Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau FiBL, 5070 Frick, Schweiz

Reconfiguring the agricultural knowledge system in Switzerland

The Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS) in Europe has been, and often continues to be, characterised by the idea of linear knowledge transfer from science to farmers. Particularly in Switzerland, new structures have arisen as a result of the turnaround in agricultural policy and the introduction at the end of the twentieth century of cross-compliance between the provision of environmental services and direct farm payments. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the factors impacting on the reform of Switzerland’s current AKS, with a view to supporting innovation for multifunctional and sustainable rural development. A collective Innovation System Performance matrix was developed in a workshop with representatives of the various AKS stakeholder groups. From the results, we can reasonably conclude that a change is underway in the understanding of the role of stakeholders in science, extension and education, with the latter progressing from mere conveyors of information to facilitators who generate new knowledge jointly with the various actors. In Switzerland as elsewhere, the AKS must be reconfigured in order to achieve this paradigm change. There is still a need to shape more clearly the choice of research topics, the efficient and effective performance of practice-oriented research, the processing of research results, stakeholder discussions, and joint implementation.

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