Knowledge for better food systems

Influencing farmers' decision-making behaviour

This report from the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board reviews how the behaviour of farmers might be influenced so that the recommendations of researchers and policymakers can be implemented on farms.

The key recommendations of the report are:

  • Target messages carefully to your audience, and normally use optimistic messages
  • Fund and encourage knowledge exchange activities
  • Prove the value and ease of adoption
  • Incentivise behaviour change, including “nudging”

Read more here and download the full report, “Understand how to influence farmers' decision-making behaviour - a social science literature review”, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource resource How far could changes in production practices reduce GHG emissions?

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Charles Merfield's picture
Submitted by Charles Merfield (not verified) on

As an ex-farmer, now a scientist who works with farmers on the ground, it's not farmers that need their decision-making behaviour influenced.  In my experience dealing with farmers, they are mostly up for change, the problem is when they say "what do we need to do", i.e., what practical on-farm action should they take, there is a profound silence from scientists, policy makers and politicians, as the national ag-sci system was destroyed back in the 1980s and has never worked properly since in most of the developed world, so they have few suggestions.  Inter-governmental agencies such as the UN and FAO are also very clear on the need for change.  Therefore the key group of people who's decision-making behaviour needs to be influenced is politicians.  How about a handy guide book on how do achieve that?  We have tried voting, it does not appear to work.

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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