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Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 58–76 | Cite as

Challenging the populist perspective: Rural people's knowledge, agricultural research, and extension practice

  • John Thompson
  • Ian Scoones
Article

Abstract

Recent trends in agricultural science have emphasized the need to make local people active participants in the research and development process. Working under the populist banner “Farmer First”, the focus has been on bridging gaps between development professionals and local people, pointing to the inadequate understanding of insiders' knowledge, practices, and processes by outsiders.

The purpose of this paper is to expose the paradox of the prevailing populist conception of power and knowledge, and to challenge the simple notion that social processes follow straightforward and systemic patterns and can thus be manipulated with a transfer of power from outside to inside. The authors view “knowledge” as a social process and knowledge systems in terms of a multiplicity of actors and networks through which certain kinds of information are communicated and negotiated, and not as single, cohesive structures, stocks or stores. The guiding phrase is “the analysis of difference”, which suggests that knowledge is multilayered, fragmentary, and diffuse, not unitary and systematized. It emerges as a product of the interaction and dialogue between different actors and networks of actors with conflicting loyalties who negotiate over “truth” claims and battle over contrasting images and contesting interests. The paper challenges those promoting Farmer First approaches to reassess how people in different agroecological and sociocultural contexts make sense of and deal with constraining and enabling processes related to research and extension; how they attempt, through recourse to various discursive means, to enroll one another in their various endeavors; and how they use relations of power in their struggles to gain access to and control of social and political space.

Keywords

Development Professional Local People Social Process Recent Trend Active Participant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Thompson
  • Ian Scoones

There are no affiliations available

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