Feeding the world sustainably: knowledge governance and sustainable agriculture in the Argentine Pampas
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- Manuel-Navarrete, D. & Gallopín, G.C. Environ Dev Sustain (2012) 14: 321. doi:10.1007/s10668-011-9326-4
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This article discusses the role of knowledge governance arrangements in the mainstreaming of sustainable practices, in particular, in the creation, sharing and use of integrated and contextualized knowledge. That is, knowledge which accounts for the social, economic, institutional, and ecological dimensions of potentially sustainable practices, and which considers the need to adapt generic practices to the sustainability requirements of specific places. An actor-centered approach is proposed for the study of the historical evolution of knowledge governance arrangements in order to understand their role in the adoption of sustainable practices. The approach is applied to explain the rapid adoption of no-till agriculture in the Argentine Pampas. A radical knowledge governance transformation occurring in this region during the 1990s led to increasing knowledge exchange and pushing sustainability practices to the top of key actors’ agendas. This embracing of no-till agriculture illustrates the crucial role played by farmers’ associations as boundary organizations: linking farmers with actors specialized in the generation of scientific knowledge and technology. This case reveals that sustainability transitions can be fostered through knowledge governance arenas characterized by: (a) promoting public–private collaboration through boundary organizations, (b) assigning private actors a leading role in the adoption of sustainability practices at the production unit scale, (c) fostering the public sector competence in regional and socio-ecological research, and (d) addressing the heterogeneous needs of knowledge users. However, the case also shows that the success of no-till agriculture in the Pampas is pushing the agriculturization of surrounding areas where this practice is largely unsustainable. This finding suggests that present knowledge governance arrangements fail to contextualize practices that are potentially sustainable.