A research paradigm for systems agriculture.

Bawden, Richard J.; Ison, Raymond L.; Macadam, Robert D.; Packham, Roger G. and Valentine, Ian (1985). A research paradigm for systems agriculture. In: Remenyi, J. V. ed. Agricultural systems research for developing countries. Canberra: ACIAR, pp. 31–42.

URL: http://aciar.gov.au/files/node/13306/pr11_pdf_1133...


Commencing in the late 19708 a multidisciplinary group of staff at Hawkesbury Agricultural College embarked on what we now understand as an Action Research Project. Our experiences of agriculture in Australia, UK, Asia, Africa and South America convinced us that agriculture is a complicated human activity involving uncertainty and change. From our interactions with farmers and employers across the agricultural sector we increasingly believed that our graduates were not being sufficiently equipped to cope with this complexity and change - to be professional agriculturalists for the twenty-first century (Macadam and Bawden 1985). We were also conscious ofDahlberg's (1979) assertion that the 'conceptual maps that most people have of agriculture fail to recognise it as the basic interface between people and their environments.'

We decided to investigate ways of learning about how to improve problem situations in agriculture. This required the development of insights into the learning-problem-solving- research process, which we elucidate subsequently. Through this process we have come to view problems as 'things that never disappear utterly and that cannot be solved once and for all' (Lakoff and Johnson 1980) in contrast to the present widely held view of problems as puzzles for which, typically, there is a correct solution. To convey this meaning we use here the phrase 'improve problem situations' rather than 'solve problems.'

In this paper we will first outline the conditions in Australian agriculture that led us to decide to adopt a systems approach at Hawkesbury, which we are calling systems agriculture.

We will follow this with an outline of the methodologies of the approach and relate these to a psychology of learning. For debate during the workshop, we will present our perception of the relative position of systems agriculture in the spectrum of systems approaches to research in agriculture and postulate a model of influences on their evolution. Finally, we will outline our views on the application of systems agriculture in researching complex problem situations in agriculture.

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