Nguyen, Thi Phuoc Lai and Seddaiu, Giovanna and Roggero, Pier Paolo (2014) Hybrid knowledge for understanding complex agri-environmental issues: nitrate pollution in Italy. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, Vol. 12 (2), p. 164-182. ISSN 1473-5903. eISSN 1747-762X. Article.
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Although agri-environmental policies have been launched by the European Union to mitigate environmental pollution and sustain agricultural development, there is not much understanding of how to manage the asymmetries between the objectives and the effectiveness of the implementation of the policies on local scale. The nitrate directive (ND) is an emblematic case in this context. This research focused on the role of ‘hybrid knowledge’ (scientific and local) and the process of knowledge integration in understanding the nitrate problem as an agri-environmental issue emerging from a complex set of biophysical and social factors. We conducted an integrated analysis of a case study on nitrate pollution in an intensive dairy district under Mediterranean conditions. A participatory action research approach was applied to elicit stakeholders’ knowledge and perspectives and to create new learning spaces among farmers, researchers and policy makers at case study scale. We explored the effectiveness of social learning triggered due to participatory field experiments, by bringing together stakeholders to generate new ‘hybrid knowledge’ for agri-environmental sustainability. The dramatic shift from the initial defensive position of farmers to an agreement on concerted actions proved that the integration between local and scientific knowledge may contribute to an increase in the effectiveness of the ND.
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