Organization of farmer groups impacts farmer experimentation and learning for agroecological practices : evidence from Southeast France
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- Master's theses (IPV) 
There is wide agreement that sustainable practices in agriculture are needed in order to meet the future needs of a growing population on a planet in environmental crisis. Agroecological practices can help with this daunting task. The literature highlights two important aspects necessary for the agroecological transition: local knowledge developed through experimentation, and the role of groups that spring innovation. This paper seeks to study the links between these two aspects through a comparative case study of two groups of farmers engaged in conservation agriculture practices in Southeast France. Ethnographic observations and semi-structured, qualitative interviews were carried out in groups of farmers and agronomists to assess perceptions and processes of facilitation, farmer experimentation, and knowledge production. Results showed these different facilitation styles impact the way experimentation is carried out, how farmers perceive it, how they produce knowledge, and use it. In the first group, farmers are active in individual experimentation, but feel limited because of risk, time constraints, and the facilitation style that does not actively support their endeavours. The second group follows a participatory research approach where farmers and researchers are engaged together in every step of the process of experimentation. In this group, it is the facilitator who raised concern regarding farmer learning in a formal research setting. The paper concludes that more in-depth research about farmer learning in groups with different facilitation style is needed to further the agroecologial transition.