Combining farmer innovation and medic pasture in a Mediterranean climate


Lynne Chatterton

and Brian Chatterton.

First published by Cambridge University Press 1996

Reprinted in soft covers 2005

Available online 2012

Return to Home

Sheep and wheat are the staples of dryland farms in the Mediterranean zone of the Northern Hemisphere. The commonly used dryland farming system introduced in the 1950s is proving unsustainable. Erosion has reached a critical level and pastures have all but disappeared. Experts advise more cropping (forage crops for instance) and more fertiliser. Yet intensification of the present system will only hasten erosion. Is there an alternative system that is both environmentally sustainable and within the means of most farmers in the region? Innovative farmers in similar climates in Australia discovered a sustainable rotation using annual medic as both fertiliser and pasture. Attempts to transfer their knowledge have foundered. Why is this so? How much do experts know about this system? This book pulls apart the warp and weft of development on dryland farms to find some answers to these questions.

ISBN 0-521-33141-2 339 pages. b/w photos Available in Hardback, soft covers and ebook.

A preview is avaibale on

Cambridge University Press Bookshop


Middle East and Africa Water Review (MEWREW) No 6 April 1996

There are few books which provide a sound interdisciplinary analysis of successful crop and livestock production systems developed by farmers themselves. This is understandable because the authors of such studies are scientists and not farmers and they emphasise the science and research centre perspective. This book identifies very clearly the foundation built by farmer practitioners in dryand South Australia. The book successfully profiles the remarkable adjustments made by farmers arriving from England in the nineteenth century to the unfamiliar semi-arid summer drought regime of South Australia. The inability of the agricultural science community, inspired by concepts and practice in humid Europe, repeatedly to grasp the solutions provided by innovative farmers has been repeated in dryland farming world-wide. The authors carefully document the experience in the Middle East and North Africa where they were involved in farmer extension. The book catalogues the difficulties of success and the dreadful misuse of resources, which result from asserting wrong-headed science whether by staff from local research centres or as a basis for overseas assistance.

The barriers between the technocrat and the expert farmer are stubborn. Both groups feel superior to each other. The technocrat is open about his belief in his own superiority, the farmer is more covert and only admits his feelings to other farmers.

A valuable feature of the book is the close observation and analysis of the politics of agricultural change and agricultural management, "National agencies within the development agencies ... determine the type and origin of farm machinery that goes into aid programmes and the content of the programmes and its objectives. Australia is the only country where the medic farming system exists has a small network and it plays a minor and quite feeble role in the big aid world."

This is a book that should be on the shelves of all libraries in institutions world-wide concerned with agricultural science, all aspects of development studies and related specialisations as well as international agencies and NGOs.

Tony Allan

Adelaide Review December 1996

The most innovative interpreters of Australian conditions often prefer to recall and analyse in tranquillity offshore. The oldest University Press in the world supported Brian and Lynne Chatterton's investigation into innovative farming techniques developed in South Australia in the oldest and driest continent because their work has a vital environmental message. This is an important and exhaustively documented research by a pair who moved to Montegabbione to be close to North Africa and the Near East where delivery of information in the Mediterranean basin can have such a transforming effect.

Tony Griffiths

Annals of Botany No 78 1996

In many respects the book is written with evangelical enthusiasm, because the authors have witnessed the success of the system in South Australia and are convinced of its applicability to regions around and close to the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of considerable efforts by the authors and their collaborators the technology has been introduced widely in the region.

I enjoyed reading this text, partly because the enthusiasm of the authors comes through in their writing. It is well presented with good quality black and white photographs, text figures and tables. If you have ever been frustrated when endeavouring to promote what you think is a good idea, this book will strike a common chord with you!

Stephen Nortcliff

Australian Geographical Studies Vol 35 No 2 July 1667

The book is a fascinating insight into the mechanics and psychologies of development projects. It provides a sobering insight into what can go wrong, despite the best intentions, when information transfer attempts to transform management.

R.L. Heathcote

Available from Cambridge University Press and all good bookshops around the world.