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Type: Theses
Title: Establishing an evolutionary learning laboratory for labour saving innovations for women smallholder farmers in Vietnam
Author: Ha, Tuan Minh
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: Business School
Abstract: Various shortcomings have been revealed in many development efforts using conventional supply-driven and/or top-down approaches with linear vision in developing countries, including labour saving initiatives for the disadvantaged and marginalised groups. Various failures, unintended consequences and even counterproductive outcomes have been evident. Solutions and interventions tend to ignore local contexts, affordability, participation and needs of targeted groups. The inability of traditional approaches to deal with complexities and uncertainties of socio-cultural contexts, interwoven with relationships of both environmental and human factors across regions have highlighted a high need for developing and embracing more holistic and participatory approaches and structured frameworks to address complex problems. In response to gender-biased labour hardship of women smallholders in the developing world, this study employed the systems-based Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) approach, aiming at formulating the most economically, environmentally, culturally and socially appropriate systemic solutions to labour constraints. The latter is a prominent issue pre-determined by a funding body, for women small-scale farmers in rural areas of Haiphong, Vietnam. The first five steps of the ELLab were implemented with active participation of representatives of the target group and relevant stakeholders in the planning phase. This started from identifying issues, building local capacity, engagement and empowerment of the participants throughout problem structuring and decision making processes via a participative, interactive and co-learning environment towards developing a systemic management plan to address the real needs of the women farmers. In-depth analyses through a baseline survey and a number of interactive workshops helped to understand and frame the context through developing a big picture (systems model) of the current situation. The model depicts a complex life situation and interconnectedness of various factors influencing the quality of life of the women farmers. Increasing income turned out to be the most urgent need, followed by the needs for reducing work pressure and improving health. Labour hardship was found just part of many interrelated issues. The decision making process with the aid of systems and relevant management tools enabled the participants to define systemic interventions and develop an overall systemic management plan to address their real needs. The identified solutions support one another to address the labour hardship of the women and improve the quality of their lives as a whole. This study has clearly proven the value and validity of the systems-based participative ELLab as an effective and powerful problem-structuring and solving framework to deal with complex problem across contexts and regions. It embraces bottom-up and participatory approaches in practice, builds capacity of local people and changes the mindsets of stakeholders involved from traditional linear and silo thinking to a more holistic and interconnected way of thinking that leads to appropriate actions and mutual collaboration. The study has addressed drawbacks of other approaches and provided substantial theoretical and practical contributions to various disciplines. These include community development, operational research, gender studies, agricultural systems research and development, participatory action research, project stakeholder and knowledge management, and organisational learning. It has also laid a strong foundation for future research in the mentioned fields.
Advisor: Bosch, Ockie
Nguyen, Nam
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) (Research by Publication) -- University of Adelaide, Business School, 2016.
Keywords: evolutionary learning laboratory
quality of life
women smallholder farmers
systems thinking
systemic interventions
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