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Conservation Agriculture : a professional Model for the ecological transition of agriculture ?
Audrey Vankeerberghen, Pierre Stassart

Last modified: 2012-03-19


Over the last decades, the agriculture has experienced the development of several alternatives that aim to achieve sustainability, environment protection, farmers' livelihood improvement, etc. Amongst these alternatives, the “Conservation Agriculture” is expanding in many countries as an attempt to maintain soil fertility and prevent soil erosion through the application of principles such as minimal soil disturbance (zero-tillage), permanent soil cover and crop rotations.

Based on an empirical case study that is being carried out in the South of Belgium, this paper discusses some questions raised by the Conservation Agriculture movement in the perspective of the theory of transition and its multi-level analysis (Geels 2007).

  • At first, it suggests to investigate the farmers' trajectories in the adoption of the Conservation Agriculture techniques to see how individual learning/lock-in affects the transition.

  • At a collective level, we want to understand how far the associations providing technique support, advices and information to the farmers could be a source of reflexive learning : indeed, Conservation Agriculture is an ambiguous approach mixing ecological concerns with business- and industrial-oriented practices such the use of Round Up Pesticide (chemical tillage) and time saving for big cropfarmers.

  • In Belgium, Conservation Agriculture is a “professional” initiative with weak visibility in the public sphere (compared to organic agriculture). What are the consequences of this lack of official recognition on the public debate about the future of agriculture ?

  • Further, the paper tries to highlight how the network or Conservation Agriculture has or not the ability to meet wider society's concerns such as the problem of mudslides in the countryside or use of pesticide.

  • And finally, through this multi-level analysis, we will address the question of the building of knowledge and know-how around Conservation Agriculture.