Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 703–714 | Cite as

Evidence for farmers’ active involvement in co-designing citrus cropping systems using an improved participatory method

  • Fabrice Le BellecEmail author
  • Amélie Rajaud
  • Harry Ozier-Lafontaine
  • Christian Bockstaller
  • Eric Malezieux
Research Article


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.


Participatory 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.


  1. Blazy JM, Ozier-Lafontaine H, Doré T, Thomas A, Wery J (2009) A methodological framework that accounts for farm diversity in the prototyping of crop management systems. Application to banana-based systems in Guadeloupe. Agric Systems 101:30–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bockstaller C, Girardin P (2003) How to validate environmental indicators. Agric Systems 76:639–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bockstaller C, Girardin P, van der Werf HMG (1997) Use of agro-ecological indicators for the evaluation of farming systems. Eur J Agron 7:261–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cardoso IM, Guijt I, Franco FS, Carvalho AF, Ferreira Neto PS (2001) Continual learning for agroforestry system design: university, NGO and farmer partnership in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Agric Systems 69:235–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carpenter S, Walker B, Anderies JM, Abel N (2001) From metaphor to measurement: resilience of what to what? Ecosystems 4:765–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cloquell-Ballester VA, Cloquell-Ballester VA, Monterde-Diaz R, Santamarina-Siurana MC (2006) Indicators validation for the improvement of environmental and social impact quantitative assessment. Environ Impact Assess Rev 26(1):79–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cox PG (1996) Some issues in the design of agricultural decision support systems. Agric Systems 52:355–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ecophyto 2018 (2008) Accessed Jun 2011
  9. Frischknecht R, Jungbluth N (2007) Implementation of life cycle impact assessment methods - Ecoinvent data v2.0. Swiss center for life cycle inventories (ecoinvent), Dübendorf, ecoinvent report 3, 32–38Google Scholar
  10. Girard N (2006) Catégoriser les pratiques d'agriculteurs pour reformuler un problème en partenariat - Une proposition méthodologique. Cah Agric 15:261–272Google Scholar
  11. King C, Gunton J, Freebairn D, Coutts J, Webb I (2000) The sustainability indicator industry: where to from here? A focus group study to explore the potential of farmer participation in the development of indicators. Aust J Exp Agr 40:631–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kinzig AP, Ryan P, Etienne M, Allison H, Elmqvist T, Walker BH (2006) Resilience and regime shifts: assessing cascading effects. Ecol Soc 11(1):20Google Scholar
  13. Lançon J, Wery J, Rapidel B, Angokaye M, Gérardeaux E, Gaborel C, Ballo D, Fadegnon B (2007) An improved methodology for integrated crop management systems. Agron Sust Dev 27:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Le Bellec F, Damas O, Boullenger G, Tournebize R, Vannière H, Ozier Lafontaine H, Jannoyer M (2010a) Weed control with a cover crop (Neonotonia wightii) in orchards in Guadeloupe (FWI). 28th International Horticultural Congress, August 22–27, 2010, LisboaGoogle Scholar
  15. Le Bellec F, Mailloux J, Dubois P, Rajaud A, Kreiter S, Bockstaller C, Tixier MS, Malézieux E (2010b) Phytoseiid mites (Acari) are bio-indicators of agricultural practice impact on the agroecosystem functioning: the case of weed management in citrus orchards. In: Wery J, Shili-Touzi I, Perrin A (eds) Proceedings of Agro 2010: the XIth ESA Congress, August 29th–September 3rd, 2010. Montpellier, FranceGoogle Scholar
  16. Le Bellec F (2011) Reconception et évaluation des systémes de culture - Le cas de la gestion de l'enherbement en vergers d'agrumes en Guadeloupe. Thèse de doctorat en sciences de la vie. Université Antilles-Guyane, Guadeloupe, France, 289 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Le Bellec F, Cattan P, Bonin M, Rajaud A (2011) Building a typology of cropping practices from comparison to a common reference: first step for a relevant cropping system re-designing process—results for tropical citrus production. Fruits 66:143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leeuwis C (2000) Reconceptualizing participation for sustainable rural development: towards a negotiation approach. Dev Chang 31:931–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lopez-Ridaura S, Masera O, Astier M (2002) Evaluating the sustainability of complex socio-environmental systems. The MESMIS framework. Ecol Indic 2:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Meul M, Van Passel S, Nevens F, Dessein J, Rogge E, Mulier A, Van Hauwermeiren A (2008) MOTIFS: a monitoring tool for integrated farm sustainability. Agron Sust Dev 28:321–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Meynard JM, Cerf M, Guichard L, Jeuffroy MH, Makowski D (2002) Which decision support tools for the environmental management of nitrogen. Agron J 22:817–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nolot J, Debaeke P (2003) Principes et outils de conception, conduite et évaluation de systèmes de culture. Cah Agric 12:387–400Google Scholar
  23. Rossing WAH, Meynard JM, van Ittersum MK (1997) Model-based explorations to support development of sustainable farming systems: case studies from France and the Netherlands. Eur J Agron 7:271–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sadok W, Angevin F, Bergez JE, Bockstaller C, Colomb B, Guichard L, Reau R, Messéan A, Doré T (2009) MASC, a qualitative multi-attribute decision model for ex ante assessment of the sustainability of cropping systems. Agron Sust Dev 29:447–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stein A, Riley J, Halberg N (2001) Issues of scale for environmental indicators. Agric Ecosyst Environ 87:215–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sterk B, Van Ittersum MK, Leeuwis C, Wijnands FG (2007) Prototyping and farm system modeling—partners on the road towards more sustainable farm systems? Eur J Agron 26:401–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Van der Werf HMG, Zimmer C (1998) An indicator of pesticide environmental impact based on a fuzzy expert system. Chemosphere 36:2225–2249PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Veldkamp A, Van Altvorst AC, Eweg R, Jacobsen E, Van Kleef A, Van Latesteijn H, Mager S, Mommaas H, Smeets PJAM, Spaans L, Van Trijp JCM (2009) Triggering transitions towards sustainable development of the Dutch agricultural sector: TransForum’s approach. Agron Sust Dev 29:87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vereijken P (1997) A methodical way of prototyping integrated and ecological arable farming systems (I/EAFS) in interaction with pilot farms. Eur J Agron 7:235–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Walker B, Holling CS, Carpenter SR, Kinzig A (2004) Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 9(2):5Google Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag, France 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabrice Le Bellec
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amélie Rajaud
    • 1
  • Harry Ozier-Lafontaine
    • 2
  • Christian Bockstaller
    • 3
  • Eric Malezieux
    • 4
  1. 1.CIRAD, UPR HortSysSaint-PierreFrance
  2. 2.INRA, UR APCGuadeloupeFrance
  3. 3.INRA, UMR1121 INPL/ENSAIA/INRAColmarFrance
  4. 4.CIRAD, UPR HortsSysMontpellier Cedex 5France

Personalised recommendations