Agriculture in the post-Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caucasus continues to be of central importance for securing individual livelihoods in the region. At present, the agricultural sector employs about half of the region’s workforce; a high percentage of the population lives in rural areas. Total revenues from agriculture in the region count between one quarter and one third of annual national GDPs. However, the development of the agrarian sector is very heterogeneous. Despite constant economic growth of the sector, overall production of staple crops is often not sufficient to satisfy national needs with high poverty levels especially in the rural areas.
Furthermore, the newly formed states of Central Asia and Caucasus are undergoing rapid socio-economic processes of transformation and agriculture appears in many ways half-way between collective production soviet style and new forms of individual farming. Here, knowledge generation and the development of locally adapted, agricultural innovations, which match the legal and financial possibilities of local farmers to innovate is crucial. For guaranteeing adaptability, these ideas for improving agricultural practices and ‘innovations’ have to be developed locally, embedded in present cultures of knowledge production and diffused through local networks and channels of knowledge sharing. External and global knowledge can stimulate these processes positively, but depending on local governance practices.
This forms the focus of the here announced conference: While on the one side new ideas, ways of doing things and thus innovations have to match the ‘windows of opportunity’ of local farmers to actually make sense and be adopted, it is on the other side this legal, financial and socio-political structure that has to be adjusted to successfully foster local creativity development. And third, discussions on developing existing agricultural service systems further in order to fill the needs of increasingly (semi-)privatized farmers are drawing on both of these concerns.
Agricultural knowledge, which may be grasped as everything what is considered useful for agricultural production, its production and diffusion, is heavily entangled with local governance processes. The term ‘governance’ refers not only to governmental structures; it embraces also local institutions and processes. Governance may be understood as reciprocal process, that refers to detectable structures
(as institutions, networks, hierarchies etc.) and deal with processes of interaction among various structures, which eventually entail decisions and its implementation.
1. Cultures of knowledge production and sharing in agriculture: How can local epistemic cultures determining the character of the agricultural knowledge systems be assessed and what do they look like? Who are the actors and structures of agriculturally oriented knowledge and innovation development as well as the local channels of innovation diffusion?
2. Local governance arrangements and knowledge production: How is the local production of knowledge, its share and use influenced and stimulated by overall factors, as state legislation, economic incentives or social arrangements? What determines the status of knowledge in a rural community, assuming that knowledge is constantly being shaped and at the same time shaping peoples behavior? How do governance arrangements - including the governance of natural resources of e.g. land and water – enable and constrain the development, mobilization and adaptation of knowledge?
3. Agricultural advisory service development: We wish to analyze the present situation of agricultural advisory services development by examining the role of knowledge in current agricultural production. Do farmers/ farming systems e.g. lack certain types of knowledge, while actively (re-)producing and disseminating others? What prevents them from accessing and using knowledge? Who are the main knowledge providers to farmers during the transition process? What enables and constrains the use of agricultural advisory support services for improved agricultural production?
We would like to bring together participants with different disciplinary backgrounds to present empirical and theoretical research papers on the issues of knowledge, innovations, extension, agricultural advisory services and the interfaces of knowledge and governance, as well as agricultural politics towards knowledge creation and dissemination for farmers in Central Asian and Caucasian societies.
The conference is organized in close collaboration of two research projects implemented by the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn. The first project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, investigates ‘Epistemic Cultures and Innovation Diffusion in post‐soviet Southern Caucasus and Central Asia. Pilot Study: Agricultural Knowledge Systems in Georgia and Tajikistan’. The second project supported by Volkswagen Foundation, looks at ‘Conversion of Knowledge in Post‐soviet Agriculture: The Impact of Local Governance on the Knowledge Management of Agricultural Actors in Tajikistan’.
We are looking forward to receive abstracts – no longer than 300 words – until February 15, 2013. Please email Anastasiya Shtaltovna (firstname.lastname@example.org), Center for Development Research (ZEF), including the author’s affiliation and contact details. Conference language will be English. Travel grants for scholars from post-Soviet countries can be provided to a limited degree.