Formerly Pact Consulting Limited

Appreciating the influence of our own and others’ world views upon extension strategies

Abstract

Every extension strategy, like the actions of individual extension staff, reflects particular world views about the nature of knowledge and truth. These worldviews become the (usually) hidden assumptions about why we are doing extension, and why we prefer particular methods or approaches over others. Extension has a long heritage in science, and applying objective measures of reality. This has been based upon one (usually positivist) way of viewing the world, nature, and how to address the agricultural issues that have arisen. Recent trends in agriculture and rural communities have highlighted issues that cannot be resolved through science. Indeed in some cases, it has been the widespread adoption of particular technologies and scientific results that have added to existing problems (e.g. in the environment). This has led some extension people to apply new strategic approaches from interpretivist, radical humanist, and radical structuralist to their work. Each of these approaches is associated with world views that affect all parts of an extension strategy from its purpose, its structure, its methods, and the competencies required in delivery. It is when inconsistencies arise in a strategy between say the world views forming its intent (which may be science based) and the world views underpinning its delivery (which, for example may be based upon critical theory) that internal coherency is compromised, debilitating the delivery of any extension activities. People considering strategies based upon world views that they are unfamiliar with, may find themselves needlessly challenging the technical content of such proposals when the strength may be based upon other priorities such as relationship building or social emancipation.

This paper is intended to be an introduction to studies into world views and their application in policy interventions, research and extension. Its results will assist extension people to consider the applicability of a wide range of world views as the basis to informing their practice and framing strategy.

Parminter TG, Botha CAJ, Small B 2003. Appreciating the influence of our own and others’ world views upon extension strategies. Proceedings of the APEN National Forum.

Dairy Farmers’ Evaluation of Environmental Practices in South West Victoria

Abstract

A research project was undertaken in early 2003 to examine a range of environmental issues for dairy farmers in South West Victoria. The project recognised that to encourage voluntary adoption of environmental practices, resource management strategies should clearly specify the desired behavioural changes and measurable environmental outcomes for specific segments of farmers. Any policies being developed should meet the needs of individual farmers as part of a process of value exchange, and minimise the costs and difficulties of the change process itself.

Five environmental practices were the focus for this study; preserving and enlarging fragments of indigenous bush, implementing riparian management, establishing shelter belts, restoring eroded soils, and restoring saline soils. All these practices could contribute to improved environmental outcomes within the Region. To study these, sixty five farmer interviews were carried out across the catchment and the results then qualitatively and quantitatively analysed.

The study found that farmers in the catchment used a range of indicators to measure resource condition as part of their general farming decision making. Some of these indicators varied in their effectiveness, and some could be quite difficult to interpret. Farmers generally considered the natural resources on their properties to be in good condition and even improving. Given that most farmers did not consider that there was an environmental problem needing their attention, they were most interested in using environmental practices when there was a material production advantage to be gained and minimal conflict with their existing farming systems. For these reasons, establishing shelter belts was widely supported amongst farmers, but the other practices were felt to be too costly in time, finances, and loss of productive potential.

In the study, four different farmer segments were identified that respond to different extension approaches.

  • Production farmers wanted to know about any production advantages that they could gain from using environmental practices, how well these might fit with their existing management strategies, and ways to ensure that they would be implemented at least cost to their existing farming operations.
  • Cosmopolitan farmers want to make their own decisions about acting in socially responsible ways. They are positive about working with external agencies and tend to build upon initial success by adding additional practices.
  • Future builders tend to be interested in farm succession and the improvements to asset value possible from applying environmental practices.
  • Conservationist farmers are interested in the environmental benefits from using environmental practices and in information on the practical details of implementing them.

The different segments each had different expectations regarding the benefits to them of the environmental practices, and would.

Parminter TG, Nelson T 2003. Dairy farmers’ evaluation of environmental practices in South West Victoria. Proceedings of the APEN National Forum.

Systemic Interventions into Biodiversity Management based upon the Theory of Reasoned Action

Abstract

Biodiversity policy, no matter how well intentioned, will only be successful, if it addresses factors influencing human behaviour. Policies to encourage voluntary behavioural change amongst landowners are designed to target specific segments and develop interventions around their motivators and demotivators for change. This study examined how much the Theory of Reasoned Action could provide a quantitative basis for policy agencies designing interventions for biodiversity issues. Four biodiversity issues were selected for the study, these being: the preservation of bush remnants, establishing wetlands, pest (possum) control, and indigenous woodlots. In the project, system diagrams and focus groups were used to describe each of the behaviour sets involved for farmers addressing the issues. The results of the focus group meetings provided the basis for quantitative surveys framed around the Theory of Reasoned Action. The surveys were sent to a randomly selected group of 7100 livestock farmers. The results were analysed by regression analyses with R2 of 40-70%.

The results indicate that farmers can be segmented based upon appropriate behaviour and context measures but that these can be difficult to decide upon without a good knowledge of the farming systems within which landowners operate. Policies that influence behaviour through attitude change by encouraging farmers to identify personal benefits from biodiversity practices will be the most influential upon behaviour. Linking biodiversity to farmers’ concepts of self-identity would also be an important component of policy interventions. The results of the study indicate that further work using the Theory of Reasoned Action to implement and evaluate policy strategies around farming system analyses would be useful.

Parminter TG, Wilson JA 2003. Systemic Interventions into biodiversity management based upon the Theory of Reasoned Action. Proceedings of the 1st Australian Farming Systems Association Conference, p199.

A Framework For Policy Agencies To Design And Evaluate Communication Strategies To Achieve Behavioural Change

Summary

For peoples’ behaviour to change, their attitudes must change as well. Persuasive communication by policy agencies has a role to play in encouraging attitude change among their constituents. There are four stages to attitude change, and these are affected by whether people engage in high elaboration or low elaboration processing of communication messages. To encourage the changes in attitude that are associated with desired behaviour a communication strategy should address the underlying processes for both types of elaboration. A strategy for doing this is likely to include: segmentation, attitude change identification, message design, design for heuristics or conditioning, learning skills, communication channels, and supporting conditions. Actual communication activities can then be planned to apply the strategy in ways that combine both high and low elaboration approaches.

Parminter TG 2002. A framework for policy agencies to design and evaluate communication strategies to achieve behavioural change. New Zealand Agricultural and Resource Economics Society Conference. Lincoln College Discussion Paper No.149

The Development Of Education And Information Strategies For Implementing Environmental Policy: Results From A Study Of Farm Dairy Effluent Policy Strategies In The State Of Victoria

Summary

To effectively implement environmental policies for natural resource management, landowners are expected to use available information to assist them understand the short-term and long-term relationships between their actions and resource condition. In this project the information required by dairy farmers for them to establish and maintain an effective effluent strategy was identified, and recommendations made as to how this information could be best provided.

Five workshops were held with 41 farmers in the west, north and east of Victoria to identify their different goals, decision objectives, and performance expectations. These were compared and the main target groups of farmers identified for policy implementation.

Based upon the results, the authors identified the key messages that each target group needed for them to be motivated to change their effluent management practices. Each group required distinctly different forms of information to link the desired behaviour changes with their farming goals and the different purposes that they had for effluent management.

Parminter TG, Pedersen JA, Wilson JA, Jefford S 2001. The development of education and information strategies for implementing environmental policy: results from a study of farm dairy effluent policy strategies in the state of Victoria. New Zealand Agricultural and Resource Economics Society Conference. Lincoln College Discussion Paper No.148, p113-115