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Participatory monitoring and evaluation to enable social learning, adoption, and out-scaling of regenerative agriculture

Raquel Luján Soto, Agroecology, Food Sovereignty and Commons Research Team, University of Córdoba; Soil and Water Conservation Research Group, Spanish Research Council (CEBAS-CSIC)
Mamen Cuéllar Padilla, Agroecology, Food Sovereignty and Commons Research Team, University of Córdoba
María Rivera Méndez, MED - Mediterranean Institute for Agriculture, Environment and Development, University of Évora
Teresa Pinto-Correia, MED - Mediterranean Institute for Agriculture, Environment and Development, University of Évora; Departamento de Paisagem Ambiente e Ordenamento, Escola de Ciências e Tecnologia, University of Évora
Carolina Boix-Fayos, Soil and Water Conservation Research Group, Spanish Research Council (CEBAS-CSIC)
Joris de Vente, Soil and Water Conservation Research Group, Spanish Research Council (CEBAS-CSIC)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12796-260429

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Abstract

The advanced state of land degradation worldwide urges the large-scale adoption of sustainable land management (SLM). Social learning is considered an important precondition for the adoption of innovative and contextualized SLM. Involving farmers and researchers in participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) of innovative SLM such as regenerative agriculture is expected to enable social learning. Although there is a growing body of literature asserting the achievement of social learning through participatory processes, social learning has been loosely defined, sparsely assessed, and only partially covered when measured. Here, we assess how PM&E of regenerative agriculture, involving local farmers and researchers in southeast Spain, enabled social learning, effectively increasing knowledge exchange and shared understanding of regenerative agriculture effects among participating farmers. We measured whether social learning occurred by covering its social-cognitive (perceptions) and social-relational (social networks) dimensions, and discussed the potential of PM&E to foster SLM adoption and out-scaling. We used fuzzy cognitive mapping and social network analysis as graphical semiquantitative methods to assess changes in farmers’ perceptions and shared fluxes of information on regenerative agriculture over approximately three years. Our results show that PM&E enabled social learning among participating farmers, who strengthened and enlarged their social networks for information sharing and presented a more complex and broader shared understanding of regenerative agriculture effects and benefits than pre PM&E. We argue that PM&E thereby creates crucial preconditions for SLM adoption and out-scaling. Our findings are relevant for the design of PM&E processes, living labs, and landscape restoration initiatives that aim to support farmers’ adoption and out-scaling of innovative and contextualized SLM.

Key words

fuzzy cognitive mapping; living labs; natural resource management; perceptions; social networks; sustainable land management

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