The challenges of innovation for sustainable agriculture and rural development: integrating local actions into European policies with the Reflective Learning Methodology

Blog post by Heidrun Moschitz

DSC_0528Innovation is no longer the linear transfer of new ideas and technology from science via education and extension to farmers. Instead, agricultural producers are seen as important actors in the innovation system, in which different actors jointly produce new techniques and organisational forms in Learning and Innovation Networks.


photo by Barbi Reynolds, used with permission

Our paper in Action Research presents a new participatory action research approach: the Reflective Learning Methodology, which allowed us to scale up from local experiences in Learning and Innovation Networks to recommendations for an overarching support framework for innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Today’s agriculture faces a number of complex challenges: climate change, price fluctuations; and society’s varying expectations towards healthy food, nice landscapes, and sustainable land use. A single farmer cannot address all these challenges alone, so Learning and Innovation Networks are needed and have been forming throughout the past years. They include farmers, consumers, researchers, and other stakeholders to develop solutions for sustainable agriculture.

Such networks act at local levels, but it is crucial to provide support to them by overarching policies, such as agricultural policy. We asked ourselves, how can this work effectively? The Reflective Learning Methodology is an approach, with which our research project successfully addressed the challenge of up-scaling from local learning and innovation networks to recommendations for a regional support framework for innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Heidrun Moschitz and Robert Home

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