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Beyond technology transfer: an integrative analysis of plans, practice, and know-how in Ethiopian floriculture

  • Debele, D.A.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
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Ethiopia has become the second largest flower producer and exporter in Africa, next to Kenya. EU markets are the country’s major export destinations, which are demanding in terms of product quality, sustainability of production, and corporate social responsibility. The Ethiopian Horticulture Producers Exporters Association (EHPEA) introduced a code of practice to facilitate compliance with international standards such as Global GAP. Exporters and flower farms, and public policy in Ethiopia supporting the code of practice try to find ways to involve (foreign) experts and university graduates, and to import hardware, such as equipment and crop varieties, in order to be able to perform in the global market. In a newly emerging sector, requirements in international markets and new forms of governance impact on the way problems are solved and production is managed in the greenhouses. The research is motivated by the observation that floriculture in Ethiopia resembles a knowledge-intensive industry and is confronted with increasing demands in the international market to comply with standards for environmentally benign production and corporate social responsibility. Yet, the thesis is critical about the default mechanism to revert to training of individuals. It aims to develop a grounded understanding of how capabilities are formed or emerge in the daily practices and interactions of people and teams within firms operating in the context of less developed regions. The thesis seeks to explore how the practices stipulated in the code of practice are enacted in the everyday realities of workers, technicians, and managers in the floriculture sector. The research investigates these practices by focusing on: (1) a complicated agronomic problem, namely pest and disease management (Chapter 2 and 3), (2) the functioning of university graduates employed by flower farms (Chapter 4), and (3) the relationship between flower farms and the surrounding community relations in the context of shared use of a common pool resource, namely water from the lake (Chapter 5). To explore problem solving capabilities, the study builds on the scholarly work of practice based and socio-material approaches to agriculture, science and technology studies, organizational studies, and workplace learning. It primarily draws upon two methodological approaches: (1) technography and socio-materiality. These two approaches have an interesting synergy as both: (1) focus on situated action, (2) reject an exclusive focus on either social or material and take an integrative perspective on socio-material interactions, and (3) emphasize technology in use rather than design. Typically, both approaches take seriously the role of material environments by showing how problem solving is relational and distributed among people, activities, standard procedures and biophysical environments. Further, they regard capabilities as situated; hence, know-how emerges in a particular practice. Through in-depth analysis of problem solving, the study examined how technicians, farm managers, and workers in a case study export flower farm in Ethiopia use standards and expert knowledge with the general objective of producing quality flowers for international markets. More specifically, the study sought to understand the inextricable relationships between plans, practice, and know-how. The investigation of pest and disease management practices within the case study farm (Chapters 2 and 3) explores how people use a code of practice for good agricultural activities. Specifically, these chapters study how people use an integrated pest management (IPM), as preferred by the code. Chapter 2 examines technical details of pest and disease management problems and looks at the way teams coordinated actions, responded to the technical and managerial challenges, and took corrective measures. Chapter 3 explores how members of a team using IPM translated practices into codified information and work protocols and used these codified practices in solving practical problems. It demonstrates in what ways the process of codification involved skills, techniques, and knowledge of people performing various tasks, and illustrates how people abstract actual practices to codes by referring to elements in the material environments such as tools, growing plants, pests, predators and the prevailing weather data. Chapter 4 examines the extent to which graduates make use of knowledge and practices transferred to them during their formal university training and discusses the emergence of know-how in workplaces as blending of pre-defined attributes of individual graduates and skills developed during pest and disease management. The scope of the investigation was extended to another part of the code of practice, i.e. the articles referring to corporate social responsibility (CSR), which defines guidelines on how commercial farms are supposed to deal with surrounding communities (Chapter 5). The research studied how a cluster of farms, including the case study farm, interacted with a select group of farmer / community representatives and public officials in finding ways to arrange access to and use of water as a common pool resource. The findings suggests that companies tend to opt for hardware, such as building a hospital, and technical solutions, such as constructing new water points, and are less skilful in including multiple interests and values expressed by community leaders in solutions outside its direct span of influence . The general discussion ( Chapter 6) analyses problem solving capabilities as know-how beyond the pre-defined features such as codes and attributes of individual graduates and translates the main findings into implications for policy, practice, and education.

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