Evidence for farmers’ active involvement in co-designing citrus cropping systems using an improved participatory method
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Agricultural policymakers are addressing the sustainable development issue by designing new agricultural systems. Farmers are ultimately asked to make deep changes at field scale. Designing cropping systems has previously been done using prototyping methodologies. Prototyping methodologies use a five-step designing process at field scale and request multicriteria analysis of the resulting prototypes. However, sustainable dynamics implies considering changes at larger scales, farm and region, as well as creating feedback and facilitating participation of all the stakeholders involved in the process. Here we studied citrus production in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, where farmers must reduce pesticide loads despite unresolved weed control issues. We designed the DISCS method, which stands for “participatory redesign and assess innovative cropping systems”, to improve classical prototyping methods by implementing a multi-scale, multi-stakeholder, participatory approach. Compared to classical prototyping methods, the DISCS method differs by implementing three progress loops, at experimental field, farm, and regional scales. Three categories of professional stakeholders are involved: farmers, researchers, and agricultural advisers, who are collectively in charge of designing and testing cropping system prototypes. In addition, local public stakeholders including representatives of state institutions are consulted. Progress is assessed using scale-specific sets of indicators. The DISCS method was applied to develop low-pesticide citrus cropping systems. Five weed control prototypes were jointly designed by citrus farmers and researchers, and two multicriteria assessment tools were built for use at the experimental station and on the farms. Results show that involved farmers transferred the new techniques to their own farms on their own initiative, thus spontaneously becoming pilot farmers. The DISCS method is therefore the result of a co-design process between farmers and researchers. The DISCS method creates an ongoing dynamic relationship between agricultural and public stakeholders to build a solution that can continuously be adjusted to stakeholders’ expectations.
KeywordsParticipatory approach Innovation Multicriteria assessment Cropping system Guadeloupe (French West Indies) Weed control Decision-aid tool Pesticides DISCS
We would like to express our warm thanks to all the producers, technicians, and other stakeholders of the citrus growing sector in Guadeloupe for their involvement in this study. This work was financially supported by the European Union (EAFRD) and the French office for the development of the agricultural economy of French overseas departments (ODEADOM). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable insight on this paper.
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