Time to rethink the role of the expert

Photo credit: Bangin (wikicommons)

It is high time to re-evaluate the role of the expert: “We are living in a world that is coming to an end in the way that we have known it and now we have to come up with a new one,” says Dr Jacques Testart, president of Sciences Citoyennes (Science for Citizens).

In the video clip, he explains his reasoning to Dr Michel Pimbert – Agroecology and Food Sovereignty team leader of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The conversation was recorded citizens/farmers jury, where West African food producers were presenting their needs and expectations of agricultural research. Dr Testart had been giving evidence during a session of the gathering.

The peasant economy is built on sharing knowledge and resources with a shared goal. “They are used to tackling complex problems together,” Testart explains. This applies to agricultural policy in Europe as much as it does to the developing world.

When an expert arrives, Testart explains, (s)he knows a lot about a very small area and will “…polarise findings in favour of what (s)he knows, setting aside what other people say.” The result is a series of lost opportunities for all concerned.

“Ten years ago I didn’t believe that ordinary people could have an opinion on technological matters that could be so relevant that it has to be taken into account.” The originality of the presentations that were assembled for the discussions impressed Testart immensely.

The video is one of a series of compelling social documents that IIED published with its report Democratising Agricultural Research for Food Sovereignty in West Africa. The originals are recorded mainly in French, of which three now have English subtitles and one was recorded in English.

Peter Crosskey
About Peter Crosskey 283 Articles
Peter Crosskey is based in the UK.