Farmer First Revisited
12 – 14 December 2007
at the Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK
Presentation, Theme 1c, Science and the Politics of Knowledge
Discussant: Melissa Leach (IDS and STEPS Centre)
Science and the politics of knowledge
Discussant’s comments
Melissa Leach
Eight fascinating papers
• Cognitive maps in the Philippines (Nazarea)
• West African seed systems as neural networks (Richards)
• Indigenous knowledge and innovations in India – the Honey Bee
Network (Gupta)
• Factors shaping the spread of the System of Rice Intensification
(SRI) (Uphoff)
• Dialogues and learning alliances around SRI in India (Prasad)
• Scaling-up participatory research in potato-related innovation
systems in Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia and Uganda (Ortiz et al)
• Linking scientists and users – the DFID Research Into Use
programme (Albright)
• Including civil society organisations in African agricultural R and D
(Jones and Sanyang)
Distinguishing knowledge systems
• Beyond conventional distinctions: indigenous vs.
scientific; traditional vs. modern; local vs. global;
practical vs. theoretical
• Technology vs. sets of principles
• Bodies of (technical) knowledge vs. cognitive processes
• ‘In head’, discursive knowledge vs. ‘in body’; practice,
habitus; sensory, emotional
• Individual vs. socially-distributed knowledge
• Supervised vs. unsupervised learning
• Integration of multiple knowledges in an innovation
system vs. multiple innovation systems
• Distinct technological paradigms linked with politicaleconomic-social goals
• Contexts of rapid environmental, political and economic
change – variability in time as well as space
• Shocks and stresses
• Uncertainties, unpredictabilities, surprises
• Locating resilience – in technologies, cognitive
processes, innovation systems?
• Rigidity of technologies/supervised learning vs. plasticity,
flexibility, adaptability of practice-sets, networks?
Models of spread
• Entrepreneurship and marketing
• Scaling-up through formal mechanisms to link multiple
actors – civil society, public and private, global agencies
and funders
• Inclusionary mechanisms to raise farmer voice in formal
• Key ‘witnessing events’
• Personal crusades and opportunity-taking
• ‘Messy, playful encounters of everyday practice where
farmers, scientists and civil society are engaging in an
uneven but dynamic knowledge marketplace’ (Prasad)
• Unseen spread through unacknowledged networks
Politics of interaction
• Comfortable integration within a larger innovation system
• Fraught encounters – negotiations over knowledge,
means of validation, framing questions
• Informal (sometimes) hidden adoption of each other’s
ideas and technologies
• Coalitions that link different agendas
• Histories of dissent between positioned paradigms
• Learning alliances – knowledge dialogues that build
bridges, create shared languages
• Frontstage consensus vs. backstage conflict?
• What are the salient characteristics and distinctions
between ‘knowledge systems’ that should now guide a
revisiting of FF?
• What characteristics of knowledge/innovation systems
are key to building resilience amidst current dynamics
and uncertainties?
• What processes are key to spreading ‘farmers’
knowledge/learning’, and how can these be enhanced?
• Linking ‘farmers’ and ‘scientists’ – what roles/contexts
for integrative, networked, deliberative and antagonistic
politics? What are the implications for designing
innovation systems and ‘learning alliances’?

Pathways to Sustainability: environment and development