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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #379192

Research Project: Development of Economically Important Row Crops that Improve the Resilience of U.S. Agricultural Production to Present and Future Production Challenges

Location: Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Research

Title: Reflections on farmers’ social networks: A means for sustainable agricultural development?

item Emendack, Yves
item CHAUDHURI, SRIROOP - Op Jindal Global University
item ROY, MIMI - Op Jindal Global University
item MCDONALD, LOUIS - West Virginia University

Submitted to: Environment, Development and Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/29/2020
Publication Date: 5/15/2020
Citation: Emendack, Y., Chaudhuri, S., Roy, M., McDonald, L. 2020. Reflections on farmers’ social networks: A means for sustainable agricultural development? Environment, Development and Sustainability.

Interpretive Summary: For many developing nations, the failure of agencies to transfer new technologies to farmers has often resulted in devasting socioenvironemental crises (e.g., groundwater depletion and contamination, soil erosion, increased soil salinity) that led to food insecurity, loss of livelihood, and mass famine. Although new technologies for crop management and crop resistance to pests and environmental stresses are available, these technologies in many cases are not widely adopted by farmers. This study is a review of current literature and practices on technology transfer and adoption by growers in developing nations and presents suggestions for policy makers on new methods of distributing new technologies through social networking. A primary finding from this study was that farmers, especially in developing nations, are not readily adopting new technologies when the information is disseminated from the top down (i.e. from government agencies). Rather, the primary means of adopting new approaches is when the information comes from a fellow farmer or trusted advisor or extension agronomist. Thus, our reasonable conclusion from this fact is that a significant investment must be made in bolstering social networking infrastructure in these nations and that research and technology development be contextualized with regard to the social networking state of the targeted growers.

Technical Abstract: Sustainable agrarian development has emerged as a key agenda in many recent global development dialogues, owing to its intimate links with rural development. Agrarian development paradigms, however, mostly root for technocratic solutions (agro-systems’ modernization), overlooking the social dimension (social networking/learning) of agricultural innovation. In view of the above, this reflective article summarizes existing worldviews on the role of farmers’ social networking/learning on agrarian development, with special emphasis on India. Cyclic interactions between water (irrigation), food (agriculture) and energy have led to dire socioenvironmental crises (e.g., groundwater depletion, energy shortage, irrigation systems’ failures, food insecurity, livelihood loss, etc.) in India that demands focused policy interventions. Under the circumstances, participatory action via farmers’ social networks provides an effective tool to harnesses resilience. With illustrative examples from India and the world, the study demonstrates that social learning is key to adoption of new paradigms (new technology/crop/cropping methods, etc.). Dissemination of new knowledge/idea is fundamentally keyed to extent of farmer-to-farmer interaction (friendship-/peer-advising network). In the process, the study highlights key barriers to establish functional networks among farming communities. Particular emphasis is laid upon the Water Users’ Association in India, to enumerate growing concerns around farmers’ involvement in Participatory Irrigation Management schemes. Pitfalls in existing network literature are highlighted, ranging from sampling issues to unaccounted effects of “unobservable” variables. The final section attempts to outline certain strategic interventions that might be pursued at the policy level to harness social capital. Overall, the study was a plea to the concerned authorities, research bodies and stakeholders in India, to forge substantive collaborations for new knowledge creation in the theory and practice of social networking/learning and identify contextualized means to integrate them in the development matrix.