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Farmer networks and agrobiodiversity interventions: the unintended outcomes of intended change

Marney E. Isaac, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences and Department of Global Development Studies, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada; Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Canada
Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver, USA
Petr Matouš, University of Sydney, Australia
Evans Dawoe, Agroforestry Department, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
Luke C. N. Anglaaere, CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, Ghana

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12734-260412

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Abstract

Agroecosystem strategies to enhance agrobiodiversity can curb many of the negative impacts associated with current food production systems. With rising interest in agrobiodiversity and agroforestry as farming interventions that confer ecological and socioeconomic benefits, understanding the intended pathways of interventions is important for successful agroecological transformations. Yet, the patterns of agrobiodiversity introduction and adoption remain elusive. Drawing upon social network research from the regions of Ghana where cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is grown, we synthesize the relationships between agroforestry interventions, information networks, and the adoption of diversified agroecosystems. We illustrate middle-level patterns from independent studies in three regions of Ghana and nearly 500 farmer interviews. Strong structural indicators at the network level are linked to agrobiodiversity; farmers in larger, less dense information networks with ties to external organizations tend to have higher reported and measured agrobiodiversity. Remarkably, these trends were found in environmentally and socio-culturally different contexts in Ghana. However, these trends do not, in all cases, scale to the community level. For example, we did not observe any clear relationship between the density of community networks and the measures of agrobiodiversity at the community scale. This may be on account of the type of agrobiodiversity measure applied (above-ground biomass) to assess community-level outcomes. Selection of environmental attributes with meaningful spillover effects, such as pest management, would more likely uncover nontrivial network effects at the collective level. Our findings support that both innovation and cooperation are indispensable for successful agrobiodiversity interventions, and that networks can operate to overcome negative outcomes of agrobiodiversity. Based on these studies, we conclude that agrobiodiversity adoption via interventions and established farmer-to-farmer networks may trigger the formation of other, observation-based networks that draw in socially distant actors. Our research strategy of ex-post qualitative comparisons allowed for in-depth insight into the complexities of information networks and agrobiodiversity adoption but also generated new hypotheses on the role of social networks in diversified farming systems.

Key words

agroecology; agroforestry; diversified agroecosystems; interventions; social-ecological systems; social network analysis

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087