Evolutionary approach to farming decision making on extensive rangelands
In more than 25 years, a simplistic model of farm decision making has been used to support agricultural policy, research and extension without considering socioeconomic and environmental sustainability. The basic assumptions of policy development were based on an “average farmer” and the marginal value of money completely ignoring the marginal social value. This research claims the need of a more holistic “model” of decision making at farm level, where i) behaviour diversity is recognised in farmers' populations and ii) the dynamic and evolutionary interrelationships between the farm, the farmer, the family and trusted people as a unit of resource allocation, are considered.The objectives of this work are to: i) improve the understanding of the decision making process at farm level ii) develop decision concepts for research and extension agencies and policy makers and iii) demonstrate that rural peoples’ knowledge plays an important role in development.A selective review of the main approaches and of descriptive models used to analyse decision making, a survey and a case study analysis is undertaken in order to develop: i) a conceptual background for classifying decision making units into different behavioural Types and ii) to develop a general “model” of the structure of the farm decision making unit’s “natural” decision support system actually used by farmers. Multivariate techniques were used to establish and validate the classification. Several implications for policy makers, information generators and data transmitters underlying the study were identified.