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Aquaculture CanadaOM 2009

Hybrid Aquaculture Research: the Case of Dedza, Malawi
Jessica Anderson Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada, V8W 3R4, (250)-721-6377 (
Abstract Recent research acknowledges the natural and social dimensions of aquaculture systems. However, studies often create an artificial divide by attempting to address each aspect in isolation. Social science research has tended to overlook the biophysical aspects of aquaculture, while scientific research has uncritically accepted orthodox explanations of environmental outcomes without recognizing the social construction of such systems. This research analyses the case of small-scale tilapia aquaculture in Malawi and presents evidence to support the central argument that aquaculture systems must be addressed through hybrid research. The social dimension of this research reveals that fish farmers in Malawi are rejecting practices which do not work in the local context (fertilization with pond mud) and adopting strategies that do work (irrigation with pond water). The physical component of this research compliments the social by elucidating that irrigation with pond water resulted in higher soil nutrient and moisture content. It is argued that understanding aquaculture impacts on ecosystems may only be achieved through locally-based hybrid research methods that recognize the complex, connected nature of these systems.

Introduction Over the last several decades, there has been an increased emphasis on understanding the social and ecological complexities of rural agricultural communities in the global south1. However, research can create an artificial divide by attempting to address each aspect in isolation. Social science research can overlook the biophysical realities of rural agricultural systems, while research in the natural sciences can uncritically accept conventional explanations of environmental processes without acknowledging the social construction of such systems2. By integrating the research philosophies of social and ecological sciences, we can address these systems in ways that may illuminate new understandings and expand

the range on concepts available. For the purposes of this paper, research perspectives that challenge the separation of research methodologies, and bridge the gap between social and ecological research by acknowledging that most research questions require investigation through both social and ecological research methods, will be referred to as hybrid research3. This type of research may be especially important for addressing rural agricultural systems because by definition they encompass phenomena that are both social and ecological. The aim of this research is to contribute to the conversation about the ability of hybrid research to facilitate understandings of complex rural agricultural systems. This is attempted not in the abstract, but by subjecting theoretical claims about hybrid

AAC Spec. Publ. No. 15 (2009)

Methods Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. thus increasing resource efficiency on the farm. Zn. the economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and over eighty-five percent of the population lives in rural areas4.001). a method of bucketing pond water onto maize crops was developed by farmers and adopted in order to cope with dry soil conditions.Aquaculture CanadaOM 2009 research to the complications of empirical analysis. Results The social component of this study indicated that fish farmers in Dedza are active social agents. + Mehlich 3-extractable P. economic and environmental constraints and adapting it accordingly. addressed attitudes towards the benefits and challenges associated with fish farming in Dedza.05). Canada. Rural agricultural research therefore. such as soil nutrient dynamics. the pond produces fish and water for irrigation. Qualitative data. despite the fact that the technique was taught by extension agents and is published as one of the benefits of IAA in Dedza5. The physical component of this study built upon the social results. Soils that had been irrigated with pond water had significantly higher levels of N (P<0. exist and produce direct implications on local livelihoods. Malawi. the fish pond is designed to capitalize on outputs from the agricultural system. K . needs to appreciate how both the biophysical AAC Spec. Total Kjeldahl-N (TKN) content was determined by the micro-Kjeldahl digestion procedure6. Composite soil samples were collected from maize fields that had been irrigated with pond water and maize fields that had not. However. The social component of this study consisted of forty-five semi-structured interviews. Ca+ (P <0. through the case of integrated agriculture-aquaculture (IAA) in Dedza. capable of evaluating an agricultural technology in accordance with their social. such as crop residues. thirty were randomly selected for soil sampling.001) and soil moisture (P <0. Participation was based on farmers’ willingness to partake in the research and their involvement in integrated aquaculture.05) in comparison to soils that had not been irrigated. The participants were also free to raise subjects of personal concern or local issues. Farmers rejected the practice of maize fertilization with pond mud due to labour and equipment constraints. In an IAA system. The dried soil samples were transported to York University. Publ. Discussion Recent development research has stressed the context specific nature of environmental perceptions and the inability of outsiders to appreciate environmental problems 1 experienced by local groups . which may otherwise have been wasted. No. The context of this study was the aftermath of a 5 year development project by Concern Universal. Alternatively. In return. 15 (2009) . Mg2+ (P <0. theoretical debates alone may be insufficient when attempting to address an agricultural system in which biophysical realities. Of the forty-five semi-structured interviews. At Bunda College. Irrigation with pond water was used as the variable for comparison. Oneway ANOVA tests were conducted to analyze for differences between land use groups. collected in open ended questions. soil samples were immediately analyzed for soil moisture content and pH. The KolmogorovSmirnov test for normality was performed on all data to ensure they met the assumption of a normal distribution. through which IAA had been introduced in Dedza5. Mg2+and Ca+ were determined7.

No.pdf>. Rainfall in Malawi is the most limiting factor in crop production. 2007. 595– 624.malawi. Batterbury S. a hybrid research approach has proven to be a powerful tool through which to investigate how local adaptations may influence the physical environment and how the physical environment influences local livelihoods. 15 (2009) . Mehlich 3 soil test extractant: a modification of Mehlich 2 extractant. Malawi for sharing their time.concernuniversal. 1984. were exposed. Peet R. London. connected nature of these systems. Mulvaney CS. 1982. nuances of fish farming in Dedza. 6. and one strategy will not always work in every situation. Thomson K. Watts M. geographies: natures Sage. making irrigation extremely important8.>. 5. Whatmore S. However. 2006. Mulwafu WO. 1960s–2002. 2006. The experience of irrigation management transfer in two irrigation schemes in Malawi. Phys Chem Earth Pt C 29(15-18): 1327-1333. Nkhoma BG. 4. Nitrogen—Total. 1996. I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Timothy Njovu. 8. 1997.Aquaculture CanadaOM 2009 realities and the perceptions of local farmers impact on the system2. Liberation Ecologies. ed). Accessed March 1. pp. Commun Soil Sci Plan 5(12): 1409-1416. Taly Drezner. it must make both social and ecological sense in the local context. AAC Spec. References 1. Methods of soil analysis (AL Page. Geogr J 163(2): 126132.nso. <http://www. 2009. Concern Universal Malawi Annual Report 2005-2006. Emanuel Kaunda. Fish farmers in Dedza demonstrated their agency by modifying pond use in accordance with their local needs. which would have been overlooked using a traditional approach. Malawi%20annualreport. American Society of Agronomy. 7. Accessed October 1. 2004. National Statistics Office of Malawi. cultures Hybrid spaces. In order for IAA to be a beneficial and sustainable farming activity. Madison. The physical component of this study confirmed that crop irrigation with pond water increased soil nutrient and moisture levels. 3. ideas and experiences with me. London. Robin Roth and Jackson Langat. It is acknowledged that choosing a research strategy is context dependent. <http://www. By employing a hybrid research approach. Forsyth T. Publ. 2002. It is argued that understanding this type of system may only be achieved through locally-based hybrid research methods that recognize the complex. Bremmer JM. Mehlich A. Environmental transformations in developing countries: hybrid research and democratic policy. Routledge. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the research participants from Dedza. when addressing rural agricultural systems.