Wetenschap - 6 april 1995

Beginning the Next Chapter...

Beginning the Next Chapter...

With a trimester drawing to a close, MSc students are rounding off the last compulsory courses before diving head first into research and thesis writing. Several students from Management of Agricultural Knowledge Systems (MAKS) and Crop Science MSC programmes share what they have got out of the courses and assess how prepared they are as they set out to do research.

Before coming to Wageningen to do the MAKS programme Hexin Chen, from China, studied classical Chinese literature and worked as a secretary at the Otis Elevator Company. As she admits, I didn't know much about agriculture when I came here and I had to learn a lot. My thesis topic is the Gender Division of Labour in South China. I am analyzing actors using the methodologies of Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Knowledge Systems (RAAKS)." Karma Tashi from Bhutan is a colleague of Hexin. He is enthusiastic about the possibilities of applying the methodologies and concepts he's learned here. I am an extension worker in Bhutan and getting the crop, livestock and forestry people to work together at the village (block) level as a disciplinary team has been a challenge. I want to see if the RAAKS methodology of bringing the stake holders together for dialogue, can improve the way in which they work together and help the farmers. My research is looking at how the image of t
he extension agents could be changed to one of facilitators. It's only my opinion, but I think that it is quite shaky to only talk about the shaping and reshaping of dynamics. That's why I am choosing RAAKS because at least you can do something rather than keep talking without changing - all in the name of discourse analysis."

Although Tashi is prepared with his methodologies, he says, The Thesis Path course could have asked different questions. It focuses upon the structure of the thesis etc., but I think that it is a bit detached from the theoretical framework of the things we learn in MAKS, such as the systems perspective and the actor-oriented approach. It would be better if we were asking questions such as, How can we change the practice through the theory?, and How to relate the theoretical perspectives to explain the research problem?"

Farmer and Fisherman

Suriyan, Thai participant in the MAKS course, has a background in fisheries but he feels it is possible to connect farmer and fisherman. The main concepts that I've learned here are in extension science, how to educate people through non-formal education, and how to study the sociology of structure. I have had to do a lot of translating to see if what happens to the farmer happens to the fisherman. In terms of the procedures, I feel prepared. Nobody tells you directly what you should do but when I go back to do my field work, I'm going to use all the broad concepts I've learned on collecting data and conducting interviews."

Not all the MSc students return to their home countries for field work. As Programme Director Eveleens of Crop Science explains, You don't have to be in your own country to do relevant research. Many students can do research through the institutions here in Wageningen. Students in Crop Breeding can do research through the Centre for Plant Reproduction and Breeding Research (CPRO) for example. We don't stimulate going back to one's home country for research. Our experience is that it takes a lot of time to get settled and it can only be done within a good institutional framework. Moreover, interaction with supervisors decreases when the student is dropped back into his or her own environment. The most important thing is the educational experience and learning how to do independent research."

Gloria Hernandez from Chile, is specializing in Protected Cultivation, in the Crop Science Programme. In terms of being prepared for research, Gloria admits that the simulation models which she learned here in Wageningen are especially interesting. We don't have a long history of green house experience, and in order to improve the way things are going in the flower industry at home, you should get that knowledge from outside. I am studying freesias and I want to get an idea of how certain flowers are received in the market. You have to observe these things," she tells. Going back to Chile for research would not make sense for Gloria, as she explains, My work has already begun: I have been to the research station Naaldwijk to look around and I have also read about production and visited a flower company. We don't yet have widespread freesia production in Chili. Perhaps this is a new flower for us to discover." Gloria's specific focus will be upon the induction
of the flower. As she puts it, Looking at the different air and soil temperatures when the upper part of the plant says hey no more leaves - now flowers."