Soil conservation in Swiss agriculture - Approaching abstract and symbolic meanings in farmers' life-worlds

Schneider, Flurina; Ledermann, Thomas; Fry, Patricia; Rist, Stephan (2010). Soil conservation in Swiss agriculture - Approaching abstract and symbolic meanings in farmers' life-worlds. Land use policy, 27(1), pp. 332-339. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.landusepol.2009.04.007

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This paper explores the significance of ‘life-worlds’ for better understanding why farmers adopt or reject soil conservation measures and for identifying basic dimensions to be covered by social learning processes in Swiss agricultural soil protection. The study showed that farmers interpret soil erosion and soil conservation measures against the background of their entire life-world. By doing so, farmers consider abstract and symbolic meanings of soil conservation. This is, soil conservation measures have to be feasible and practical in the everyday farming routine, however, they also have to correspond with their aesthetic perception, their value system and their personal and professional identities. Consequently, by switching to soil conservation measures such as no-tillage farmers have to adapt not only the routines of their daily farming life, but also their perception of the aesthetics of cultivated land, underlying values and images of themselves. Major differences between farmers who adopt and farmers who reject no-tillage were found to depend on the degree of coherence they could create between the abstract and symbolic meanings of the soil conservation measure. From this perspective, implementation of soil protection measures faces the challenge of facilitating interactions between farmers, experts and scientists at a ‘deeper’ level, with an awareness of all significant dimensions that characterise the life-world. The paper argues that a certain level of shared symbolic meaning is essential to achieving mutual understanding in social learning processes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Critical Sustainability Studies (CSS)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > NCCR North-South Management Centre [discontinued]
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Schneider, Flurina, Rist, Stephan


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Elsevier Science




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:19

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:05

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URI: (FactScience: 211018)

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