Linking research and public engagement: weaving an alternative narrative of Moroccan family farmers’ collective action
Rural development policies are often inspired by narratives that are difficult to challenge because they are based on an apparently obvious and coherent reading of reality. Research may confront such narratives and trigger debates outside the academic community, but this can have a feedback effect and lead to a simplistic or biased posture in research. This article analyzes a research-based initiative that questioned a commonly held narrative in large-scale irrigation schemes in Morocco concerning the structural weaknesses of farmer-led collective action. This initiative conceived an alternative narrative of farmer-led collective action, based on research and actions undertaken in collaboration with the farmers. The article assesses to what extent it was possible to design this narrative and to draw on it to orient research activities, actions with farmers and public engagement, without impairing the quality of the research process. The alternative narrative was designed and diffused based on three intertwined activities: (1) the identification and analysis of farmer-led collective actions, (2) the diffusion of information on successful farmer-led collective actions especially through the production of videos, and (3) exchanges with and between local farmers’ organizations. The alternative narrative that resulted from these activities emphasizes the potentialities of farmer-led collective action, and more broadly, the willingness and capabilities of many family farmers to play an active role in the governance of rural areas. The message of the alternative narrative and the distinction made between the research articles and videos in both their content and role ensured that research did not fall into simplistic or biased analyses. The alternative narrative also became a key to renewed relations between farmers and researchers and helped design training for students that pay more attention to local dynamics. In a situation in which scheme-level organizations show limited interest in reflexive enquiry, this initiative proposes some stepping stones to make it possible for changing narratives to accompany changing relations between actors. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Volume (Year): 29 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
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