Knowledge acquisition in an uncertain environment: Tilapia cage farmer decision-making in northeast Thailand
Based on an alternative approach to farmer decision-making research, this research looked at how tilapia cage farmers in Northeast Thailand made their decisions from their perspectives. It aimed at understanding how cage farmers acquire knowledge responding to the uncertain socio-natural environmental conditions to maintain and improve their livelihood. The research objectives were formulated to describe cage farmer perspectives and knowledge systems concerning tilapia cage farming--the key components for their decision-making, to explore how these components interplayed and affected decision-making, and to offer a conceptual model of farmer decision-making. According to the knowledge systems perspective knowledge is considered to be a social construct resulting from interactions between the farmers and other social actors. Consequently, local knowledge is considered to be as valid as scientific knowledge for farmers to use in rational decision-making. The literature review revealed that decision-making is influenced by the decision-maker's perspective about reality and knowledge systems. A model of farmer decision-making was developed and used as a conceptual framework for the research. Research methodology applied in this study was a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The main respondents were 73 tilapia cage farmers and 12 non-cage farmers in the province of Khon Kean and Ubon Ratchathani locating in the Northeastern Region of Thailand. Data were mainly collected through a semi-structured and a non-directive interviewing technique. The research showed that farmer decision-making is not a uniform process but rather a dynamic social process evolving around the local socio-natural environmental conditions and is unique to each decision-maker. Construction of knowledge for decision-making is a result of the interplay by various factors including socio-natural environment, cage farmer presuppositions about reality and their knowledge systems. The cage farmer decision-making model created from previous literature was revised to illustrate relationships between decision outcomes, perspectives, knowledge systems and the local environmental conditions of decision-making. This research provided a number of recommendations for research and practice, particularly for sustainable aquaculture extension in Thailand.