Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

María José Hötzel, Luiz Carlos Pinheiro Machado Filho, Matías Javier Hargreaves Méndez

Location: Brazil
Academic field: Applied ethology (Hötzel); Applied ethology (Pinheiro Machado Filho); Agronomy (Hargreaves Méndez)
Award category: PhD Team

Topics to be Addressed during the Award Period

The views of smallholder family dairy farmers and agriculture extension agents in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina toward industrialized and other systems of farm animal rearing.

  1. What are their views on the pros and cons of large-scale industrial production system (such as "compost barn") and agroecological systems (such as Voisin Rational Grazing)?
  2. What are their views on factors constraining and enabling the transition to a large-scale industrial system versus an agroecological one?
  3. How do farmers perceive the performance of their farms in term of yield, efficiency, sustainability? How do they think they can improve the performance, and can the improvements be achieved with a large-scale industrialized system or an agroecological system? How do extension agents view farmers' productivity issues?
  4. How do they understand the concepts of ecosystemic services, animal welfare, and social fairness?
  5. What is their own knowledge on agroecology and/or Voisin Rational Grazing and the need for technical assistance or training?
  6. What are farmers' views of certification (e.g. for animal welfare, agroecology)?
  7. How do farmers and extension agents view each other's relationships?

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Large-scale industrialized systems (e.g. "compost barns") are gaining popularity among smallholder family dairy farmers in Santa Catarina, incentivized by private and public support. For many years some of these small-scale farmers have been using agroecological systems (e.g. Voisin Rational System) which can meet production efficiency while remaining benign in terms of enviromental, human, and animal well-being. But one is witnessing farmers in the region abandoning agroecological practices, possibly due to issues related to public policies, support of agriculture extension agents, and social pressure. This context led us to support strongly the applicants' focus on documenting real-life cases and understanding how small-scale dairy farmers in the region are coping with these recent developments happening around them by either resisting or abandoning agroecological modes of production. 
  • We also liked the application's view that those farmers who choose to compete or coexist with large-scale industrial production would need support, particularly from the government.
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