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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1137: International Symposium on Innovation in Integrated and Organic Horticulture (INNOHORT)

Cognitive mapping of organic vegetable production in Flanders to support farmers strategy design

Authors:   M. Strubbe, J. Bijttebier, J. Van Meensel, F. Marchand, L. Lauwers
Keywords:   agricultural production system, organic agriculture, systems approach, decision-making, cognitive mapping
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1137.39
Abstract:
Organic farmers inherently have to cope with complex agricultural production system processes. Next to pursuing economic performance, farm management also encompasses optimization of the farm's ecological and social performance. The question arises how to maintain a certain balance between the multiple purposes. For this consideration, farmers as well as researchers need to have a good understanding of the whole farm functioning. Therefore this study aims to model the factors and their inter-relations influencing an organic farmers' decision-making process. These factors and inter-relations were modelled by using the qualitative cognitive mapping technique. Cognitive mapping can be used to develop maps of socio-ecological systems based on people's knowledge of ecosystems. Different stakeholders (farmers and experts) were interviewed in order to represent and visualize their tacit knowledge. Through in-depth interviews, stakeholders were questioned on the critical success factors of organic farm management and how these factors relate to each other. Based on these interviews, individual cognitive maps were constructed which were subsequently merged to build a social cognitive map. The social cognitive map represents the stakeholders' perception of the agricultural production system. It covers a broad range of factors (economic, agro-technical and biophysical factors, next to a few social factors), of which the most central ones are crop choice, crop rotation, marketing and technology and mechanization.

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