MIND! Books and films

23 March 2016

Adapting to climate uncertainty in African agriculture: Narratives and knowledge politics

Stephen Whitfield, 2015, Routledge 210 pages. ISBN: 9781138849334

adaptingRisk, uncertainty, ignorance, ambiguity –these are not simple words of speech but rather conditions of incomplete knowledge. This book examines the challenges of adaptation in smallholder farming in Africa, analysing the social, economic, political and climatic uncertainties that impact on agriculture in the region and the range of solutions proposed. Drawing on case studies of genetically modified crops, conservation agriculture, and other ‘climate smart’ solutions in eastern and southern Africa, the book identifies how uncertainties are framed ‘from above’ as well experienced ‘from below’, by farmers themselves. It provides a compelling insight into why ideas about adaptation emerge, from whom, and with what implications. Deeply thought-provoking, the book is an important guide for innovative thinkers in the design and implementation of climate smart agriculture in Africa.

Understanding nature: Case studies in comparative epistemology

Hub Zwart. 2008. Springer Netherlands. 286 Pages. ISBN: 9781402064920

understanding‘Real’ knowledge of nature is a notion that we strongly relate to science, and for good reasons. Through research, the sciences have produced robust and reliable forms of knowledge, using methodologies that can usually be trusted upon. At the same time, laboratories and similar research settings are highly artificial environments that constitute rather modified versions of reality. This work departs from the recognition that science is not the only route to understanding nature. Notably, works of literature such as novels, plays, and poems on nature may be based on careful observations, quite elaborate and true to life. Comparative epis- temology is a discipline that critically analyses the relative validity and value of various knowledge forms. Drawing upon this disciplinary perspective, this book compares the works of prominent representative of Western science with the writings of their literary counterparts. It is a major contribution to the expanding  field of Scienc
e and Literature Studies, allowing basic insights from the sciences and the humanities to mutually challenge and enlighten one another.

The diversity of knowledge. Reflections on the Agrobiodiversity@knowledged programme

Henkjan Laats, Edith van Walsum, Janneke Bruil, Danielle Peterson (Eds). 2015. 34 Pages.

diversityKnowledge about agricultural biodiversity is among the most valuable assets held by family farmers, and a key to their food security and food sovereignty. Despite this importance, this knowledge is disappearing at an alarming rate. In recognition of the need for greater knowledge building and sharing on agrobiodiversity, Hivos and Oxfam-Novib hosted a three-year program to facilitate agrobiodiversity knowledge sharing between family farmers, civil society organizations, and research organisa
tions. Drawing on real experiences, this publication offers in- sights into international knowledge community building, as well as to the rich diversity of knowledge cultures of the diverse participants. The reflections in this book offer a clearer picture of the ‘backstage’ communication and action required for the agroecological movement.

Living knowledge

Jens Dorland & Michael Søgaard Jørgensen (Eds). 2014. Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark. 379 pages. ISBN: 9788793053021

knowledgeThis publication presents around 30 papers and work-in-progress papers submitted to the 6th Living Knowledge Conference held in Copenhagen, April 9-11, 2014. While there have been some advances in increasing citizen participation in community-based research and in policy processes and decision-making, there is still a long way to go before citizens and civil society organisations are fully accepted as equal partners and providers of knowledge and expertise to solve societal challenges. The Living Knowledge conference stemmed from the recognition that the time has come to recognize civil society as producer of knowledge. The cases presented in this book include innovative ideas and initiatives in agroecology, permaculture, and urban agriculture, which communities and civil society organizations over the world have developed and organised.

Knowledge politics: Governing the consequences of science and technology

Nico Stehr. 2015. Routledge. 252 pages. ISBN: 978159451087

politicsKnowledge politics’ is, according to author Nico Stehr, a phenomenon that has emerged as a consequence of new technologies and society’s response to them. This book discusses Western society’s response to the wealth of technological innovations developed since the 1970s, including genetically engineered foods, reproductive cloning and the reconstruction of the human ancestral genome. The author explores the fusion of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and transgenic human engineering, whose products may, as its proponents claim, some day cure disease, eliminate pollution, and generally improve human survival. Knowledge Politics shows how human civilization has reached a new era of concern about the life-altering potentials of new technologies. Concerns about the societal consequences of the expansion of scientific knowledge are being raised more urgently and are moving to the centre of disputes in society and to the top of the political agenda. This work discusses the consequences of knowledge politics and society’s possible approach to solving conflicts over present and future scientific innovation.

Towards an agroecological transition in Southeast Asia: Cultivating diversity and developing synergies

Jean-Cristophe Castella and Jean-Francois Kibler (Eds). 2015. GRET, Vientiane, Lao PDR. 92 pages.

southeastThis publication came into being as an endeavour to provide a broad, yet 

non- exhaustive, overview of the current situation of agroecology in the Great Mekong Region. Starting from the early 1990s, a multitude of initiatives have emerged in this region for supporting agroecology. The French Agency for Development (AFD) has been an active supporter of these initiatives, especially in relation to the promotion of Conservation Agriculture and the establishment of the Conservation Agriculture Network for South East Asia (CANSEA). The book is divided in two sections. The  first one provides an analysis of the diversity of practices, actors and experiments related to the main schools identified in the six countries: organic farming, IPM and integrated crop management, home gardens and VAC, SRI, Conservation Agriculture, and Agroforestry. Section II highlights common challenges for up scaling agroecology in the Great Mekong Region and shows evidence of the interest of regional stakeholders for promoting synergies through networking.