Dissertation Abstracts

Reducing Risk: Local Knowledge for Livelihoods Security. A Case of Ugandan Small Holder Farmers

Author: Busingye, Janice Des, janicedesire@gmail.com
Department: Adult Learning and Higher Education
University: University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Supervisor: Prof. Astrid von Kotze, Dr. Vaughn Mitchell John
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Adult education , knowledge , Livelihoods security , risk
Areas of Research: Education , Agriculture and Food , Community Research


My research examined the knowledge and practices of farmers who are supported by Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO), a non-governmental organisation in Central region of Uganda. Farmers in VEDCO were trained in modern farming methods, which they were supposed to apply on their farms. I worked with farmers over a period of eight months, a full agricultural year, to understand how farmers negotiated their way around risk during different seasons of the year using their own knowledge. I was interested in understanding the knowledge they drew on in order to survive. The study was qualitative and employed a case study methodology. The data came from participant observation, focus group discussions, seasonality calendars, trends analysis, informal interviews, and document review. Farmers' livelihoods and the extension educational intervention by VEDCO provided an opportunity to understand the concepts of knowledge, risk, and livelihoods security. The theories of Paulo Freire (1972, 1973, 1973a,1985), Ulrich Beck (1992, 1998, 2000) and Robert Chambers (1983, 1991, 1995) formed the framework for theorising knowledge, agricultural extension education, risk and livelihoods in this research. The thesis engages with what constitutes livelihoods for poor people and what that means for survival and risk reduction. The research finds that knowledge for poor people is worthwhile if it enables them to meet their livelihood needs. Moreover, the security of poor people's livelihoods depends on many factors, which they pursue in a multi-disciplinary, negotiated manner that incorporates all those aspects. In some cases, unfortunately, the way that modern agricultural extension pedagogy is planned and executed puts farmers' livelihoods at risk in a context where farmers' own local knowledge is not sufficient to meet the challenges that they must confront. The gap created by local and modern knowledge processes resulted in the emergence of a subsistence risk society (Beck, 1992, 1998). The thesis concludes with a discussion of the concept of 'really useful agricultural extension education' (RUAE) inspired by the idea of "really useful knowledge" (Jane Thompson, 1997). In part, the emerging really useful agricultural extension education is drawn from the analysis of poor people's livelihoods. RUAEE also draws from the framework that adult education is not just about meeting needs, but rather it is about confronting systems and structures that enable social injustice and livelihoods insecurity.

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