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Non-governmental organizations, strategic bridge building, and the “scientization” of organic agriculture in Kenya

Abstract

This paper contributes to the growing social science scholarship on organic agriculture in the global South. A “boundary” framework is used to understand how negotiation among socially and geographically disparate social worlds (e.g., non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foreign donors, agricultural researchers, and small-scale farmers) has resulted in the diffusion of non-certified organic agriculture in Kenya. National and local NGOs dedicated to organic agriculture promotion, training, research, and outreach are conceptualized as “boundary organizations.” Situated at the intersection of multiple social worlds, these NGOs engage in “strategic bridge building” and “strategic boundary-work.” Strategic bridge building involves the creation and use of “boundary objects” and “hybrid forms” that serve as meeting grounds for otherwise disconnected social worlds. Strategic boundary-work involves efforts to “scientize,” and thereby legitimize, organic agriculture in the eyes of foreign donors, potential research collaborators, the Kenyan state, and farmers. Examples of strategic bridge building and boundary-work are presented in the paper. The Kenyan case illustrates that different social actors can unite around a shared objective – namely, the promotion and legitimization of organic agriculture as an alternative to the Green Revolution (GR) technological package.

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Abbreviations

ABLH:

Association for Better Land Husbandry

FORMAT:

Forum for Organic Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies

GR:

Green Revolution

IFOAM:

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

KIOF:

Kenya Institute of Organic Farming

MHAC:

Manor House Agricultural Centre

NGO:

Non-governmental Organization

SACDEP:

Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Program

SACRED:

Sustainable Agriculture Centre for Research and Development in Africa

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Acknowledgments

The support for this research was provided by a US Department of Education Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship and funds from the Department of Rural Sociology, the Graduate School, and the Graduate Student Council at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I am grateful to the late Frederick Buttel for his outstanding guidance during all stages of the research presented herein. I would also like to thank the four anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

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Goldberger, J.R. Non-governmental organizations, strategic bridge building, and the “scientization” of organic agriculture in Kenya. Agric Hum Values 25, 271–289 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9098-5

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Keywords

  • Boundary object
  • Boundary organization
  • Boundary-work
  • Green Revolution
  • Kenya
  • Non-governmental organization
  • Organic agriculture
  • Science