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Contested agronomy: Agricultural research in a changing world

Contested agronomy

Edited by James Sumberg and John Thompson
Published for Routledge
Website: www.routledge.com
2012, 220 pp, ISBN 978 0 415 50714 1(Pb), £19.99

Over the last 40 years, suggest the editors of Contested agronomy, agricultural research in the developing world has been profoundly influenced by three powerful trends: the growing importance and consolidation of the agro-inputs private sector; the development of the environmental agenda, which has shunned high external input systems in favour of indigenous systems and crop biodiversity; and the move towards participatory technology development, stimulated by an empowerment agenda as well as a demand to make research farmer-driven.

The impact of such trends on agronomic science, they argue, raises the need for a 'political agronomy' analysis, to which this meaty volume offers an extremely valuable contribution. Detailed case studies highlight several key areas for analysis. These include the politics behind problem framing: the direction and validity of research will be heavily influenced by how researchers and funders choose to define their objectives. In recent years, for example, soil organic matter management has been reframed as 'carbon sequestration', introducing new questions concerning monitoring and carbon markets that have little to do with the parameters of soil condition and crop response.

The power of common-interest groups to determine research agendas are another key area: a case study on the promotion of Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe highlights the role of church-linked organisations in promoting a technology that is regarded as farming 'God's way' (see also chapter author Ken Giller's Perspective). Other key areas of discussion include the pressure by funders for research to work through collaboration and partnership and the necessity to prove impact. Such themes will resonate strongly with New Agriculturist readers, who will find Contested agronomy both fascinating and, at times, disturbing reading.

Date published: August 2012


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