From individual behavior to social learning: start to a participatory process towards sustainable agriculture

Fleur Marchand, Karen De Mey, Lies Debruyne, Karoline D'Haene, Marijke Meul, Ludwig Lauwers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingC1: Articles in proceedingspeer-review


When striving to make farming more sustainable, farmers need to acquire new skills and competencies in order to stay competitive while producing in a sustainable way. Trial and error learning by the individual can be greatly improved by social learning, which is a combination of constructive, contextual and reflective learning from other people. Many authors have stressed the potential effectiveness of integrated sustainability assessment models in social learning, provided that these models are used in combination with participatory approaches. We set up discussion groups between farmers using an indicator-based assessment model for integrated farm sustainability called MOTIFS. In this paper, we analyse the motivations on which the farmers base their decisions to implement changes or innovations, before they take part in the discussion
groups. This provides us a reference base for evaluation of the further social learning process. The factors of motivations included are mainly attitudinal factors and external conditions. Attitudinal factors ranged from negative to moderate to positive, depending on the type of measure farmers are discussing. Economic factors and also legislation constraints were mentioned as important external conditions in their decision making. Literature and interview analysis leads to a proposal of a methodology to detect social learning aspects by farmers once they have used the Monitoring Tool for Integrated Farm Sustainability (MOTIFS) in discussion groups during one year. This implies a second-step interviewing of the farmers to explore whether the motivations for change mentioned by the farmers have changed and whether this change moves in the direction of more sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th IFSA symposium : Building sustainable rural futures
Publication date2010
ISBN (Print)978-3-200-01908-9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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