Foot Soldiers of Development? The Role of Kyrgyzstani Treneri in Agricultural Knowledge Transfer
How are “foreign”, “imported” ideas and practices in agriculture actually brought to farmers in Central Asia? To address these questions, I focus on the central role of young Kyrgyzstani development workers as treneri, frequently employed to convey knowledge to rural Kyrgyzstani audiences. Most studies of development in the post-Soviet area have analysed the impact of different institutions and work on the assumption that mobile, global ideas are brought to the region (cf. Jones Luong and Weinthal, 1999; Mandel, 2002; Silova and Steiner-Khamis, 2008; Buxton, 2011). To some extent, such a description reflects the perception of all actors concerned that there are “local” and “global”/“international” categories of people and ideas. This chapter questions these binaries by investigating the actual practice of knowledge transfer through treningi (Russian adaptation of “training”). Awareness of the agency of treneri (R: trainers) and – from a planner’s perspective – their unintended side effects (Ferguson, 1994) allows us to take account of these in programmes supporting sustainable agriculture in Central Asia. Investigating the role of treneri, who are at the forefront of development efforts, allows us to reflect critically on these efforts and highlights larger processes and relationships, such as expectations of the state and international community, or rural-urban relations.1
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork since 2010, I discuss the trening methodology and aims of several well established agricultural and environmental NGOs in Kyrgyzstan.2 Below, I draw on forms of participant ← 73 | 74 → observation that included taking part in training sessions for NGO-workers and...
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