Coping with uncertainty: perspectives on sustainability of smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

Onduru, Davies Dismus (2014) Coping with uncertainty: perspectives on sustainability of smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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Agricultural sustainability of smallholder farms in the tropics has rarely been examined in an integrated manner by addressing simultaneously ecological, social and economic dimensions and exploring its spatial and temporal characteristics. In this submission I have prepared a Context Statement (Part I) that provides a background to my submitted body of works on assessment of agricultural sustainability of smallholder farms in Kenya. In the Context Statement I have positioned myself and my body of works and its impacts, critiqued my methodologies and reflected on my epistemology, brought out overarching messages on sustainability of smallholder farms and examined my research journey and contributions to academic knowledge and to professional practice.

I position my public works within an inclusive ontological realism and epistemological pluralism that informed my use of mixed-methods research. I used (i) decision support systems and models (NUTMON, MonQI and QUEFTS), (ii) participatory learning and interdisciplinary research methodologies (on-farm comparative participatory research, PTD, Farmer Field Schools), and (iii) qualitative perceptions of farmers and researchers to investigate sustainability of smallholder farms. The smallholder farms in the low-to-medium agricultural potential areas were moving in the direction of unsustainability with performance of major indictors related to soil quality, crop productivity and socio-economics below threshold values. This was in direct contrast to the situation in high agricultural potential areas.

The collaborative and interdisciplinary research partnerships within which this body of works was prepared was productive with co-authored papers standing at 98.5% of the total number of papers and the average number of citations per paper by other researchers was 5. My research and the body of works presented together with this context statement created a positive impact on farmers’ attitudes, beliefs and behavior regarding sustainability of their farms. Smallholders adopted good agricultural practices and “new” technologies and improved their livelihoods. My reflections on the submitted body of works have further shown that it contributed to knowledge and practice through bridging knowledge gaps on sustainability of organic farming systems, developing new methodologies or adapting current ones to give new meaning in the areas of participatory technology development, communication between “hard sciences” and “soft sciences” on soil quality, farmer learning for sustainability on integrated nutrient management and smallholder tea production, and in the use of decision support systems and models to assess sustainability of smallholder agriculture in an integrated manner.

In the Context Statement I have also reflected on my research journey and painted a picture of the impacts of this doctoral pathway on my research practice and future direction. This doctoral pathway provided the opportunity to blend an academic research doctoral model with my professional research practice resulting in a submission equivalent to PhD by thesis. Through it I have re-discovered myself as a research scientist, a flexible autonomous learner, framed my research experiences as forms of personal, professional and academic growth and created linkages with my career interests and opportunities for improving frontiers of my research practice in the future.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education
A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 35414
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 15:26
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 23:52

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