A new approach for comparing and categorizing farmers’ systems of practice based on cognitive mapping and graph theory indicators

Frédéric M. Vanwindekens, Philippe V. Baret et  Didier Stilmant

Ecological Modelling 274 (2014) 1-11

Version pdf : Vanwindekens_Baret_Stilmant_2014

Farmers’ practices are characterized not only by complexity at the farm scale, but also by diversity at the regional scale. In order
to assess this diversity, a systemic approach is needed for comparing and classifying systems of practice. We developed a cognitive
mapping approach (CMASOP) for comparing and clustering these systems within the social-ecological environment. In this paper, we introduce the two methods we used to implement our approach and report on the results of applying them in a study of grassland
management in livestock grazing systems in Belgium. The comparison showed that systems of practice categorized according
to certain descriptive factors (geographical, technical orientation) had some significant di erences. The clustering of cognitive
maps provided the basis for establishing a typology of the systems of practice. The comparative analysis of clusters revealed very
significant di erences among factors closer to the studied issue (grass forage management) than was the case with the approaches
based on descriptive factors. Our study demonstrated that, in studies of the diversity of systems of practice, using a combination of
statistical methods and semi-qualitative modelling can take account of the inherent complexity of these systems.


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