The vital function of the network will be as an organic agricultural learning and sharing platform among partners, where successful practices can be shared and adapted, and local wisdom and new technologies merged. This will ensure practical models are accessible for wider target groups of existing and new farmers, to integrate and apply.
Learning through cross-country visits will support integrated learning, expanding beyond agricultural practices to the multidimensional context they are situated within. Also, a focus on intergenerational learning between elders and young and new generation farmers will be important for the future of agriculture, to ensure lessons from the past are learnt from, as well as local wisdom in the form of skills, stories and ideas are passed on, and integrated into the creation of solutions for today’s challenges.
Action Research and Advocacy:
Action Research is an important tool for knowledge building, connecting academics and practitioners. It is a foundational approach utilized across the region in sustainable development actions by a wide range of stakeholders, merging action-oriented activity and evidence-based academic work. A multi-level participatory action research platform at local, national, regional and international levels can create innovation and contribute to better understanding of organic agriculture in different contexts. It is also a vital mechanism to provide research for policy development and advocacy at national and regional levels.
The research component is expected to add an important body of data from which further action plans will be planned. The research will be facilitated by network partners at a country level, from which cross-country comparisons could be made and a more inclusive picture of organic agriculture the Mekong region developed. The research will take place alongside continuing actions, and will inform future plans developed by the working groups.
There is need for technical exchanges among regional countries that can support small farmers transitioning to organic agriculture, as well as to share local wisdom and technologies that are contextually appropriate. Exchange platforms for technical support would also ensure that learning is derived through shared experience and non-hierarchically, which builds confidence in farmers and their communities, validating their knowledge, and strengthening self-reliance.
Seeds, appropriate technology and product development are important to improve productivity and create value-added for organic products. Technical exchanges and support on these issues will help farmers to develop proper skills for organic farming, as well as help them during the conversion period.
Consumer Education and Marketing:
Creating ‘mindful markets’ is an alternative model that realizes associative economies on the ground by creating tangible demand for organic agricultural produce. In ‘mindful markets’, rural producers and urban consumers care mutually for each others’ real needs: Care for people, care for food, care for landscapes, care for human habitat, care for culture.
In order to develop strong markets for organic products, consumers need to understand how the system works and a mutual learning process between producers and consumers needs to be set up. Alternative marketing mechanisms such as community-supported agriculture (CSA) and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) can narrow the gap between farmers and consumers and at the same time improves farmers’ quality of life.