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Rooting knowledge networks: understanding farmer knowledge sharing and learning during biosecurity interventions

Authors: Sara Cavallo*, Penn State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Africa, Food Systems
Keywords: biosecurity, knowledge networks, rooted networks, feminist political ecology, plant disease
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the face of growing plant disease risk across the globe and in the context of technology-forward approaches to biosecurity under the New Green Revolution for Africa umbrella, farmer knowledge networks have become an important site of concern and intervention. This paper will focus on what we can learn by examining these networks within political ecology using the case of banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW). Following the outbreak of BXW in 2001, the Ugandan state in tandem with local and international actors implemented an unprecedented series of biosecurity sensitization campaigns to manage the disease through raising farmer awareness of control measures. I discuss how farmer knowledge networks were impacted by these campaigns within a small regional agroecosystem. My work reflects how these networks operated in practice through mapping knowledge and advice sharing networks in four sites in western Uganda, a center of cooking banana, or matooke, production. Linking network analysis with a feminist 'rooted networks' approach, I demonstrate that knowledge networks across these sites vary both in structure and context in important ways that largely do not follow the hierarchical model of the state biosecurity plan. The structure of these networks depends on: 1) the relationship between farmers and the state, 2) the relationship between place and expertise, and 3) the disease experience of farmers. These differences highlight the ways in which institutional politics become apparent in farmer experiences of a biosecurity event and highlight the challenge of ‘scaling up’ disease management practices across different social network and institutional contexts.

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