' research was found to be closely linked to the specific locality and the strategies, aspirations, and experiences of farmers. The diversity of agriculture within East Anglia makes local research necessary and the idea of blueprints for agricultural production untenable. The process of generating information can come from learning while working, which may appear to be experiential rather than experimental. Other ideas are generated by observing chance occurrences and some farmers were found to be doing more structured experiments similar to agricultural science. Criticisms of farmers' own research are reviewed. However, this paper proposes that such research should not be compared to scientific method, since agricultural science has the primary objective of generating information while farmers' research is embedded in the local context and is part of the farming practice. It is therefore necessary to have complementary roles for farmers' own research and formal research rather than an attempt to combine or translate indigenous knowledge and farmers' experimentation in agricultural science.