Dr Rhiannon Fisher (Royal Ag College & CCRI) has published a paper in the Journal of Rural Studies exploring the role of farmers’ social networks in increasing their access to information and knowledge relating to bovine tuberculosis.

Rhiannon says about the paper, ‘in-depth interviews with farmers found high levels of distrust between farmers and the government which is currently preventing successful knowledge transfer. As such, farmers’ uptake of disease control measures recommended by the government is limited, particularly in relation to biosecurity. The paper emphasises the need for regular and consistent contact between farmers and government representative to build trusting relationship through which information and knowledge can be successfully communicated’.

The paper can be found here

Abstract

This paper explores the role of various social ties in building trust and providing opportunities for information acquisition and knowledge exchange (IAKE). Social capital is used as a vehicle to explore the relationships between farmers and their advisors using bovine tuberculosis (bTB), a major disease facing the English cattle industry, as a case study. Much research on social capital and IAKE has been conducted within the field of rural sociology, but very little relates specifically to bTB. Exploratory findings suggest that trust provides an essential catalyst enabling passive information to be transformed into usable knowledge. Levels of ‘linking’ social capital between farmers and the government were found to be low, engendered by high levels of distrust and a lack of confidence in the information provided. In comparison, high levels of ‘bridging’ social capital between farmers and vets were found, brought about by long-term, regular and consistent contact, associated with high levels of trust and knowledge transfer. ‘Bonding’ social capital was also important in encouraging knowledge exchange among farmers, although overly close ties were shown to potentially lead to the emergence of exclusive networks and, consequently, the development of distrust. The implications for bTB policy and further research are discussed.

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