Advice on the effective operation of
Armaitia knowledge center
Stimulating sustainable farming in Iran through
participatory knowledge transfer – The case of Shiraz
This consultancy report (product) is produced by students of Wageningen University as part of their MSc-programme. It is not an official publication of Wageningen University or Wageningen UR and the content herein does not represent any formal position or representation by Wageningen University.
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form of by any means, without the prior consent of the authors.
- Issues regarding agriculture and nature conservation in Iran
- Concept of the knowledge center
- Agriculture in the Fars province
- Stakeholder analysis
- Current relationships of stakeholders
- Missing relationships of stakeholders
- Water use
- Soil quality and fertility
- Pest management
- Cow performance
- Education as empowerment
- A new development paradigm
- Participatory approaches
- Multiple source of innovation model
- Water use
- Soil quality and fertility
- Pest management
- Cow performance
- Research limitations
- Future research
i. Executive summary
This Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) project was proposed by NGO Simba Nature Protection and Education Foundation (Simba). Simba is based in Leeuwarden and was founded in July 2017. The main goal of Simba is to promote awareness of nature conservation in Iran. To reach this goal, Simba plans to establish a knowledge center in Shiraz which is the capital of Fars province, located in the south of Iran. One of the activities that is planned to be in this knowledge center is stimulating sustainable dairy farming in Shiraz which can benefit the nature in Shiraz. The choice of Shiraz is due to the intense agricultural activity despite the unsuitable agricultural conditions. Throughout the project, the project team looked for answers for how the knowledge center that Simba proposed can promote the sustainable dairy farming in Shiraz.
The project team that consulted Simba, is a multidisciplinary project team from international development studies, agriculture economics, bio-system engineering, animal- and plant sciences in Wageningen University and Research (WUR).
This consultancy report exists of five parts: an introduction, current situation, desired situation, a part on the knowledge center and a concluding part. It aims to give an advice on the effective operation of a knowledge center on stimulation of sustainable dairy farming.
Part 1: Introduction
Next to increasing population growth and a corresponding pressure on the land use, the semi-arid climate of large parts of Iran makes 97% of the land unfavourable for agriculture. Therefore, an efficient use of resources is essential to secure future food production, and thus sustainable farming practices. The definition of sustainable farming used in this consultancy report is “a way of farming in which future food production is secured, making sure that natural resources are used efficiently and use of artificial inputs is optimised”.
In addition to the unfavourable agriculture conditions, the increasing population growth has led to a lack of political interest in nature conservation over the last decades. Nevertheless, a renewed political interest has grown and the role of farmers in setting up conservation programmes is being acknowledged.
Simba wants to make use of the vital role of farmers in order to protect nature and stimulate education. Therefore Simba wants to implement a trade-off system; farmers receive knowledge on sustainable farming and in return they have to implement nature conservation practices.
This consultancy report focuses on the dairy sector that includes large and smallholder farms. Smallholder farms were defined as farms with less than 100 cows. In the Fars province, 60-80% of the farmers are smallholder. The majority of these farmers do not produce their own feed. Most of the times, they need to buy the feed at the market and import the feedstuff and concentrates. For this reason, this project focuses on the sustainable crop production as well as the sustainable dairy farming for Shiraz. Crop farmers in the region cultivate barley, wheat and, alfalfa as feed crops. Unfortunately, there was little information about the crop production in Fars region.
Desk research, including literature research, was carried out to acquire the information needed for this project. Desk research was conducted to gain more information on the existing and possible stakeholders, (sustainable) dairy farming practices in semi-arid regions and in Iran, and the different participatory approaches. To gain more insight in the local current situation regarding farming, experts were contacted via email and phone.
Part 2: Current situation
Several linkages already exist between stakeholders that are related to this project. The main actors involved are Simba, the farmers, universities, the Iranian government and the extension workers. The extension workers are part of the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture and are in contact with the farmers. Simba on the other hand, only has relationships with Dutch universities at the moment
Current agricultural farming in Shiraz
Sustainable farming methods related to efficient water use, increasing soil quality and fertility, integrated pest management, and cow performance are explained in this consultancy report. Due to the semi-arid climate in the Fars province, the water availability is limited and soil can be easily degraded. Next to these climate issues, it is important to have a better pest management to minimise the effect on environment and food security. Lastly, there are problems regarding reproductive performance and heat stress in cow performance. Therefore, these four issues were regarded as important to overcome the effect of issues in current agriculture in the Fars province.
Efficient water use
In Iran, qanats and canals are used for water transportation. Only 30% of the total irrigated area (7.8 Mha) in Iran receives full irrigation, of which half is operated by government organisations and the other half by the private sector. The major irrigation strategy is surface irrigation by means of furrow, basin or border irrigation. However, with these systems, 8-13% of the water use is directly evaporated from the soil. For the case of Shiraz, it is known that large farms are now adopting the use of sprinkler and drip irrigation to become more efficient in water management.
Increasing soil quality and fertility
About 73% of the land area of Iran is affected by different types of soil erosion. As a consequence, there is a huge loss in nutrients in the soil. To maintain the nutrient balance despite the erosion, farmers use more fertilisers which results in high annual costs. Farmers rely heavily on chemical fertilisers and pay little attention to the organic matter content of their soils. In addition, Iranian soils suffer from salinity of irrigation water. About 20% of the land area in Iran is degraded as a result of salt.
It is estimated that pesticide-use is increasing in Iran with a high annual cost. Besides, pesticides also contaminate the groundwater and negatively affect the soil quality, since they leave residues that damage micro-organisms which are important for nutrients in soil. However, farmers do not have enough information about pest management and technologies to take these effects into account.
Cow performance is a term describing the efficiency by which a cow reaches its optimal production. This can be used to optimize feeding strategies, select for the best traits, and to reduce physiological stressors. Examples include feed efficiency, heat stress and reproductive performance respectively. In Iran and probably also in Shiraz, cows are mainly kept indoors and fed total mixed ration which consists of a mixture of lucerne, concentrates, maize silage, beet pulp, water, and barley and corn as grain sources.
The current farming practices in Shiraz are not always complying with the definition of sustainability that this consultancy report uses. The reason for this is a lack of knowledge regarding sustainable farming methods. The discrepancy between information available and information used by the farmers has different causes. First, extension programmes currently in place are inefficient or even absent and have a low participation rate. Secondly, extension programmes currently in place are inefficient or even absent, and have a low participation rate. Thirdly, inadequate research programs on sustainable farming methods in Iran led agricultural experts to have limited access to new technologies, through which they do not have sufficient information at their disposal to assist farmers on sustainable farming practices.
Part 3: Desired situation
The history of (sustainable) development
In development, it is important to address the underlying roots of problems by designing programs which foster social and technological change. One way of doing this is by introducing collaborative educational methods where the relationship between teacher and student is based on ‘problem-posing education’; both are simultaneously students and teachers. To prevent a traditional, hierarchical and passive student-teacher relationship, it is necessary to refrain from using language that treats developing countries as backwards.
To promote sustainability, a new development paradigm has arised in the last decades. Sustainability can only be promoted with the purpose of helping people help themselves, which refers to the use of a ‘bottom-up approach’. This means using and building on already available resources such as local people, their knowledge and their natural resources to improve livelihoods and food security.
Participatory development of farmers
To achieve more involvement and dedication of local people, as well as effective and tailored project outcomes, participatory methods have been developed. They emphasize the participation of local people and their communities by working with and through groups, building upon the traditional or indigenous knowledge that they hold. Extension organisations have to put the farmers first, and institutionalise participatory approaches. The agenda of the knowledge center should be compiled together with the farmers, focussing on farmers’ real needs. Dialogue is essential in this process. In the end, participatory approaches, especially with regard to researching local needs, promote low cost technologies and a minimum of external inputs by using locally-available resources and strengthening the farmer’s experimental capacity.
Various extension approaches to agricultural development
That not all organisations work in such an inclusive way, becomes prevalent when looking at the different extension methods that have been used by different organisations over the last decades. However, two examples can be given of successful approaches which use problem-posing, bottom-up and multiple sources. These are the Farmer field schools and Local agricultural research committees. In addition, pilot farms can be used next to these methods.
Sustainable farming in Shiraz
Whether or not farmers are interested in adopting sustainable farming methods depends for a large part on socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, and their access to information. There is reason to believe that farmers in Shiraz are motivated to adopt sustainable farming methods. Therefore, for each of the four topics introduced in “current agricultural farming in Shiraz”: the possibilities for sustainable farming methods in Shiraz are described.
Efficient water use techniques are needed to produce better quality of feed for dairy animals in Iran. The use of groundwater by qanats can be efficient. However, farmers should prevent depleting groundwater resources by pumping. Among the irrigation systems, surface irrigation methods are not recommended due to their low efficiency. The best irrigation strategies, depending on the topography and soil characteristics in the region, are sprinkler and drip irrigation systems. Moreover, agronomic practices such as intercropping or substitution of crops which consume more water with crops that consumes less water, should be stimulated.
Erosion and decline in soil organic matter as a consequence of erosion are the most dominant soil-degrading processes in the semi-arid Fars province. It is important to increase the soil organic matter for better nutrient quality in feed production. Farmers should increase the quantity and the quality of the animal and the crop residues. In addition, use of legumes, conservation tillage, contouring and strip cropping may also help increasing the soil fertility.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the preferred sustainable approach that could be beneficial for farmers in the Fars province since it minimises contamination of the groundwater and soil such that it is not harmful for soil biodiversity and it improves soil quality. The success of IPM depends on the knowledge, skills, motivation and cooperation.
The farmers in Shiraz are already feeding their cows the suggested total-mixed ration. Hence, optimization of feeding strategies should be optimized for each farm individually. Farmers should be aware that high milk yield is in correlation with reduced reproductive performance to adjust their breeding strategies accordingly. Moreover, strategies such as conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation could facilitate reduction in the effects of the heat stress.
Since it is likely that large farms already adopted these strategies, smallholder farms should be informed about them.
Part 4: The knowledge center
Stimulating sustainable farming through participatory approach
In Fars, most large farms have adopted sustainable farming practices, or are likely to do so in the future due to their access to scientific research. Smallholder farms on the other hand, are lacking behind. These farmers should be educated on sustainable farming practices with the help of the knowledge center. To reach these smallholder farmers, the knowledge center can establish contact persons (similar to Local agricultural research committees) to deal with the spread-out nature of agriculture in the Shiraz region. Additionally, pilot farms can be formed where sustainable farming methods are adapted to the local situation and farmers are trained. Using a similar setup as the Farmer field school, the knowledge center can play a role in facilitating the contact between farmers and the extension workers, and in facilitating knowledge transfer from university experts to farmers. In this position, the knowledge center can articulate the needs of the farmers to the government and universities.
Proposed trade-off between knowledge transfer and nature conservation
Coming back to the trade-off between the transfer of sustainable farming knowledge and nature conservation, it is expected that farmers are willing to participate. The sustainable farming methods will allow them to increase their yield; which benefits their economic situation. However, it is important that the trade-off with nature conservation practices is equal, meaning that both parties receive equal benefits. Next to knowledge on sustainable farming methods, Simba should also provide physical resources. For the monitoring part, it is proposed that Simba collaborates with local nature protection organisations.
Future stakeholder relations for the knowledge center
The establishment and activities of the knowledge center, including both stimulating sustainable farming and promoting nature conservation practices by farmers, are expected to result in changes among the stakeholders involved. Simba should develop a relationship with farmers, extension workers, the universities and the government. In addition, a relationship should be formed between Simba and nature protection organisations.
Part 5: Conclusion
After the executed research, it was concluded that mainly the smallholder farms are lacking behind since the large farms already have implemented sustainable farming practises. Therefore, the knowledge center has the potential to improve nature in Iran via smallholder farmers, by helping them implement methods to efficiently use water, take good care of the soil, use less chemical inputs and establish good conditions for the cows. These methods, as well as the trade-off, should be implemented via the bottom-up approach where needs and interests are centralised in a participatory way. Examples of bottom-up approaches are a Farmer Field School and Local Agricultural Research Committees.
In order for Simba to practically implement the sustainable farming methods, six recommendations were made.
- First of all it is recommended to put most focus on the smallholder farmers since that would be most effective.
- Furthermore, the farmers have to be understood and trust has to be gained which can be obtained via focus groups through which Simba also can explore farmers’ needs and interests.
- The third recommendation is focussed on the importance of the relationships between Simba and its stakeholders. The most important relations will be with the government and the extension workers organisation.
- As a fourth recommendation, it is advised that multiple meetings are organised with the different stakeholders where should be elaborated on sustainable methods. Besides that, it is also important to take possible influences of power into account. An example to overcome this is to use round tables at the meetings.
- After Simba has got a clear view on the needs and interests of the farmers, education programs have to be set up which are advised to be based on a participatory approach like the Farmer field school and Local agricultural research committees.
- The sixth recommendation is focussed on the equal trade-off which is needed for nature conservation. The trade-off can be made solid by means of a contract which is applicable for all stakeholders involved. This contract contains information about the timespan for adopting sustainable methods as well as the effect of farmers who are not willing to participate anymore.
There were several limitations to the advice given in this consultancy report. First-hand data on the current situation in Shiraz is lacking, especially on the number of crop farmers, data on the use of herbicides and pesticides, and the location of the farms. Contact with local farmers and stakeholders was difficult. It was not possible to contact farmers due to bureaucratic barriers which made it difficult to determine their motivations. Other stakeholders did not reply to emails or phone calls.
Apart from the limitations, the advice given in the consultancy report is based on the assumption that the knowledge center will be realized in the short future, and that Simba will face no difficulties with the government regarding the establishment of their knowledge center. In addition, it is assumed that the named stakeholders are willing to be involved in the project, and that the farmers are easily reached in terms of infrastructure.
ii. About the authors
- Agronomy: agricultural branch which deals with soil management and crop production
- Alley cropping: the cultivation of crops between rows of trees
- Anthropology: study of human behaviour, cultures and their development
- Big dairy farms: a farm with more than 100 cows
- Culling: removal of poor performance animals from the herd
- Desertification: land degradation in arid environments
- Ethnography: study and description of human cultures with their customs and mutual
- Furrow diking (irrigation): agricultural irrigation practice whereby a long trench is made at one end of the field to collect water runoff
- Intercropping: the growing of two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land
- Parity: number of times a dairy cow has calved
- Pedagogy: study of teaching methods and how they influence the student learning
- Smallholder dairy farm: In this project, farms with less than 100 cows are approached as smallholder farms.
- Strip cropping: the growing of different crops in alternative bands to prevent soil erosion
- Tillage: physical preparation of the land for growing crops.
- AI: Artificial Insemination
- CIAL: Local agricultural research committees
- DTC: Dairy Training Center
- FFS: Farmer Field School
- IPM: Integrated pest management
- PRA: Participatory Rural Appraisal
- SOM: Soil organic matter
- THI: Temperature humidity index
- TMR: Total mixed ration
Part 1: Introduction
This consultancy report was commissioned by NGO Simba Nature Protection and Education Foundation (Simba), which is based in Leeuwarden and was founded in July 2017. Simba focuses on nature protection and education in Iran, because of the unique flora and fauna present. Since several animal species are endangered with extinction and the land is degrading, Simba wants to protect the nature areas in Iran and therefore this is their main goal.
Issues regarding agriculture and nature conservation in Iran
With over 160 million hectares of land, Iran is the 16th country in the world regarding surface area (Mesgaran et al., 2017). Iran has a population of over 80 million people, but this number is increasing rapidly (World Bank, 2016). A side-effect of this population growth is an increased pressure on the land, since more food has to be cultivated and urban areas are expanding (Alizadeh & Keshavarz, 2005). Next to the pressure of an increasing population, the majority of Iran has a semi-arid to arid climate which makes 97% of the land unfavourable for agriculture (Figure 1) and therefore largely dependent on irrigation (Mesgaran et al., 2017; Alizadeh & Keshavarz, 2005). For this reason, agriculture is currently consuming 90-95% of the yearly available water resources (Beldman et al., 2017). This has resulted in decreasing water tables, drying up of rivers and lakes and an increased desertification rate (Alizadeh & Keshavarz, 2005; Madani, 2014; NAP, 2005). Therefore, the definition of sustainability that was used throughout this consultancy report is “a way of farming in which future food production is secured, making sure that natural resources are used efficiently and use of artificial inputs is optimised”.
Besides the degradation of the environment, also some native wildlife species like the Asiatic cheetah and Persian leopard are currently listed as critically endangered (Durant et al., 2015). This worrisome status of wildlife species is the result of decades of intensive hunting and insufficient political interest (Kahrom, 2000). From 2013 onwards, the political interest has returned and wildlife is prioritized by the Department of Economics (Department of Environment, 2014). National parks, covering up to 10% of the land area, are protected to maintain its biodiversity. In order to create legitimacy, involvement of rural and local communities which reside in or live adjacent to protected areas is important (Jowkar et al., 2016). Since farmers maintain a large part of Iran’s land surface, they can play a vital role in conserving wildlife and nature as well (Perrings et al., 2006).
Figure 1: Iran’s agricultural land suitability based on soil properties, terrain, and climate conditions. From “Iran’s Land Suitability for Agriculture” by Mesgaran et al., 2017
Concept of the knowledge center
Simba wants to make use of the vital role of the farmers in order to progress on their goal of promoting awareness on nature conservation and stimulating education. To obtain this goal, Simba will build a physical knowledge center containing a variety of educational facilities in the Shiraz region. Shiraz is the capital city of the Fars province and one of the main important agricultural provinces, which also struggles with drought, implying that sustainable farming will have the biggest effect. Therefore, Simba wants to implement a trade-off system between knowledge provided on sustainable dairy farming, and the implementation of nature conservation practices. Ultimately promoting both nature conservation and sustainable farming simultaneously.
Agriculture in the Fars province
The Fars province counts between 1,000 and 1,400 dairy farms of which 60-80% are smallholder farms with less than 100 cows (A. Boostani, personal communication June 22, 2018; Beldman et al., 2017; Soltani et al., 2014). Beside these registered farms, also about 2,000 traditional farms are present, not producing for the global market (A. Boostani, Personal communication June 22, 2018). The large farms are located close to the urban areas and can keep over 20,000 cows (Beldman et al., 2017). In both large and smallholder farms cows are usually kept in stalls with limited access to pasture (F. Tolsma, Personal communication June 20, 2018). Contrary to the smallholder farmers, the larger farmers do possess agricultural land for feed production and can therefore contribute to maintaining their environment (F. Tolsma, Personal communication June 20, 2018). The majority of the smallholder farmers do not produce their own feed, and are buying their feed at the market and import the feedstuff and concentrates. For this reason, this project focuses on the sustainable crop production as well as the sustainable dairy farming for Shiraz. Crop farmers in the region cultivate barley, wheat and, alfalfa as feed crops. Unfortunately, there was little information about the crop production in Fars region.
The main purpose of this report is to advise Simba on how the knowledge center in Shiraz can provide possibilities for dairy and crop farmers to adopt sustainable farming methods, in return for nature conservation practices adopted by those farmers.
This consultancy consultancy report is divided into five parts. The first part includes the introduction and used methods. The second part is focussed on the current situation of both the relations of the stakeholders relevant to the topic of sustainable dairy farming and agriculture, and the current farming methods. At the end of this part, the missing information for the knowledge center is investigated and addressed in the third part, where the desired situation is compiled. This part starts by explaining development theories and describes several approaches to transfer farming knowledge are discussed. Next to that, sustainable farming practises are investigated which are applicable to the situation in Shiraz. The fourth part relates all of this to the knowledge center of Simba, including the trade-off between Simba en the farmers, and future relations between Simba and the other stakeholders. In the final and fifth part a conclusion is made based on all previous parts, practical recommendations are made for Simba regarding the knowledge center, and a discussion is included regarding limitations and assumptions.
In order to formulate an advice, a broad focus was applied on (i) technical aspects of sustainable farming, (ii) an analysis of stakeholders involved, and (iii) social aspects of participatory development for the inclusion and involvement of local farmers. Although economic benefits of sustainable farming can be taken into account, the economic perspective was not addressed in this consultancy report.
First, desk research was performed to gain more insight in the local situation of Iran, and regarding agriculture in Shiraz. Also, information was gained through desk research on the stakeholders that are related to the project of establishing a knowledge center in Shiraz, both the existing stakeholders in Shiraz and other stakeholders which can be relevant for the knowledge center in the future. With this information it was possible to determine their interests, core values and resources, besides some general background information.
As part of the desk research, literature research was performed to acquire academic knowledge regarding sustainable farming in semi-arid regions and Iran, and about existing information gaps. Another focus of the literature research was on the development aspect of this project, including bottom-up approaches which could be implemented in the knowledge center to ensure inclusion and participation of the local farmers.
To gain more insight in the current local situation regarding farming, it was necessary to have contact with (local) experts. Initial experts were found and contacted through desk research, by sending emails with questions. Additional experts were found through contact with these initial experts. Only experts who spoke English were contacted, in this case extension workers, university experts and experts on other relevant fields such as training. When needed, experts were called by phone or Skype, or contact was established through WhatsApp. Notes were made for each conversation to record the answers of the experts, and shared with the project team. It is important to keep in mind that regardless the efforts of the project team, is was not possible to validate all the information given by the experts.
Part 2: Current situation
This chapter discusses the different stakeholders that are related to the topic of sustainable dairy farming and agriculture in Iran. First, the different stakeholders are shortly explained with their core values, problem, goals, resources, and their (possible) interests in this project. Core values are principles or important aspects which guide the stakeholders in their practices. Resources describe the assets of stakeholders which have value, and these can be both tangible and intangible resources, such as money, knowledge or manure. Resources can be used in an exchange between stakeholders. In addition to this, a stakeholder network is made to show the current relationships between the different stakeholders with a corresponding stakeholder analysis, including the different knowledge transfers. The flow of information through these relationships is also explained in this chapter.
- NGO Simba Nature Protection and Education Foundation (Simba)
Simba is a foundation based in The Netherlands, which aims to raise awareness on nature conservation through, amongst others, stimulating sustainable farming (Simba Foundation, 2017). This project in Shiraz is their initiative. Simba plans to establish a physical knowledge center (Sargon Knowledge Center) consisting of a variety of educational facilities. The president of Simba, Marjan van der Schaaf, is at the same time the commissioner of this project. The foundation’s main interests in this project is to introduce and maintain sustainable Iranian dairy farming and agriculture practices based on water use, and environmental impact.
The most important resource for farmers are their cows and their land for crop production which functions as their main source of income, but another important resource is the knowledge that they gain through their relationship with the extension workers about how to organize their farms. A distinction can be made between smallholder farmers and large farmers in the Fars province. These farmers also have different types of problems, but for the large farmers these are only minor issues that are usually not related to their economic situation, and therefore not particularly relevant for this project. Problems for the smallholder farmers are that they are sometimes hard to reach because of their remote locations, and they do not engage in sustainable practices yet which could negatively affect their future food security. There is also a poor relationship between the farmers and the processors (Beldman et al., 2017).
The interest that the local smallholder farmers have in this project is that by establishing the knowledge center they can gain knowledge about sustainable farming methods, and about how to make their farm more productive and efficient. This can then benefit them economically. Large farmers might want to be involved in this project if the knowledge center can provide training and knowledge regarding topics that interest them.
Another distinction can be made between the dairy farmers and crop farmers in Shiraz.
Dairy Farmers in Shiraz
Dairy farmers in Shiraz have the core value of taking care of their dairy cows and making a living by doing so.
Crop Farmers in Shiraz
Crop farmers in Shiraz have the core value of taking care of their crops and making a living by doing so. Their crops are used for feed for the cows of the dairy farmers.
- Iran Federation of Farmers Associations
Iran Federation of Farmers Associations is a federation with the purpose of representing Iranian farmers at the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture, setting and negotiating prices for meat and milk. The federation has interests in new markets, development of education and to cooperate with new business partners. Its members are mostly farmers with large-scale farms. Previously, unions for farmers were very powerful associations, and they passed on subsidies from the government to the farmers. The unions lost their importance to the farmers, because the subsidies were taken away. Therefore, the Iran Federation of Farmers Associations has taken their role of representing the farmers. The chairman represents the farmers in the Iranian parliament and is their spokesman. One of the main tasks for the association is negotiating import tariffs or quota (e.g. on milk) and developing dairy policies of the government (Beldman et al., 2017). Their interest in this project could be making sure that the farmers are represented and that the farmers’ interests and rights are included in the trade-off.
- Central Union of Iranian Dairy Farmers
The Central Union of Iranian Dairy Farmers, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, has only limited influence at the moment. The Central Union still has more than 600 cooperatives as members, with their own boards. All the members of the boards are active farmers. The Central Union provides several services to its members. For the dairy farmers it offers financial services e.g. negotiations with banks and the government about subsidies and taxes. The union also arranges insurances for the farmers. Furthermore, the union offers veterinary services and Artificial Insemination (AI) services. The Central Union also collects and distributes products for export. Despite the fact that the union has lost some of its power, it has good relations with the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture, and it is a negotiation partner on milk prices. In the agricultural committee in the parliament, the union is also a member (Beldman et al., 2017). Their interests in this project are likely the same as the interests of the Iran Federation of Farmers Associations, namely making sure the farmers are represented and that the interests and rights of farmers are taken into account in the trade-off of the knowledge center.
- Iranian Government
In its Vision 2025, the Iranian Government states that they aim for a diversified economy to reduce Iran’s dependency on the oil industry (Beldman et al., 2017). Food safety is therefore a top priority of the government, which has to be improved by increasing agricultural productivity in the country. The Iranian Government wants to achieve this by making more use of existing and new technology and knowledge adapted to the local conditions, and investing more in information provision, research and in more efficient irrigation systems. In addition to this, the government wants to change the distribution of water-land and other production resources to use them in a more efficient way. To achieve this, the government is supporting privatisation and intensification increasing scale, and considers the role for farmers cooperatives and other associations as very important to stimulate agricultural development (Beldman et al., 2017). The aim of the Iranian Government is to become self-sufficient in dairy farming and agriculture, and to increase the knowledge on sustainable farming, which can create an interest in this project. The Government can also play a role in the funding of this project.
- The Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture
The Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture is part of the Iranian government and was established in 2001. It enforces state policies on the agricultural sector. The Ministry presents productivity as the core strategy to boost and sustain production in the agriculture sector. Their aims include the following: increase of production and productivity of strategic crops, development of infrastructures for more input generation, creation of reliable and safe stocks of strategic agro crops to increase food security, the possibility for wider export of foodstuff and agro crops, and working with external production resources (The Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture, 2018). The interest of The Ministry of Agriculture Jihad in this project is the modernisation of agricultural methods.
- Extension Workers (AREEO)
The extension workers in Iran are part of the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), which is the biggest agro- and food knowledge organisation in Iran and falls under the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture (Beldman et al., 2017). They conduct applied research in the field, and provide agricultural education and extension services to actors in the agricultural sector. It is the biggest agricultural network in the field of research, education and extension in the Middle East (FAO, 2018a). As mentioned before, the extension workers in Iran help the local farmers in organizing their farm, which is therefore their core value. One of the resources that the extension workers have is their knowledge which they acquire through the research they perform. In this project, they have the interest to keep helping the farmers by transferring the knowledge that the farmers deem necessary. The extension workers can also function as a link between experts and farmers.
- Pegah Dairy Company
The Pegah Dairy Company is a state-owned company which is one of the biggest private dairy manufacturers in Iran, and is responsible for the collection, processing and distribution of fresh milk. The company has the problem that milk production in the country is currently inefficient, which is why it does not reach its full potential. Therefore, the amount of milk that is currently processed is also lower than it potentially could be. The goal of this company is to maximize profits by increasing exports. It has a wide distribution network in the country, including subsidiaries in most Iranian provinces, which is supported by both professional and local farmers who produce the milk, as well as the government which supports the company through its ownership (Beldman et al., 2017). The interest that this company has in this project is that production of milk can be increased in a sustainable way. Therefore, their profits can be increased, and the sustainability aspect could be a way to enhance the company’s image because of the added value of sustainable milk.
Universities have the core values of doing research and gaining knowledge, with the goal of sharing this knowledge to improve society.
The Dutch universities Wageningen University, Has Den Bosch and Saxion Deventer have the values of providing knowledge to this project regarding the establishment of a knowledge center, its educational aspects, and its building aspects.
Current relationships of stakeholders
In Figure 2, the interdependencies between the different stakeholders that are relevant for the local situation regarding dairy farming and agriculture in Shiraz are shown, and they are elaborated upon in the following paragraphs. The thickness of the line in the figure represents the strength of the relationship between the stakeholders.
Figure 2: Network between the current stakeholders involved in the project. Grey lines represent existing relationships between current stakeholders. A thick line represents a strong relationship, a medium line represents a moderate relationship, and a thin line represents a limited relationship.
Simba does not have a lot of relations yet in the current situation. As for now, there has been no contact with the local farmers, nor with other parties in Iran. Simba does currently have a moderate relationship with Dutch universities Wageningen University, Saxion Deventer and HAS Den Bosch. Simba involves these universities in the building of the knowledge center and its educational aspects. Wageningen University shares knowledge to Simba on agricultural aspects of the project, Saxion Deventer provides them with information on the building aspects of the knowledge center, and HAS Den Bosch shares its knowledge on the educational aspects of the knowledge center (van der Schaaf, 2018). By participating in this project, Simba can help these universities to acquire knowledge and research about the local situation in Shiraz, Iran.The extension workers in Iran operate under the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture and therefore have a strong relationship. It is one of the Ministry’s departments and administrative authority which is responsible for Research, Education and Extension issues of the agricultural sector in Iran (FAO, 2018a). Therefore, the knowledge that is transferred from AREEO to the Ministry and the other way around is about the agricultural sector. The knowledge that the extension workers require to operate in the field is obtained through trainings by the Ministry (A. Boostani, personal communication, June 22, 2018). The extension workers also have a strong relationship with the farmers. They are the ones who help the farmers with their farming practices. In addition to this they provide the farmers with knowledge on their daily practices, and help them in implementing this knowledge. The farmers help the extension workers in their research practices. In this way, the extension workers form the link between the Ministry that provides the knowledge, and the farmers. Nevertheless, this link is currently not as strong as it could be, because the transferred knowledge is not applicable enough for the farmers (A. Beldman, personal communication, June 6, 2018) which creates a lack of trust from the farmers’ side.
The Central Union of Iranian Dairy Farmers has a moderate relationship with the dairy farmers, since their power is dependent on the number of affiliated farmers. In turn, the farmers gain access to the services provided by the union, such as financial services, veterinary services and AI services. The Iran Federation of Farmers Associations has a similar moderate relationship with farmers. The involvement of more farmers increases their power, which is used in negotiating prices for meat and milk. This benefits the farmers. Regarding the unions’ relation with the Iranian government, the Central Union of Iranian Dairy Farmers has a limited relationship with the Iranian Government. In spite of the low power status of the union, it still has good relations with the Iranian Government, including the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture. It is still included in negotiations and the union is a member of the agricultural committee. The Iranian Government gets information from the union on the practices, interests and values of the farmers, which they can take into account when making decisions regarding agriculture. The Iran Federation of Farmers Associations took over the role of the union of representing the Iranian farmers at the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture, and therefore it has a moderate relationship with this Ministry. In this way it can have an influence in the forming of policies on the agricultural sector. In return, the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture gets information from the farmers about agriculture, which can be used to form practical policies.
For this project, a distinction is made between dairy and crop farmers, each of them having links with different stakeholders. The dairy farmers have a limited relationship with the Pegah Dairy Company, because this company processes and distributes their milk, and pays them for it. The crop farmers have no links with stakeholders besides the ones for the farmers in general. The dairy farmers and crop farmers have a moderate relationship amongst each other, because the dairy farmers receive animal feed from the crop farmers, and the crop farmers receive money or manure from the dairy farmers.
Missing relationships of stakeholders
There are numerous missing important links between the stakeholders. The link between farmers and academics is missing, as there is very limited information flowing from the Iranian Universities towards the farmers (S. Amerian, personal communication, June 6, 2018; Sharghi et al., 2010).
In addition, the link between farmers and the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture is missing as well. As an example, the International Agricultural Exhibition of Shiraz in May 2018 (Agropars, 2018) only targeted the large farmers and other commercial parties such as processing companies. And a recent study about adaptation to climate change also reported that the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture has not yet managed to link the two groups of farmers and academics, bring them to the same table to speak or even work as a delegate and take research results from their departments and implement it in farms (Karimi et al., 2017). A similar situation is likely to be present for promoting sustainable farming methods.
4. Current agricultural farming in Shiraz
This chapter focuses on four issues related to the effect of the semi-arid climate on current agriculture in the Fars province. First of all, water availability is limited in the Fars province, and therefore its use is a main issue for agriculture (Alizadeh & Kershavarz, 2005; A. Beldman, personal communication, June 6, 2018). Secondly, in a semi-arid climate, soil quality is of high importance for good crop growing conditions (Carter, 2002). Next to that, pest management is discussed to look at its current effect on the environment and food security. The fourth issue is related to cow performance, since there is evidence that problems exist relating reproductive performance and heat stress (Nebel & McGilliard, 1993).
Nowadays, 30% of the total irrigated area (7.8Mha) in Iran receives full irrigation. Full irrigation can be defined as continuous application of water to meet the crop water requirements. For the total area that receives full irrigation, half of it is operated by government organisations and is equipped with modern irrigation systems, such as canals (Alizadeh & Kershavarz, 2005). However, the efficiency of the water supply to the farms under governmental control is very low, at about 20-30 percent, meaning that only 30% of the total amount of water released from dams will reach the field for crop water requirements. The release of unlimited free water from dams to farmers without paying water authority tax disincentives farmers to save water (Alizadeh & Kershavarz, 2005). In addition, water leakages along the water pipes to the farms contribute to its inefficiency. The other half of the area that receives full irrigation, is being operated by the private sector and uses water from groundwater resources supplied by qanats. Qanats refer to underground tunnels dug from the highlands to the lower levels’ surface and they direct water to the farms by gravity. However, exploitation of groundwater by pumps and wells in other locations leads to the drying out of most qanats in Iran (Alizadeh & Kershavarz, 2005). In the Shiraz region in particular, farmers withdraw untreated water directly from the Khoshk river source, and use water pumps to practice river-bank cultivation (Qishlaqi et al., 2008).
In Iran, the major irrigation strategy used by smallholder farms is surface irrigation by means of furrow, basin or border irrigation (Albaji et al., 2008). Surface irrigation refers to the application of water by gravity flow to the field surface. This includes either flooding the entire field (basin irrigation), water being fed into small channels (furrow irrigation) or strips of land (border irrigation). With these systems, 8-13% of the water use is directly evaporated from the soil (Wallace, 2000). According to experts contacted, especially large farms in the Shiraz area have now adopted the use of sprinkler and drip irrigation (A. Boostani, personal communication, June 22, 2018; F. Tolsma, personal communication, June 18, 2018). Sprinkler irrigation can be described as an overhead irrigation method. Using this method, water is applied to the crops similarly to natural rainfall. Water is pumped from the water source and distributed through a system of irrigation pipes. Sprinklers are connected to the irrigation pipes which break the water into small and fine droplets. Drip irrigation involves emitting water on the soil close to the plants. Unlike the surface irrigation and sprinkler irrigation which wets the whole soil profile, the drip irrigation method only wets the root zone area.
Soil quality and fertility
Approximately 73% (1.2 million km2) of the land area of Iran is affected by different types of soil erosion, of which wind erosion has the biggest effect on land degradation (Emadodin et al., 2012). In semi-arid regions, decay in soil fertility remains the major cause of declining per capita food availability in smallholder farms (Mugwe et al., 2008). Due to low precipitation and high temperatures in the most semi-arid regions, the soils are highly degraded and have lost their fertility (Unger et al., 1991). The loss of the top soil due to erosion is so severe, the soil is lost about 19 times faster than it forms (Emadodin et al., 2012). Therefore, there is a huge loss in nutrients in the soil as a consequence. To maintain the nutrient balance despite the erosion, farmers use more fertilisers which results in high annual costs. Currently, they rely heavily on chemical fertilisers and pay little attention to the organic matter content of their soils (Shirani et al., 2002).
In addition to the erosion, Iranian soils also suffer from salinity. Approximately 20% (340 000 km2) of the land area in Iran is degraded as a result of salt (Emadodin et al., 2012). Important anthropogenic driving forces for salinity are over-pumping of the groundwater and lack of drainage facilities. The main result of salinization in agricultural lands is the loss of productivity. There is no recent data available on salinity and drainage in the Shiraz region (Qishlaqi et al., 2008).
Regarding crop residue management, there are two main uses of crop residues in the smallholder sector in semi-arid regions, namely direct incorporation to the soil and conversion to livestock feed (Mapfumo & Giller, 2001). However, the hot and dry climate causes low residue production in semi-arid regions. As a result, in most cases there is not enough crop residue to conserve crop residues on the field. However, it is unknown if this is the case for Shiraz.
Samiee et al. (2009) estimated that an average of 23,000 tonnes of pesticides is used in Iran each year and the approximated costs are $120 million per year. Use of pesticides is increasing in Iran, posing high risk to groundwater contamination. In addition, pesticides leave residues which degrade and damage micro-organisms in the soil and then affect the soil quality (Younes
- Galal-Gorchev, 2000; Zekavat, 1997). However, farmers currently lack information about pest management technologies (Shojaei, 2013; Samiee et al., 2009).
Cow performance is a generic term describing the efficiency by which a cow reaches its maximum production. It is used to optimize feeding strategies, increase fertility, and to reduce physiological stressors such as heat stress.
In Iran and in all probability also in Shiraz, cows are mainly kept indoors and fed a total mixed ration (TMR) (Beldman et al., 2017; Tajik et al., 2009; Esmaeili et al., 2016). A study carried out in Isfahan, which has a similar climate to Shiraz, described that the TMR typically consists of a mixture of lucerne, concentrates, maize silage, beet pulp, water, and barley and corn as grain sources (Esmaeili et al., 2016; Ansari-Lari et al., 2010).
Regarding reproductive performance, crossbreds were created in Iran between native cows and imported Holstein cows (i.e. Iranian Holsteins) with the aim to improve production and reproduction (Ansari-Lari et al., 2010). Nowadays, the majority of the cows on dairy farms are these Iranian Holstein cows (S. Kargar, personal communication, June 15, 2018). However, it was shown that a high milk production acted as a risk factor for decreasing fertility. It is argued in this consultancy report that reproductive efficiency is suboptimal and requires attention.
Concerning heat stress, the weather in Shiraz varies between minima of 0-1 degrees Celsius in December and January, to maxima of 36-38 degrees Celsius in June, July and August. Relative humidity levels vary from 45% in February to 10% in July. Heat stress is a result of high temperatures and/or high humidity. When experiencing heat stress, the metabolism of a cow will shift its balance from milk production to cooling processes, thus leading to performance losses. An indicator for heat stress is the temperature-humidity index (THI), which combines the temperature of the outside air and the relative humidity into one index.
For Shiraz, this translates to a maximum temperature-humidity index (THI) of 80-81 in July and August, though it is dependent on the method chosen to calculate the THI. Two papers have reported the relation between THI, heat stress and milk production of Holstein cows in the semi-arid climate of Phoenix, Arizona (USA). Igono et al. (1992) reported that milk yield decreases significantly as soon as the THI reaches a level of 77. Bohmanova et al. (2007) estimated that the threshold for heat stress was ≥30 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity of 25%. When setting the threshold for heat stress at a THI of 77, it is likely that heat stress occurs during the months of July and August, thus influencing the milk production.
5. Information gap
Going back to the definition of sustainable farming: “a way of farming in which future food production is secured, making sure that natural resources are used efficiently and use of artificial inputs is optimised”, it becomes clear that the current farming practices in Shiraz which are listed in the previous chapter are not always complying with this definition. This is in line with the conclusion of Sadati et al. (2010), who stated that smallholder farmers in Iran make little use of sustainable farming methods. This is due to a lack of knowledge regarding sustainable farming methods (Sadighi, 2002). In addition, there are big differences between farmers and even communities (Karami, 1995). This discrepancy between information available and information used by the farmers has different causes:
First of all, the extension programmes currently in place are inefficient or even absent (Keshavarz and Karami 2013; Karimi et al. 2017) and have a low participation rate (Sadati et al., 2010). This needs to be addressed since extension organizations may have great influence on (un)sustainability of the interaction of people with nature, and they are not focused on decreasing the inequity between communities in the Fars province (Rezaei-Moghaddam et al., 2005)
Secondly, the information flow from the academics and extension workers to the farmers is ineffective (Sharghi et al., 2010). However, developing proper educational programs aimed at increasing the knowledge on sustainable farming is not that simple. There is a wide variety in the educational level among farmers. A study conducted among farmers in Sari, Mazandaran (North Iran) showed that the educational level ranges from illiteracy (7.6%), primary education (22.5%) to high school education (29.2%) and even AA degrees and graduate studies (30%) (Bijani et al., 2017). It is likely that this holds for the Shiraz region as well. Therefore, a low educational level makes it challenging to transfer science-based knowledge, and effort should be put in making appropriate educational programs which are also understandable for lower educated farmers (Sadighi, 2002).
And thirdly, inadequate research programs on sustainable farming methods in Iran led agricultural experts to have limited access to new technologies (Malek-Saeidi et al., 2011). Hence, they lack sufficient information to assist farmers on sustainable farming practices (Sharifi et al. 2010; Soltani et al., 2014).
Part 3 of this consultancy report tries to address these missing links and identifies which farming methods can contribute to sustainable farming.
Part 3: Desired situation
The history of (sustainable) development
This chapter will give a short overview of the extensive amount of literature that has been published on the topic of development in developing countries. For what is considered a ‘Western’ development organisation, working in a developing country, it is important to have an overview of some of the main issues that arise with such objectives. Simba can be seen as such a type of organisation.
The current anthropological discourse of ‘development’, states that development needs to be seen as an emancipatory and a democratic process. Such a view will contribute to people’s freedom to arrange their livelihoods as they see appropriate, and allow them to give their voice in those decision making processes (Sen, 1990). Therefore it is important that when designing programs that foster social and technological change, such as sustainable farming, underlying roots of the problem need to be taken into consideration (Whitmore, 1998). Current development efforts often fail to accomplish this. In addition, it is important that development should not comprise the basis for a prosperous and healthy livelihood and (natural) environment for future generations (Brundtland, 1987). When a program fails to address those underlying roots, it can perpetuate ‘Western’ notions and ideas of development, for example regarding technology, economic growth and modernization. This leads to a continuation of unsustainable practices.
Education as empowerment
Next to addressing the underlying roots, it is also important to address the relationship between development organisations (‘teachers’) and people (‘students’, and ‘society’). Development has been mainly characterized by a pedagogical view of the knowledge and capabilities of the ‘Global South’ (e.g. a term which is often used to describe so called underdeveloped or developing countries, also referring to their histories of colonialism and neo-imperialism). The discourse of the ‘Global South’ justified the intervention by the ‘Global North’. Generally speaking, the North treats local Southern knowledge and science as being non-modern and backwards. Such language is euphemistic and tries to justify the intervention of the North in the development of the South. It is therefore necessary to refrain from using it, in order to recognize people’s potential rather than treating them as children without reasonable abilities to determine and define their own development.
Paulo Freire famously proposed a new pedagogical view of the relationship between the teacher, student and society: the ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (1970). When looking at the case of the knowledge center in Shiraz, the student and the teacher would be respectively the local farmers and the stakeholders of the knowledge center who will be directly into contact with the farmers during educational activities. In Freire’s view, the relation between the student and teacher is collaborative and the role of the student is similar to a change agent; active and knowledgeable. The function of this relationship is to obtain freedom, liberation or a revolution by using problem-posing action, critical dialogue and action research as methodologies. It teaches to perceive and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality. This is the kind of relationship that this consultancy report proposes the knowledge center should embrace in order to foster empowerment of the farmers. Such a relationship allows the knowledge center to negotiate with the farmers on the way to reach their objectives, creating a space for a dialogue between the farmers and the knowledge center’s educators. Freire calls this as ‘problem-posing education’, where both are simultaneously teachers and students. The teacher learns in the dialogue and students also teach while being taught, thus everybody profits and learns.
This idea of problem-posing education is essential in overcoming the problems of the traditional student-teacher relationship, which is a very hierarchical, passive and submissive relationship. In order to achieve maximum participation of farmers in adopting sustainable farming methods and nature conservation, the farmers should not be involved in this kind of relationship. Instead, Freire’s ideas are a perfect example of how the knowledge center could overcome one of the most debated issues in international development: the division between the Global North and the Global South.
In conclusion it can be stated that the relationship between teacher and student should be based on ‘problem-posing education’ to foster empowerment through education. Thereby, it is necessary for development organisations to not treat the Global South through language as being underdeveloped.
A new development paradigm
This view of the Global North upon the Global South has been articulated by anthropologists, ethnographers, cultural geographers, political scientists and other social scientists, allowing for more awareness within and outside the academic world. By the end of the 20th century, a new development paradigm emerged that emphasizes sustainability, commenced by the
‘Brundtland Report’ in 1987 (Brundtland, 1987) and characterised by for example the commonly known Rio Earth Summit in 1992 which was the largest environmental conference ever held. The Brundtland report (officially ‘Our Common Future’) is a report written by various experts and was presented to the United Nations in 1987. It officially defined sustainable development for the first time and put the relationship between economic advancement and environmental protection on the Northern agenda. It globalised environmental concerns by putting the environmental side effects of modernisation and how to handle them permanently in the global consciousness. This was the first time that a major environmental conference adopted a more nature-centred approach towards environmental problems (Mol et al., 2009).
Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the new development paradigm, that emphasizes sustainability, has influenced agricultural development as well. According to the United Nations, Iran is a semi-developed country (Ashtarian, 2015). This means that the country is still ‘developing’. In the field of development, especially agricultural extension plays a crucial role, because most developing countries have economies that are rural based. Rural based economies’ sustainability and productivity are directly linked to natural resources and their management (Cho & Boland, 2002).
Over the past few years, in line with the evolving of the development paradigm, agricultural extension objectives have been changing in developing countries because many development systems have proven to become inefficient (Vanclay and Lawrence, 1995). As a way of reaching sustainability, participatory extension has become more popular. The main objectives of extension have shifted towards enhancing adaptive management capacity, emancipation, and social capital at the local level, building stakeholder platforms for negotiations and learning processes (Probst et al., 2005).
For this project, it is important that a strong network of stakeholders is created, so collective decisions over sustainability issues such as natural resource management can be negotiated and implemented. However, it is imperative that the objectives of the knowledge center can only promote sustainable development if they are carried out based on the purpose of ‘helping people help themselves’ (Rasmussen, 1989). This means that sustainable development should be promoted through enhancing social capital using a ‘bottom-up approach’. Helping people help themselves refers to improving the livelihoods and food security of local farmers in Shiraz on the basis of a “bottom-up” approach: using and building upon the resources that are already available, which are the local people, their knowledge and their natural resources (Rasmussen, 1989). It is also required that the needs, aspirations and circumstances of smallholder farmers are seriously taken into consideration.
7. Participatory development of farmers
Approaches that are geared towards incorporating more field-based experiences to empower and enhance farmers and their social capital have become known as ‘participatory approaches’ (Probst et al., 2005). The practical set of such participatory approaches bears the label Participatory Rural Appraisal. Participatory Rural Appraisal approaches emphasize the participation of local people and their communities, by working with and through groups, building upon the traditional or indigenous knowledge that they hold (Chambers et al., 1989). Participatory methods will result in more involvement and dedication of local people, and more effective and tailored project outcomes (Cho & Boland, 2002). Farmer participatory approaches are less suitable for providing output and impact for academic agricultural research, as shown in various case studies in African and Latin American countries (Humphries et al., 2000; Sumberg & Okali, 1997). Thus, farmer participatory research methods hold great opportunities for increasing farmer empowerment in terms of expanding the space for the adoption and diffusion of sustainable innovations, but not so much for the development of new technologies (Killough, 2005).
Unfortunately, user centered approaches such as farmer participatory research methods, are generally not favoured by extension agencies because they result in changing power relations (Probst et al., 2005). The influence of farmers on the choice for type of development or extension workers requires more responsibility and payment of the farmers’ side, in contrast to situations where extension organisations are in charge. But, in order to improve farmers’ social capital, extension organisations have to put the farmers first, and institutionalise participatory approaches. This will benefit the organisational performance at the level of contact between service providers and their clients. It is therefore important for extension organisations to incorporate and institutionalise farmer participatory research and farmer led extension in spite of the ‘threat’ of changing power relations.
Irrespective of the role Simba will play, e.g. an extension service provider, a training center for extension workers, mediator between academics and the extension organisations; Simba should be aware of their influence on the different power relations whilst putting farmers first. Therefore, the agenda of the knowledge center should be compiled together with the farmers, focussing on farmers’ real needs. Dialogue is essential in this process. Although participatory approaches are really broad, adaptive and also flexible, it is important to continuously be in contact and agree on procedures along the way (Probst et al., 2005). Flexibility from all stakeholders can in this case facilitate adaptation to new circumstances.
In the end, participatory approaches, especially with regard to researching local needs, promote low cost technologies and a minimum of external inputs by using locally-available resources and strengthening the farmer’s experimental capacity (Probst et al., 2005). These features aim at sustainable and environmentally-sound development, which make such approaches the ideal fit for the knowledge centers proposed objectives.
Multiple source of innovation model
In undertaking a farmer participatory project, it is assumed that farmers possess indigenous knowledge of their farming systems and their environment and that they have a capacity for experimentation that must be used and strengthened for (technology) development (Probst et al., 2005). In this case, indigenous knowledge is defined as “theories, beliefs, practices, and technologies that all peoples in all times and places have elaborated without direct inputs from the modern, formal, scientific establishment” (McCorkle, 1989). Because of increasing appreciation of the value of farmer participatory research, the recognition of the importance of farmers’ indigenous knowledge allowed for the development of an elaborate and clear innovation model, namely the multiple source of innovation model (Biggs, 1990). This model states that agricultural innovation (and the systems that transfer those innovations between and among farmers) can derive from several sources, rather than from a single formal source (such as traditional research institutions).
This model was developed especially for farmers working with low levels of control over the growing conditions of their crops. For these farmers, success is very limited and adapting the environment to fit the technology is often not feasible for them, both economically and socially. As a response, emphasis was laid on farmer participation in order to better understand the complex situation of their farming systems. The inter-dependencies between elements of these systems were analysed in cooperation with farmers to be able to develop technologies specifically designed for their complex situation. In this way, technologies are adapted to site-specific circumstances, allowing for new innovations to develop and derive from multiple sources, rather than from a formal single top-down source.
Research from Niger and Ecuador, amongst others, has supported the multiple source of innovation model as well through examples of innovations that emerged from the cooperation of multiple sources, such as farmers associations and NGOs. The model thus shows that for the adaptation and dissemination of technologies, public sector extension and research institutions are not the only nor the main agents (Bebbington, 1989; McCorkle et al., 1988).
For NGOs such as Simba, the multiple source of innovation model allows for a greater operational space within agricultural technology development.
In conclusion, participatory approaches aim at sustainable and environmentally-sound development and are therefore the ideal fit for the objectives of the knowledge center. Furthermore, extension organisations should incorporate and institutionalise farmer participatory research and farmer-led extension in spite of the ‘threat’ of changing power relations. The multiple source of innovation model allows for a greater operational space within agricultural technology development.
8. Various extension approaches to agricultural development
There are multiple ways in which knowledge can be transferred from experts to farmers. The knowledge center should not underestimate the role of the extension workers, and the added value of the farmers. Some extension workers in Iran are usually highly educated and are therefore good and rich sources of information and specific knowledge (M. Mehdi Tehrani, personal communication, June 6, 2018). Especially when the knowledge center chooses to fulfil its function as an important center of cooperation and communication, replacement of extension workers will not be favoured by the government (S. Amerian, personal communication, June 6, 2018). And farmers possess indigenous knowledge of their farming systems and their environment and have a capacity for experimentation that must be used and strengthened for (technology) development. It is therefore more than logical to apply the multiple source of innovation model, and to combine the knowledge of the farmers, academics and the expertise of extension workers.
That not all organisations work in such an inclusive way, becomes prevalent when looking at the different extension methods that have been used by different organisations. In contrast to traditional education, agricultural extension is a profession which is aimed at teaching farmers in their own environment (Jalihal & Veerabhadraiah, 2007). In essence, extension is problem oriented and supports farmers in their agricultural development (Van den Ban & Hawkins, 1996). Axinn (1992) identified eight different approaches, which were summarised and adopted by Anandajayasekeram (2008):
- General agricultural extension approach: assumes that knowledge exists, but is not being used by farmers. It is a centralized and government-controlled approach, with a top-down structure. In general, only farmers who seek advice will benefit. In addition, the size of the system leads to discrepancies between research carried out on the central level, and the location specific demands on the farmers’ level.
- Commodity specialized approach: is orientated towards one commodity, and extension workers are highly trained scientific personnel. Techniques must produce financial benefits.
- Training and visit approach: centralized approach where extension staff is trained frequently. Technologies are transferred during field days and through contact farmers. These contact farmers are expected to diffuse the information to the members of their community.
- Farming systems development approach: assumes that knowledge or a particular technology does not exist, and needs to be generated locally. It is based on the farmer-back-to-farmer idea, where a partnership is established between research, extension and farmers. The farmer field school is an example of such an approach.
- Participatory agricultural extension approach: assumes farmers are skilled, and additional knowledge can improve the quality of their rural life. Knowledge is shared and transferred in group meetings, demonstrations and local sharings. The local agricultural research committee is an example of such an approach.
- Project approach: focuses on a particular location for a relatively short time period. The purpose is to demonstrate techniques and methods that can be sustained after the project period. Financial support is given from international agencies.
- Cost sharing approach: aims at facilitating self-improvement, and programs meet the local situation. The costs of the programme are shared with the local people.
- Educational institution approach: educational institution dictate the curriculum and provide extension services. Mainly applied in the USA, on county level. The offered knowledge often neglects to address the farmers’ needs and constraints. In addition, contact farmers are used to diffuse knowledge to following farmers (e.g. laggards), leading to low adoption and performance.
Two of these extension approaches are selected because they are the most corresponding to the conclusions drawn by the previous chapters. In these chapters, it was concluded that education should be problem-posing, bottom-up, and involving multiple sources. Therefore the general agricultural extension approach (1), the commodity specialized approach (2), the training and visit approach (3), the project approach (6), the cost sharing approach (7) and educational institution approach (8) are not recommended for the purpose of this project. Two examples will be given for the remaining approaches:
- Farmer field schools (FFS)
The farmer field school is an example of the farming systems development approach. The FFSs are practical schools where a group of 10-25 farmers are included in a process of participatory learning during one season. The main actors in this participatory approach are farmer communities, facilitators, national extension services and NGOs. FFSs were first developed in Asia, for the introduction of integrated pest management (IPM) to rice farmers in Indonesia, and they became successful in providing agro-ecological education through participatory learning (Feder et al., 2004).
The main objective of the FFS approach is to address the problems of farmers, improve the management skills regarding certain practices and empower farmers in the long term to influence policy makers (Braun et al., 2000). The learning process consists of performing local practices with new ideas and comparing them through trial and discussions. This learning process allows farmers to test, validate and adopt the recommendations which are given by experts who teach in the schools (FAO, 2018b). The main activities are agro-ecosystem analysis and comparative experiments. The former is a process of recording and analysing the living (e.g. crops, livestock) and non-living (e.g. water, weather conditions) factors within a production system. The comparative experiments can be used to compare the different management options to obtain the best one for the better yield. This activity aims to integrate the local knowledge and skills with the conventional solutions (FAO, 2018b). In addition to the application of FFS in Integrated Pest Management in developing countries, other aspects of agriculture such as livestock management are also placed in the agenda of FFS. FFSs for livestock farming are more likely to be successful where small scale livestock producers are able, committed and willing to work in teams, and to invest their time in experimental learning activities (FAO, 2018b). The community should have a positive attitude to change, and the local culture should allow for innovations.
First, experts coming from outside of the designated region could introduce the FFS, and then the flow of information could be carried out by the extension workers or farmers who are former graduates of the FFSs (Braun et al., 2006). In this way, they can fill the gaps in the local knowledge on agro-ecosystems and increase awareness in a community level.
- Local agricultural research committees (CIAL)
The local agricultural research committees (CIALs) are an example of the participatory approach for improving decision-making processes and stimulating local innovation for sustainable agriculture (Braun et al., 2000). A CIAL is a permanent agriculture research service that is managed by a rural community team made up of volunteer farmers (Braun et al., 2000). This approach links farmers and researchers to increase the local capacity on useful skills, information and research products. The main actors in this process are communities with limited economic resources, a team of volunteer farmers, one facilitator (farmer, agronomist or extension worker), national research and extension services, NGOs and universities. It is intended to build a local research service that links the experimentation with formal research and to evolve to institutionalising participatory research within formal research and extension systems (Braun et al., 2000).
Facilitation of a CIAL requires profound changes in the attitudes of and relationships among farmers, their communities and agricultural professionals. Training of facilitators includes new communication skills. One important lesson is to avoid the leading questions that so often characterise researchers’ interactions with farmers (Braun et al., 2000). Facilitators learn how to ask open questions that characterise true two-way communication. During the first year, they are supported by a trainer who has several years of experience as a facilitator. This includes visits by the trainer at key moments of the process. After the first year, as the CIAL evolves, the visits are followed-up to ensure that the facilitator and the CIAL have access to an expert with experience in the further stages of the project.
In comparison, an FFS approach does not focus on identifying a solution within a range of technological options, while CIALs do focus on this. FFS develop the capacity to manage ecological interrelationships better in a community. CIALs might experience knowledge gaps that limit their possibilities for experimentation. Facilitators are therefore required to help farmers with addressing such knowledge gaps, but the effectiveness depends on the skills, knowledge and motivation of the facilitator.
Supplementary to these two examples, pilot farms are also helpful to place new technologies within a community framework and to assess its relevance, workability and acceptability (Atta-Krah, 1992). Once pilot farms have tested the system under real world conditions, their results will have a strong appeal to other farmers (Langeveld et al., 2005). Pilot farms are generally being used to serve two main objectives: (i) to carry out experiments and test new technologies under field conditions, and (ii) to demonstrate new techniques.
Though numerous pilot farms have been established for a wide variety of projects, documentation is very limited. Regardless of this, a very well documented example is the joint project of the German government and the Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer protection in North-Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) (Stumm & Köpke, 2008). This is an example of the use of pilot farms in a farming systems development approach. In this project, farms were appointed as pilot farms and used to propagate organic agriculture in NRW. On the pilot farms, research was conducted by local universities and extension services. Researchers, advisors and participating farmers met several times a year, leading to a transdisciplinary approach.
Together with farmers, solutions were optimised and demonstrated to other farmers. By opening up to new methods, knowledge and approaches, pilot farms had a role model function towards other farmers in the region (Hoeborn, 2016).
9. Sustainable farming in Shiraz
Whether or not farmers are interested in adopting sustainable farming methods depends for a large part on prevailing environmental and socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, and their access to information. There is reason to believe that farmers in Shiraz are motivated to adopt sustainable farming methods. In particular because sustainable methods result in higher income, improved living standards and achievement of household food security (Mahmoudi et al., 2009). Even, in many cases when sustainable agriculture is adopted, farmers do not have to give up their traditional farming methods but can combine them with modern technologies (Mahmoudi et al., 2009). In addition, it should be noted that especially the younger farmers are more willing to apply new technologies on their farm, compared to older farmers who are more experienced (Sadate et al., 2010; S. Amerian, personal communication, June 6, 2018). Since sustainable agriculture methods are also better for the land, smallholder farmers can benefit from these methods in terms of an increased soil fertility which leads to higher productivity. Apart from this economic benefit, some farmers also see the importance of protecting the environment through the adoption of sustainable farming methods (Vaninee et al., 2016), because by doing so they can contribute to reducing pollution and use of chemicals and in this way reduce health risks to both people and animals (Drost et al., 1996). Therefore, this chapter will describe the possibilities for sustainable farming methods in Shiraz, for each of the four topics introduced in Chapter 4.
For irrigation, water needs to be transported from the source to the field and applied to the crop. The use of qanats is one of the best methods to supply groundwater because of their low production price and high efficiency since no water evaporates (Aghazadeh, 2013). However, usage of pumps by others than farmers needs to be addressed to prevent depleting groundwater resources. Unfortunately, this is out of reach of the farmers.
For water supply, there are three commonly used systems: surface, sprinkler and drip irrigation. Surface irrigation methods are not recommended in very coarse textured soils as infiltration losses can be very high (Brouwer et al., 1988). Another disadvantage of surface irrigation is that large areas are prone to evaporation (Howell, 2003). Therefore, using surface irrigation methods leads to a low water use efficiency, with water use efficiency being defined as the units of biomass per unit of water extracted from the resource (Wallace, 2000). The best irrigation strategy is dependent on soil characteristics as well as topographical characteristics such as slopes in the field, but currently, soil salinity and drainage are limiting factors for proper irrigation (Albaji et al., 2008; Jalali, 2007).
Sprinkler irrigation can be widely used to any farmable slope (Brouwer et al., 1988). In contrast, water losses are high when using sprinkler irrigation due wind effects and evaporation. Drip irrigation on the other hand, only wets the root zone area. Therefore, water surface runoff, soil evaporation and water infiltration are greatly reduced. This also minimises leaching of nutrients and chemicals (Lamm, 2002). The drip irrigation method reduces unnecessary irrigation water losses and water use efficiency is 72% higher compared to furrow irrigation (Singandhupe et al., 2003).
In conclusion, a desired situation is one where increasing irrigation efficiency and water productivity will result in water saving. Since large farmers have adopted the use of precision irrigation methods (sprinkler and drip irrigation), the use of precision irrigation can by smallholder farmers should be stimulated. Agronomic practices such as intercropping should be stimulated to maximise moisture conservation through full soil coverage to prevent evaporation (Dahmardeh et al., 2010). In addition, crops that consume more water should be substituted with crops that consume less water and developing high yield and drought tolerant varieties.
Soil quality and fertility
In this project, sustainability of soil fertility is maintaining nutrient balance to conserve the food and feed security. Fertile soils with good soil erosion control, good soil structure and good water balance are required to succeed this (Emadodin et al., 2012).
The dominant soil-degrading processes in semi-arid regions are erosion, and soil organic matter (SOM) decline as a consequence. SOM includes plant and animal residues (e.g. manure) at different stages of decomposition in the soil. Although the percentage of the SOM in soil is small, it is important for the improvement of physical and chemical properties of the soil that contribute to the agricultural soil quality. These properties improve soil structure, enhance air permeability, increase water-holding capacity and store nutrients for the growth of the plants and soil microorganisms (Shirani et al., 2002; Krzyzanowski, 2016).
In addition to that, presence of SOM decreases the soil erosion and thus decreases the risk of desertification (Breman, 2002). From the types of erosion, the potential for wind erosion is the highest in hot and dry regions. (Unger et al., 1991). SOM declines as the temperature increases, especially where tillage as a management practice is present. SOM decline accelerates erosion as the climate gets drier, since the soils contain less vegetation to control the erosion. This results in crop yields below the potential yield level. If management practices to avert the soil degradation are not applied, the development of sustainable cropping systems for food and feed production becomes more difficult (Unger et al., 1991).
In order to increase the SOM, farmers can increase the quantity or quality of the used crop and animal residues. For the animal residues, to maintain the quality of manure, management during storage and application is extremely important (Harris, 2002). In addition, the use of nitrogen-fixing crops (legumes) in feed will result in good quality manure, containing high nutrient values (Harris, 2002).
For plant residues, two conservation practices can be identified that have a major impact on SOM: crop residue management and conservation tillage. For crop residue management, to deal with limited amount of crop residue, management options such as limited residue removal, selective residue removal, substituting high quality forages for residues, alley cropping, balancing feed supplies and animal populations, and using alternative fuel sources could reduce the demand for the residues.
Where residue management is not possible, tillage and other support practices such as contouring and strip cropping may provide adequate soil fertility (Unger et al., 1991). At last, using salt tolerant crops such as barley and sugar beet can be used to overcome salinity problem on the field.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can be defined as a sustainable approach which reduces the use of pesticides and minimises the toxicity effect of pesticides to soil and groundwater (Samiee et al., 2009). Adoption of IPM programs also helps to minimise risks to human health and the environmental risks associated with the pesticides use, such as pollution of soil and weakening of the natural resources (Shojaei et al., 2013). IPM reduces the pesticides usage by combining different pest control options such as cultural control, biological control, mechanical control and environmentally sound chemical control.
Hence, the adoption of IPM could be beneficial for Iranian farmers because the IPM approach minimises groundwater contamination and upsurges the biodiversity on the farms while improving the soil quality (Lal, 2003). However, the success of IPM programs depends on the farmers’ knowledge, skills, motivation and the cooperation and participation of farmers in the agricultural extension programs (Allahyari et al., 2016).
In general, cows that are grazing on pasture and are fed supplementary grain, have a lower intake of dry matter and nutrients compared to cows that are fed to TMR, leading to a reduced milk production (Kolver & Muller, 1998). Since farmers in Shiraz are not pasturing their cows and are already feeding TMR, feeding strategies can only be optimized by looking at the feed composition of each individual farm.
Reproductive performance is currently one of the main focus points of the dairy industry worldwide. It has become evident that there is a strong correlation that a high milk yield is related to reduced reproductive performance (Nebel & McGilliard, 1993). Meaning that a high milk yield and high parity are risk factors for reproductive diseases, which in turn affect insemination and conception. Some disorders even increase the risk of culling (Gröhn & Rajala-Schultz, 2000). Farmers should be aware of this correlation and adjust their breeding strategies accordingly.
Regarding heat stress, there are several ways to facilitate heat loss from the cow. These strategies are aimed at reducing heat loss via conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation. Common ways to facilitate heat loss are via the instalment of air conditioning (conduction), actively cooling bedding material (convection), providing sufficient shade (radiation), instalment of sprinklers (evaporation) and setting up cooling ponds (Hansen et al., 2014). Large farms are likely to already have these strategies adopted since they are well informed and updated on the latest scientific developments (F. Tolsma, personal communication, June 18, 2018). For smallholder farms, this situation can be improved.
Part 4: The knowledge center
10. Stimulating sustainable farming through participatory approach
Several sustainable farming methods have been identified which are applicable to the Fars region, as elaborated on in Chapter 9 (Sustainable farming in Shiraz). Concerning efficient water use, farmers should make use of precision irrigation, agronomic practices and cultivating drought-resistant crops. Regarding soil quality and fertility, farmers should be educated on the importance of manure. Soil quality can be increased by the use of nitrogen-fixing crops for feed; and the use of salt-tolerant crops to overcome the salinity problem on the field. Concerning pest management, it needs to be explored how pest management can be improved using IPM technologies. Lastly, regarding cow performance, attention should be given to feeding strategies, improved fertility and reduction of heat stress. The knowledge center should introduce these methods and techniques to the farmers, and educate them on the importance of sustainable farming practices. In this process the interests and local practices of the farmers should be taken into account.
In Fars, large farms (>100 cows) mostly have adopted sustainable farming practices, or are likely to do so in the future due to their access to scientific research (F. Tolsma, personal communication June 20, 2018). Smallholder farms on the other hand, are lacking behind. To reach these smallholder farmers, the best practices of each of the methods explained in Chapter 7 should be combined. Due to the spread-out nature of agriculture in the Shiraz region, the knowledge center can establish contact persons (similar to CIALs) and pilot farms where sustainable farming methods are adapted to the local situation and farmers are trained. Using a similar setup as the FFS, the knowledge center can play a role in facilitating the contact between farmers and the extension workers, and in facilitating knowledge transfer from university experts to farmers. In this position, the knowledge center can articulate the needs of the farmers to the government and universities. In conclusion, the knowledge center can play a role in forming the link between all these different stakeholders.
11. Proposed trade-off between knowledge transfer and nature conservation
As stated in Part 1, Simba wants to implement a trade-off system in its projects, which implies that in return for the knowledge on sustainable farming practices provided by the knowledge center, farmers have to implement nature conservation practices. This trade-off will help to reach Simba’s main goal: to protect and conserve the nature and wildlife in Iran.
It is expected that farmers would engage in this trade-off with nature conservation because the knowledge they receive from the knowledge center can help them in improving their skills. They would be able to develop their farms and increase their yield. This can benefit their economic situation and their level of intellect. The farmers do not have to pay to receive this knowledge, the only requirement is that they implement nature conservation practices
Next to the farmers, Simba should also collaborate with local nature protection organisations. Nature protection organisations can provide Simba with information on which conservation practices can be implemented by the farmers, after which Simba can take on the role of facilitating educating towards the farmers about these conservation practices. Regarding monitoring the farmers in adopting nature conservation practices, it is proposed that Simba delegates the task of to the nature protection organisations. This division of tasks is likely to interest the nature protection organisations for collaboration with Simba, since it will benefit the nature and biodiversity in the area.
The exchange of knowledge and training on sustainable farming and the nature conservation practices, has to result in an equal trade-off between Simba and the farmers. This means that both parties involved have to receive equal benefits out of the trade-off, and are satisfied with what they get. For the farmers this means that the trade-off is fair when the knowledge, training and resources are adapted to their local context and personal needs and interests, and that these are equivalent to the nature conservation practices that they have to implement. For Simba, this trade-off is fair when the farmers are really implementing the nature conservation practices and sustainable farming methods. This should be monitored, to make sure that farmers are not just taking advantage of the services of the knowledge center.
To prevent the farmers from feeling pressured, monitoring the nature conservation and implementation of the sustainable farming methods should go together with a delivery of physical resources from the knowledge center to the farmers. These resources should help the farmers with the implementation of sustainable farming methods. Examples of such resources are fertilisers, seeds, or bigger equipment such as tractors which can be temporarily lent to the farmers. In this way, a possibly negative experience of controlling what the farmers are doing is combined with a positive experience of receiving supplies.
11. Future stakeholder relations for the knowledge center
The activities of the knowledge center, including both stimulating sustainable farming and promoting nature conservation practices by farmers, are expected to result in changes in the stakeholder network introduced in Chapter 3. Next to changing relationships, also new actors have entered the network, which will be described in the next paragraphs.
Description of new stakeholders
New actors that are included in the future stakeholder network are the Fars Government, Nature Protection Organisations, the Dairy Training Centre (DTC) and Iranian Universities. Just like in the stakeholder analysis of Chapter 3, these actors will first be described by mentioning their core values, problem, goals, resources, and their (possible) interests in this project.
The Fars Government is the regional subdivision of the Iranian Government, which shares similar values. The Fars Government is headed by a governor who chooses the local officials of the province, such as chiefs of districts, rural sub-districts and villages. These local officials serve as representatives of the central government. Next to the national government, the Fars Government can also play an important role in this project. They organise society on a local level and aim to improve the living standards in the Fars province and are therefore likely to be interested in this project. The Fars Government has the interest of being involved in this project and knowing exactly what Simba is doing, to make sure that it does not interfere with their own values.
Nature Protection Organisations
Nature protection organisations have the core value of protecting and conserving nature. The problem is that due to several reasons, agriculture being one of them, the nature and wildlife in Iran is endangered (Tatin et al., 2003). Therefore, the goal of the nature protection organisations is to establish national parks or policies to regulate the conservation of nature. Resources of these organisations depend on what kind of organisation it is. This could be government support, or money from donors. These organisations have an interest in this project, because it concerns a trade-off between the transfer of agricultural knowledge and the protection of nature. The farmers are not able to do this on their own, and they need the help of the nature protection organisations to make it work. Another interest that they could have is the provision of knowledge regarding nature conservation practices through the knowledge center.
Dairy Training Centre
The Dairy Training Centre (DTC) is a Dutch organisation which functions as a training center for dairy farming and milk processing. They provide trainings through their training facilities in the Netherlands, for farmers from several countries such as Iran. They target their training towards these countries, because they notice that there is a problem regarding a lack of practical knowledge. Their core value is to improve this knowledge through training. However, they also have the core value of making money with the provision of these trainings. Resources that the DTC has are training farms in the Netherlands where many (foreign) students are being trained, and a lot of knowledge on (sustainable) dairy farming methods. The goal of DTC is to become the first national and international training centre for dairy farming and dairy processing (DTC, 2016). Therefore, cooperation with the knowledge center is in their interest, because in this way they can expand their scope by improving the knowledge on dairy farming in the Shiraz region.
In Iran, three universities could be most important in providing the role of knowledge sharing. These are the Shiraz University, the Sharif University of Technology, and the University of Tehran. They were selected as the most relevant universities in this project, because the Shiraz University and the Sharif University of Technology are already involved in the knowledge center, and the University of Tehran is the biggest of the country. Other universities can be involved in the provision of experts once the knowledge center is established. The problem frame for these three Iranian universities is that there are few linkages between the universities and the private sector companies. Therefore, it becomes difficult for them to share their knowledge in practice. The interest that they have in this project is that they could contribute in sharing their knowledge through the knowledge center in Shiraz. By doing that, they can also gain more knowledge and opportunities for doing research in the region.
Future stakeholder relationships
Figure 3 depicts the recommended future relations between the relevant stakeholders for the knowledge center. Not all stakeholders have a connection with the knowledge center in this future situation, which makes them less relevant for the knowledge center. These less relevant stakeholders are the Iran Federation of Farmers Associations, the Central Union of Iranian Dairy Farmers and Pegah Dairy Company.
Figure 3: recommended relations between the stakeholders relevant for the knowledge center. Grey lines represent existing relationships between current stakeholders. Red lines represent the possible future relationships most relevant for the knowledge center. A thick line represents a strong relationship, a medium line represents a moderate relationship, and a thin line represents a limited relationship.
First of all, Simba should develop a strong relationship with the farmers in Shiraz. This relationship is necessary, since Simba has to explore what the needs and interests of the farmers are in order to design the services of the knowledge center. It is essential that Simba stays in contact with the farmers throughout this whole project to stay up to date about their interests and needs.Also, Simba should explore a relationship with the Dairy Training Centre (DTC) as a new actor in this network. DTC and Simba can work together in educating the farmers on sustainable farming methods. DTC can be directly involved in the education through the pilot farms which Simba wants to establish, or indirect via educating extension workers on how to provide successful training to farmers. In return for their help, DTC can expand their scope in Iran. Especially in the beginning phase, DTC can be of great help.
Furthermore, it is highly recommendable for Simba to develop a relationship with one or two nature protection organisations in Iran. As explained in Chapter 11 (Trade-off between knowledge transfer and nature conservation), these organisations can inform Simba about nature protection and conservation for the trade-off with the farmers, and play a role in monitoring the sustainable practices of farmers. In return, the nature protection organisations can expand their scope.
To acquire more information about the local context, Simba should establish a relationship with universities. These universities could provide experts to teach the farmers and extension workers in the knowledge center. These experts could provide guest lectures, seminars and workshops in the knowledge center regarding topics which the farmers find interesting, and they could also provide training to the extension workers to improve their services to the farmers. Experts could be both national and international.
Simba should also develop a relationship with Extension Workers (AREEO), because Simba can involve the extension workers in educating the farmers through the knowledge center. In return, Simba can play a role in further education of the Extension Workers by including university experts. The extension workers can receive training at the knowledge center which Simba establishes.
It is also very recommendable for Simba to establish a relationship with the Fars Government. This relationship is crucial for Simba because to establish this project they need permission and support from the Fars Government. For the Government this project can offer more self-sufficiency in dairy farming and agriculture, and it can increase the knowledge on sustainable farming, which is what they aim for.
Farmers would need a relationship with nature protection organisations in Iran, because there can be a collaboration in the trade-off system that is introduced in the knowledge center. The farmers should grow native species on their farm to help with the protection of nature, which is in the interest of the nature protection organisations. These species can be taken over by the nature protection organisations to (re-)introduce them in the wild. It is likely that the farmers don’t have time, possibilities or sufficient knowledge to transfer the native species from their farm into the wild, once they are grown. Since the nature protection organisations have knowledge on this matter, it is recommendable that they take responsibility for the (re-)introduction of species to benefit the conservation of nature. Simba can arrange this connection between the farmers and the nature protection organisations through the knowledge center.
The farmers should strengthen their relationship with the extension workers, because the extension workers are the ones who will train the farmers on the sustainable farming methods. The farmers can express their needs and wants to the extension workers to make sure that they are included in the education provided through the knowledge center.
The extension workers will develop a relationship with universities in this project. Whereas in the current situation, the extension workers only received training and knowledge from the government, in the future situation this information will be provided to them by both Iranian and foreign university experts. This can happen indirectly through the knowledge center. These university experts can also work together with the extension workers in their research on the local situation in Iran.
Part 5: Conclusion
The goal of the commissioner is to promote sustainable dairy farming and agriculture in Shiraz, ultimately benefiting the nature in Iran. Therefore, an integrative project purpose was formulated to advise Simba on how the knowledge center in Shiraz can provide possibilities for dairy farmers to adopt sustainable farming methods, in return for nature conservation practices adopted by the farmers.
As explained in Chapter 10, large farms in the Shiraz region are already engaged in sustainable farming practices, such as precision irrigation. Smallholder farms are lacking behind, because of missing links between different parties engaged in the sector, or because existing links are inefficient. This had led to a lack of technical information for the farmers regarding sustainable farming methods. These missing relations and information gaps lead to a potential for improvement of the situation through the establishment of a knowledge center which addresses the stimulation and application of sustainable farming with methods to obtain an efficient use of water, a good soil quality and fertility, an increased food security through IPM and a good cow performance.
The approach, suggested by this consultancy report, is the bottom-up approach for both stimulation of sustainable farming and nature conservation. The needs and interests of the farmers should be centralised in a participatory way. For sustainable farming, this should be done together with the most important stakeholders; the farmers, extension workers, university experts and government representatives. Suggested is to apply this bottom-up approach via an existing approach such as the Farmer Field School and Local agricultural research committees.
To establish a trade-off between knowledge transfer and nature conservation practices, the bottom-up approach should be used as well. It is essential for a successful trade-off to gain the farmers’ trust on this matter. Next to farmers, also nature protection organisations should be involved.
Based on the results from the executed research, six practical recommendations are formulated to increase the adoption of sustainable farming methods through the establishment of the knowledge center.
- Focus on smallholder farmers
The knowledge center should focus on the smallholder farmers which are more keen to adopt new technologies regarding sustainable farming methods. The knowledge center should not focus on large farmers because they have already adopted the sustainable farming methods to a big extent.
- Get to understand farmers and gain trust
It is important for Simba to establish good relationships and trust with the farmers. This can be achieved by programming several focus groups with a diverse group of farmers representing the community of smallholder farmers in Shiraz. By doing this, Simba will be in a position to explore farmers interests and needs. These focus groups are important in the initial stage of the project, but it is important to maintain this good relationship throughout the years.
- Build up a stakeholder network
Simba should create a respectful relationship with other stakeholders relevant for the knowledge center. A network should be built up with the Iranian government, the Fars government, universities and AREEO. This can be done by making frequent visits to relevant actors, keeping them up-to-date on the project, specifying what Simba can offer them and what Simba needs from them.
- Set agendas together with stakeholders
Simba should organise multiple meetings with a variety of stakeholders: a diverse group of farmers, government representatives, extension workers and academia. In these meetings, stakeholders can decide together on the agendas that include plans and activities for the coming period. These meetings should be held several times a year, and have the purpose to connect the interests of the different stakeholders to each other.
- Elaborate on sustainable methods
In the meetings, Simba should discuss, together with the other stakeholders, which sustainable methods will be taught and how these can be applied to the local situation. These methods should be adapted to the local situation, combining them with existing traditions and customs which the farmers attach value to.
- Set-up of the meetings
In these meetings, a bottom-up approach should be applied by eliminating hierarchical relationships and making sure all parties are equal. This can be done by making these meetings informal, with Simba as facilitator making sure that everybody gets a say in the matter. Stakeholders can sit at round tables, avoiding one person to sit at the head of the table and showing power or leadership in this way.
- Develop participatory approaches for education methods
Simba should use the outcomes of the meetings with all the stakeholders to develop the participatory approach that they are going to use in the education provided by the knowledge center. In the knowledge center, education can be done in an interactive way through workshops, seminars, trainings, and (guest) lectures. Simba should also establish a pilot farm which uses all available and promising sustainable methods such that the farmers can gain practical experience. The participatory approaches should be derived from the FFS and CIAL example.
- Determine an equal trade-off
First of all, there should be a meeting with Simba, farmers and nature conservation organisations to discuss what an equal trade-off would be for both the farmers and Simba, with the guidance of the nature conservation organisations.
When there is an agreement on the trade-off, contracts should be set up between Simba and the farmers who engage in the knowledge center. Such a contract needs to be signed by all the involved stakeholders before any actions are taken. In the contract will be touched upon different aspects. Firstly, it should state that the farmers will receive theoretical knowledge (education), practical training and physical resources from the knowledge center for a certain amount of time. In return they have to engage in the implementation of nature conservation practices for a certain amount of time as well. A condition for the farmers to receive the physical resources from the knowledge center is that they first have to finish the training program. The minimum amount of time that the farmers should engage in the nature conservation practices is dependent on the time they wish to engage in the knowledge center, and this can be established by the nature protection organisations. Secondly, the farmers have to agree on the terms of the contract, which are a monitoring of their practices and the consequences if they don’t comply to their tasks. In this case, measures can be taken to make sure that the farmers won’t continue to benefit economically if they decide to pull back from the contract. However, it should also be made sure that farmers are not worse off than before they started the trainings.
This consultancy report has several limitations. The main limitation is the lack of knowledge about the current situation in Shiraz, due to insufficient time and resources to gather first-hand data. Although there is a lot of literature on the topics discussed throughout this consultancy report, specific data for Shiraz is very limited. This includes the numbers of crop farmers, data about the use of herbicides and pesticides, and the location of the farms. Websites were often in Persian and even when translated, could not provide accurate information or data.
Furthermore, there were difficulties contacting farmers, experts and other stakeholders. Contact with local farmers was not possible because of bureaucratic barriers. Therefore, it was not possible to determine whether the farmers in Shiraz would be open to participate in this project and what kind of agricultural methods they are currently using. Contact with experts and other stakeholders was often not possible since many of the contacts approached via mail or phone did not reply or failed to follow up on their initial reply. Everything considered, it was necessary to make some assumptions in regard to the issues the project tries to address. In the following paragraph these assumptions will be elaborated upon.
In regard to the lack of contact with stakeholders, it was assumed that the actors named in the stakeholder analysis are aware of the benefits in this project and want to participate. Especially for the farmers the assumption was made that farmers are willing to adapt their behaviour and change their current farming methods to more sustainable methods. In addition, though the local situation regarding infrastructure and remoteness of the farmers’ locations was not known in this consultancy report, it was assumed that all farmers can be reached by the Simba and that they are able to reach the knowledge center to help them in their farming practices and transferring knowledge and resources.
In addition, the assumption was made that the majority of farmers in the Shiraz region are smallholder farmers and that in contrary to large farms, they have not yet adopted sustainable farming methods This was based on information received through experts, though specific data sources to validate these statements are lacking.
Furthermore, the knowledge center in Shiraz is not present yet, and the main assumption made in the consultancy report is that the knowledge center will be built, assuming that Simba acquires the financial resources needed and that Simba gets approval from the Iranian government to build and operate the knowledge center.
Because of the limited time frame and resources which were available in this consultancy project, it was not possible to include several other interesting and relevant topics regarding the knowledge center. Therefore it is recommended that these topics are studied in the future.
Firstly, it is important to study how the knowledge center can be sustainable and efficient on the long term, in order to ensure its existence. For example, it should be studied how the knowledge center can generate profits, subsidies or donations to pay for its fixed costs. Secondly, local research should be done in the field to find out what the needs and wants are of the local farmers in Shiraz. In this way it can be known whether or not the farmers want to be included in this project, and in what way. This can make the project truly participatory and bottom-up. Since there was a lack of expertise regarding nature conservation in this project team, it is recommended that the aspect regarding the conservation of nature and wildlife is looked into more deeply to find out how this can be incorporated in the knowledge center.
Furthermore, because of the assumption that was made in this consultancy project regarding climate change, it is important to study different climate change scenarios to see how the knowledge center should deal with these future scenarios. As a possible solution for water-related issues such as drought, it would be interesting to study the possibility of implementing horticulture in the region, stimulated by the knowledge center. This can relate to a study on how the knowledge center can expand its services to sustainable farming in general, besides the implementation for the dairy sector which was included in this consultancy project.
We would like to thank J. Stoorvogel for providing constructive feedback during various stages of this consultancy report, and our coach P. Koene for guiding our project team throughout the process of the project. We would also like to thank A. Boostani, S. Amerian and M. Mehdi Tehrani for giving answers to the many questions about Shiraz that we had. Finally, we would like to thank A. Beldman for the extensive elaboration on his research about the dairy sector in Iran.
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