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When does Innovation Become Custom? A Case Study of the Montado, Southern Portugal

Guimarães, Helena, Esgalhado, Catarina, Ferraz-de-Oliveira, Isabel, Pinto-Correia, Teresa
Open Agriculture 2019 v.4 no.1 pp. 144-158
case studies, issues and policy, markets, Portugal
In theory, if a new idea offers a good solution for a current problem and is properly widespread, then there is an ongoing brokering process, and, at a certain moment in time, an innovation is no longer considered as such. In the present study, we examine the case of the Montado, an agro-silvo-pastoral system in southern Portugal, to reflect on when and how innovations become custom. Integrating data from 2013 and 2017, we identified innovative initiatives that, if expanded, could reverse the current decline of the Montado system. We categorized the identified innovations as 1) social and institutional, 2) regulations and policies, 3) products and markets, and 4) farming techniques and management practices. Innovation is deemed necessary for the preservation of the Montado, yet initiatives that have existed for over 20 years are still considered innovative and an exception to the rule. At least since 2013, innovationbrokering processes have been attempted, leading us to question why these innovations are not becoming custom. By examining categories of innovations, we suggest that for innovations to become custom, changes in social and institutional arrangements need to be reinforced by regulations and policies that support changes in products and markets as well as by the adoption of new farming techniques and management practices. We conclude by suggesting a research agenda that starts aligning the evolution of the Montado system with the desired future as soon as possible.