Espacios. Vol. 37 (Nº 22) Año 2016. Pág. 4

Agricultural diversification and management of tacit knowledge in rural properties Brazil

Diversificación agrícola y la gestión del conocimiento tácito en las propiedades rurales de Brasil

Ana Paula Silva dos SANTOS 1; Cristina Keiko YAMAGUCHI 2; Adriana Carvalho Pinto VIEIRA 3; Melissa WATANABE 4

Recibido: 25/03/16 • Aprobado: 12/04/2016


1. Introduction

2. Theoretical foundations

3. Methodological procedures

4. Results and discussion

5. Final considerations




Agricultural diversification is important to rural producers that seek to attend economical needs of family farming. This strategy assures production towards instabilities caused by market, as well as weather conditions, allowing the livelihoods and promoting favorable conditions for extra income, providing economic, social and environmental competitiveness. In this context, this study intends to determine the use of actions of tacit knowledge in agricultural diversification of Brazilian family farmers. For this purpose, this study is characterized as interdisciplinary, using a qualitative, exploratory, descriptive approach, with the strategy of bibliographical research, multiple case study, interview and documental data. Non-uniformity was noticed, nor an action consensus of knowledge management in the studies found, in the performance of productive diversification in Brazilian family farmers. The interviewees showed that practical and technical knowledge were considered important, however, there was no continuous applicability in the interviewed and in the samples searched from Scopus repository, most of times resulting from the comprehension of a technique in its complete concept. The relevance of knowledge management was shown for the competitive positioning of rural producers interviewed and the theoretical sample components, once these producers seek to implement new technologies. Private and governmental foment were also perceptible, emphasizing the sampling interviewed, in which the foment helps in the development and, at the same time, limits the possibility of implementing innovations in production. Another factor responsible for the increase of properties was knowledge sharing among other rural producers and their heirs.
Keywords: Knowledge Management; Agricultural diversification; Brazilian agricultural properties.


La diversificación agrícola es importante para los productores rurales que buscan atender necesidades económicas de la agricultura familiar. Esta estrategia asegura la producción hacia la inestabilidad causada por el mercado, así como las condiciones climáticas, permitiendo que los medios de subsistencia y promover condiciones favorables para ingresos extra, proporcionando competitividad económica, social y ambiental. En este contexto, este estudio pretende determinar el uso de acciones de conocimiento tácito en la diversificación agrícola de los agricultores familiares brasileños. Para ello, este estudio se caracteriza por ser interdisciplinario, con un enfoque cualitativo, exploratorio, descriptivo, con la estrategia de investigación bibliográfica, estudio de caso, entrevista y datos documentales. Uniformidad no fue notado, ni una acción de gestión del conocimiento en los estudios de consenso, en el ejercicio de diversificación productiva en la agricultura familiar brasileña. Los entrevistados mostraron que conocimientos prácticos y técnicos consideraron importante, sin embargo, no hubo ninguna aplicabilidad continua en los entrevistados y en las muestras desde el repositorio de Scopus, la mayor parte de veces resultante de la comprensión de una técnica en su concepto completo. La relevancia de la gestión del conocimiento fue demostrada para el posicionamiento competitivo de los productores rurales entrevistados y los componentes de la muestra teórica, una vez que los productores pretenden implementar nuevas tecnologías. Privadas y gubernamental de fomento también fueron perceptibles, destacando el muestreo entrevistado, en la cual el fomento ayuda en el desarrollo y, al mismo tiempo, limita la posibilidad de implementar innovaciones en la producción. Otro factor responsable del aumento del costo de las propiedades era conocimiento compartido entre otros productores rurales y a sus herederos.
Palabras clave: Gestión del conocimiento; Diversificación agrícola; Propiedades agrícolas brasileños.

1. Introduction

Knowledge is the foundation of technological innovation. The facility of world nowadays is a result of a hard research work. Nevertheless, the use of knowledge already planned, by means of re-readings of studies allows a continuous knowledge, in an increasingly efficient process. The process of acquisition, storage and sharing of knowledge is part of a cycle denominate knowledge management (SOUZA, 2006; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

To Takeuchi and Nonaka (2008), knowledge is presented in two forms: explicit knowledge, which can be easily codified; and tacit knowledge, which is difficult to be formalized. The convergence from tacit knowledge into explicit and from explicit into tacit obtains more knowledge. As a complement, the authors also formulate the process by which this conversion of knowledge occurs. This process is known as SECI model: socialization, externalization, combination and internalization.

The knowledge created does not give advantage to the organization, if it is not shared and applied. Tonet and Paz (2006) describe four phases: introduction, implementation, support and incorporation. In the end of this cycle, the knowledge created and shared started to be used by the organization. Taking into account that the principal player in this process is the human being, the reflection of their abilities and attitudes is visible (TERRA, 2005).

The present study is based on theories of knowledge management and agriculture diversification where there is a production of two or more crops in the farm land (MAPA, 2009; RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--). Given this scenario, this study aims to know the use of knowledge management actions in the implementation of agricultural diversification of properties in the municipality of Timbé do Sul, state of Santa Catarina, and in the sample drawn from rural Scopus repository.

2. Theoretical foundations

In order to understand better the constituted study, Section 2 and subsections present concepts already formulated by other researchers on this subject, which deepened the research. As a result, subsection 2.1 approaches the subject knowledge management, their concepts, importance, shapes and applications. Subsection 2.2 approaches the difference between integrated production and agriculture diversification.

2.1 Knowledge management

In the age of knowledge, this is described as relevant and strategic. Static knowledge, however, is not valuable. In this way, the use of information technology and communication is crucial. Investments in knowledge are necessary to increase it (SOUZA, 2006).

The transition to a time where the focus of development is knowledge, directs the way organizations are positioned in relation to the competitiveness. There is also a need for a broad worldwide competitive view, resulting from the elimination of borders. A long time ago, market positioning depended on an advantageous geographic location, low labor cost, natural resources and investment capital. Thus, a transition between the emphasis in organizations' material assets values to intellectual assets values (SOUZA, 2006; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

Since economic opening to external market and the competition with other markets, many of them with a development level superior to national levels, Brazil is being pressured to build a policy towards improvement of S&T (Science and Technology), cooperation between research institutions, as well as investments in R&D (Research and Development) by private sector. In addition, the need for investment in technology and education was noted (SOUZA, 2006; TERRA, 2005).

This scenario is characterized as knowledge management and assures the process of organization positioning, when knowledge managed is produced internally or acquired externally, by identifying, managing, keeping and disseminating it through the institution. Knowledge is generated by means of data conversion from information into knowledge (TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008).

To Takeuchi and Nonaka (2008), knowledge management is divided into explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is characterized as easily understandable and shareable and its transmission occurs by means of writing, with words and numbers, sounds, images and videos. Tacit knowledge is presented informally, directly linked to experience, and can be found in three perspectives: know how, related to techniques; insights, such as tips; and cognitive, such as beliefs, values and emotions.

Knowledge can be created through a process called SECI model or spiral, which has four stages: socialization, externalization, combination and internalization. In the first stage, socialization, the tacit knowledge is converted into tacit and knowledge sharing happens through face-to-face contact by means of an interchange by language and by practice. In the second stage, externalization, sharing happens in the transformation of tacit knowledge into explicit, by means of the interaction of the individual with a group, using language and reflection. The combination is a result of the transformation of explicit knowledge into explicit, reflecting the group's knowledge to the organization. Finally, internalization is a result of the convergence from explicit into tacit knowledge, which happens from the organization to the individual, in which learning happens by means of practice (TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008).

Worth to remember that creating knowledge is directly linked to technology. When the use of technology or techniques is limited or low, there is a low knowledge sharing and, therefore, lower economic performance. The current environment is presented as opportune for knowledge sharing, in organizations seek to re-invent themselves towards new challenges (TERRA, 2005).

The performance of knowledge management is presented by Terra (2005, p.2) in many stages of an organizational process: in the "[...] rule of top management, organizational culture and structure, human resources practices, impacts of information systems and results measurement, strategic alliances, etc.". Therefore, the employee must seek continuous learning, characterizing the organization as a maintainer of a culture towards knowledge that allows creation of innovative ideas. In this context, knowledge does no need to be just internal, but can be acquired externally to the organization, transferring the responsibility of dissemination and storage of knowledge to the organization. External knowledge can be introduced in organization using partnerships with other companies. Knowledge storage presents three different stages: reference and material repository, easily accessible material that diminishes rework, expertise maps, characterized by being a database focused on human capital competences, and just-in-time knowledge tools that speed up the access to knowledge, regardless distance, such as video conference.

From the possibility of knowledge storage, knowledge sharing is necessary. Knowledge sharing has four stages: introduction, implementation, support and incorporation. Introduction is new knowledge are identified, analyzed and prepared for application. In implementation, the use and implementation of new knowledge happens. Support is described as follow up, helping in the implementation and encouragement of new abilities. To conclude, incorporation consists in the indiscriminate use of new knowledge inside the organization (TONET; PAZ, 2006).

The knowledge created, disseminated and stored is a result of the work developed by human capital. Therefore, values, competencies, abilities and experiences create knowledge and start development in organizations (TERRA, 2005).

Nevertheless, knowledge management is not a specific sector for one kind of organization. Its application involves innovation production, within a small, medium or large industrial or service company, in the production of primary and manufacturing sectors, creating and disseminating knowledge (TERRA, 2005). Complementing what has already been presented, the following section discusses concepts of integrated production, rural diversification and agricultural diversification.

2.2 Characteristics of integrated production, rural diversification and agricultural diversification

Integrated Production (PI) practice was named in 1997, with reference to production of fruits (PIF), governed by Normative Instruction number 27, of August 30, 2010, by Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply (MAPA, 2009).

In its constitution, the Integrated Production consists in ensuring rural products, while maintaining the sustainability and allowing a systemic view of the process by which the agricultural product aimed at quality. Regarding sustainability, the use of Integrated Production technique increases productivity, reduces the use of water, energy, chemicals and input, and protects the environment and quality of life. Integrated Production favors producers in relation to competitiveness, considering the possibility of traceability, which brings reliability (MAPA, 2009).

Rural diversification appears with a different objective. It consists on the simultaneous combination and application of two or more agricultural or non-agricultural activities in a property. This format includes service rendering, industrial activities and explored sectors in urban areas. Rural diversification is also known as pluralism and is related to a modern agriculture (SCHNEIDER, 2003; BEZUTTI; FRITZ FILHO; FRITZ, 2011).

Agricultural diversification is characterized as multifunctional, so that the farmer integrates one or more agricultural activities in order to achieve profitability, reduce risk and sometimes aiming to increase competitiveness in the market. Within this context there is the strengthening of the characteristics and traditions of a particular territory, sustainably developing the rural property (RATHMANN et al., 2008; WATANABE, 2009).

The decision of the crops produced is directly linked to biophysical issues, ie crops is sought best adapted the soil and climate issues and also market (WATANABE, 2009).

3. Methodological procedures

This study had as objective to know the use of knowledge management actions in agricultural diversification of Brazilian properties. Therefore, through collaboration of many areas, it is sought to develop a bibliographical, interdisciplinary multiple study. Then, different subjects co-operate with each other to enrich one another, although keeping their main characteristics. Interdisciplinarity helps in the development of studies, mostly to fulfill the gaps of disciplinary studies. So this paper describes the convergence of disciplines such as knowledge management; agricultural diversification; business; social and economic development (PHILIPPI JR.; SILVA NETO, 2011).

To reach the goal, the research approach is qualitative. The study is related to a depth of the subject, but not allowing quantification. In this way, the research cannot be considered an absolute truth, but helps in understanding a targeted audience (FREIRE, 2013).

The realization of the research has generated the approach of theme and the investigation of it. Craving the subject of improving the goal of research is exploratory. As a complement, helping the understanding of the subject, the research is also characterized as descriptive, since there is the issue of investigation and contains the relationship between the variables (GIL, 2009).

This research used multiple case studies and literature. Whereas secondary data were used, focused on scientific papers and documentary data (GIL, 2009).

The constitution of samples passed through five filters. The search has begun with the subject agricultural diversification, in December 15, 2014. Due to the use of Scopus repository, considered as an international database, the key word was typed in English. This first filter presented 396 studies, mostly published in the United States, being first studied in 1975 and last published in 2012.

The second filter consisted in separating studies published as articles (288 documents) and by nationality, mostly from the United States. The first publication was in 1975, and 2012 had the largest number of publications.

Filter three selected Brazilian articles (14 studies). Studies started in Brazil in 2007, and presented more representativeness in 2013. Regarding partnerships, Brazil held studies with Denmark, France, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States.

In order to deepen studies, a forth filter was used, with articles regarding Social Science. Seven studies published from 2009 were evidenced; 2012 and 2014 had a largest number of researches. In this field, Brazil developed more partnerships with Denmark and United Kingdom.  

Fifth and last filter was developed with reading four complete articles with no relation with agricultural diversification as a main subject. The process resulted from this sample is presented in Table 1:

Table 1 – Filtering




"agricultural diversification"









Subject Area: Social Sciences



Reading of the studies


Source: Created by the author based on research data

With the reading of three articles, the first article excluded by the filter 5 shows the integrated production of guarana, not showing a second crop (FILOCHE; PINTON, 2014). Another article excluded was about extraction processes and differentiated burned (SC – Shifting Cultivation and SBC - Slash and Burn Cultivation) and in only one paragraph, the use of agricultural diversification was exposed:

These standards reflect the complexity of diversification strategies applied by small producers. In fact, in these borders small-scale agriculture is characterized by complex production systems that combine SC, SBC, managed fallow lands, permanent crops, Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), agri-forestry systems, bovines and livestock small animals (VAN VLIET et al, 2013, p. 1460).

The third article was a meta-analysis about forests land cover and their replacement by agriculture (VAN VLIET et al, 2012). Finally, the forth study addressed the history of Brazilian agriculture with emphasis to the state of São Paulo (HENRIQUE, 2011).

The multiple study case is characterized by interviews applied in six rural properties located in the South of Santa Catarina state, being five of them located in Timbé do Sul and one in Forquilhinha. The interview was developed in accordance to questions showed in bibliographical study – in the present study, the technique used is research (GIL, 2009).

4. Results and discussion

With the objective of deepening the studies on the subject, the results of the research are divided into two moments. Firstly, the results of bibliographical research are showed; secondly, the results of field research are showed.

4.1 Bibliographical research

The research started by using a sample constituted of seven articles. After reading these articles, the authors realized that four of these studies did not addressed agricultural diversification, described by Schneider (2003); and Bezutti; Fritz Filho; Fritz (2011) as the production of two or more agricultural or livestock crops in the same area. One of the studies approached integrated production instead of agricultural diversification, characterized by MAPA (2009) by a follow-up in the production of a given crop, whose history is traceable. Table 2 presents three articles constituting the sample:

Table 2 – Characterization of the sample







RIQUINHO, Deise Lisboa

Agricultural diversification in small rural community in the South of Brazil: considerations and alternatives for the compliance of the Framework convention for tobacco control.



HENNINGTON, Élida Azevedo



NOVO, André

The Sugarcane-biofuel expansion and dairy farmers' responses in Brazil

Journal of Rural Studies






GEIST, Helmut J.

Tobacco growers at the crossroads: Towards a comparison of diversification and ecosystem impacts

Land Use Policy


CHANG, Kang-tsung


ETGES, Virginia

ABDALLAH, Jumanne M.

Source: Created by the author based on research data

Taking the research as a base, it is evident that the subject agricultural diversification is not often found in Scopus repository. The three studies of the sample were published in different journals, all internationally known. Two of these three articles study tobacco cultivation and aim diversification and, in some cases, substitution of production was taken into consideration. This situation results of constant attempts in the search for healthy habits of population.

The study developed by Riquinho and Hennington (2014) presents the history of a region characterized by peach production. However, due to difficulties in sales and in constituting a cooperative, peach production was replaced by a new opportunity: tobacco cultivation.

After changing plant cultivation, farm workers has lost their expertise about peach cultivation, knowledge related to pruning and grafting of seedlings, as well as the distance of social coexistence, considering the demands of tobacco production. The loss of expertise is related to the diminution of peach cultivation, by the reduction of researches and exchange of experiences. Due to social withdrawal among producers, the practice and knowledge sharing was reducing, leading to forgetfulness of the activities on the peach crop (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA 2005).

Market competitiveness, mostly after commercial opening, which conducted the dispute to a macro level, led diversification to have support of the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA). This organization developed projects in the diversification of tobacco cultivation areas, besides actions developed by EMATER (Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Company), allowing partnerships with Government, civil society, universities, research centers, financing, purchase of seedlings, micro-dams, fruit-growing equipment and technology, adding value to tobacco cultivation areas. Government still tries to raise population's awareness by means of formal education in schools and through informal education together with farm workers, with relation to the importance of diversification in tobacco cultivation areas (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; SOUZA, 2006; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

Another supporting program to develop diversification in production is the procurement policy of school meals, as farm workers are encouraged to produce without the use of agrochemicals and paying better values than industry. This makes farm workers look for new knowledge and new crop methods (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; SOUZA, 2006; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

In the studies developed by Riquinho and Hennington (2014) technological development has a great obstacle, such as low schooling and high percentage of illiteracy. The smallholders surveyed maintain the same management of crops for over 30 years with large planted area and little use of high-tech seeds, which has low productivity, significantly reducing the competitiveness in relation to the international market, and easily accessible by through import..  

The smallholders also say that access to technology is not remote; however, they often become aware of it with delay. Low schooling, little access to technology and international competitiveness are important factors in worldwide economic scenario and show that intangible assets are a competitive edge, showing that material assets are not success and value factor of a venture (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; SOUZA, 2006; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

Communication fail between smallholders and agricultural technicians occurs due to intellectual limitation and little desire of changing knowledge by the smallholders, as well as his/her shortsightedness of the smallholders not see their problems to seek solution to the technical. Without new knowledge either on the farm or through others stakeholders, there is no growth to remain in the market, thus requiring smallholders be encouraged to learning (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

A representative of EMBRAPA warned that, in the current scenario, in order to diversify, the producer need to change certain structures such as Market, credit, technical service, because sometimes people do not know how to start a new alternative. It has to be a well orchestrated set of actions, since motivation and diversification, until planning and execution together with agricultural producers. These actions have to be urgently taken. The farmers flow, looking for information at EMBRAPA, is huge. Groups of tobacco growers has been organized in municipalities by EMATER, city halls and entities that work with family agriculture in order to visit and know better the work of diversification proposed by EMBRAPA. Another challenge, according to the interviewee, is the loss of the tradition of cultivating food. At rural environment, nowadays, there are trucks selling vegetables, milk and even bread. How to change this reality? It does not happen from one day to another, it has to be built; they must have seeds, plant seedlings and have to have a plan (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014, p. 196).

However, it is clear that smallholders seek people that can help in the rescue of the knowledge updated in each situation. The fact that the aid come from persons who have a knowledge facilitates the search for knowledge, and this in turn not only shows the information format, but also a practical knowledge that facilitates understanding and replication in a certain way of planting (SOUZA, 2006; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA, 2005).

Environmental issues such as "ecobusiness" and social responsibility make the Government work towards diversification of crops. In addition, tobacco local industry has been, for years, supporting events together with public organizations. Among their objectives, they sell an image of environment friendly and favorable to healthy food organization, which induces children and adults to join tobacco plantation (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; SOUZA, 2006; TERRA, 2005).

For one of the family agriculture groups researched, there was a migration to a new plantation format focusing on agroecolology, which values popular knowledge and is integrated with scientific knowledge. Base on this perspective, an association in which government acts as a boost to plantation without using agrochemicals was created. In contrast, tobacco industries promote social responsibility campaigns in partnership with public organizations, with government support. Yet schools are partners in some of these actions, by means of "tree clubs" and advertisings in banners inside school environment, relating the company to quality of life, they also implicitly discourage health detachment, such as use of tobacco (RIQUINHO; HENNINGTON, 2014; SOUZA, 2006; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

The article held by Novo; Jansen and Slingerland (2012) is highlighted by a research regarding the improvement of sugarcane cultivation in the state of São Paulo, against the reduction of breeding of dairy cattle. Arguments favoring the breeding of dairy cattle were presented in this study. In this perspective, the introduction of sugarcane cultivation is relevant in the production of biofuel.

The study considers two possibilities: diversification in production using two kinds of cultivation or change in the production, leaving dairy cattle breeding and investing in biofuels. Researchers state that there is no way back to dairy cattle breeding once the decision is made (NOVO; JANSEN; SLINGERLAND, 2012; RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--).

Sugarcane cultivation is in a growing period, as Brazil is a large ethanol producer. Geographically, this production moves towards the city, due to strong demand. Milk production is experiencing difficulties such as financial issues, which prevent companies from offer attractive salaries to employees and causes disagreements with Brazilian laws regarding weekends, holidays and free time, as well as the possibility of getting accommodations to employees that live more than 15km from the farm. This situation makes that milk producers consider land lease to sugarcane crop or larger investments in dairy farming. Land lease causes dependency because the lack of capital to invest in infrastructure reformulations blocks milk production within sugarcane production cycle. In case of land lease, there are some disadvantages such as farm sizes, which are mostly small and do not provide enough income for subsistence. However, intensification also offers profitable possibilities, such as the possibility of investments in workforce, infrastructure and technology. Technology does not only represent production increase, but also represents social acknowledgement (NOVO; JANSEN; SLINGERLAND, 2012; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

From an intensification view, one can analyze an intensification perspective by means of a joint production of sugarcane and milk. Diversification of productions to other cultures is rejected by producers due to lack of confidence and payment and to milk customers is already acknowledged by producers and sugarcane is related to long term contracts and government support (NOVO; JANSEN; SLINGERLAND, 2012; SOBER, 20--).

The article held by Geist et al. (2009), set social economic issues out of tobacco producers located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (Brasil), Tabora (Tanzania), Meinung, (Taiwan) and Germany. Among the subjects researched, one can find development of production, energy, workforce, economic environment and opportunities. Tobacco cultivation placed in the environments studied occupy average 22%, in Brazil and 73%, in Taiwan, among all cultivated species.

According to the study, most of producers use crop rotation, based on the division of two seasons per year. In these properties, besides tobacco cultivation, they grow corn, black and soy beans, rice, potato, onion, manioc, fruits, vegetables and others. Among all Brazilian producers interviewed, everybody believes that their sons and daughters will continue tobacco cultivation and take advantage of the knowledge shared by family and more than half of families continue this activity for financial reasons. The production of the interviewed is commercialized with three international companies, which are responsible for creating benefits to producers, as well as loans, inputs, technical service, marketing, contact with cigarette manufacturers, search for governmental support, aiming low costs and maintenance of quality. Nevertheless, one can suppose that the support of industries reflects in better opportunities to increase knowledge, not only for the company but also through government, which can help instructing the farm worker and keep environmental control (GEIST et al., 2009; RATHMANN et al., 2008, SOBER, 20--; SOUZA, 2006; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA, 2005).

In Tanzania almost all farm workers adopt crop rotation. Due to environmental issues such as a unique rain season, tobacco is planted together with corn, peanut, wheat, manioc, beans and potato. In this format, one third of farm workers use the same land to tobacco plantation for two or more years. With respect to changing products, in order to cultivate different products, leaving tobacco cultivation is dividing opinions. This way of thinking is also found when daughters and sons are questioned about continuing their parents' tradition of cultivating tobacco. This is linked to encouragement in production by free market, such as in previous situations of production monopoly. Nevertheless, there is no government incentive to production (GEIST et al., 2009; RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--; SOUZA, 2006; TONET; PAZ, 2006; TERRA, 2005).

Taiwanese producers practice species rotation. This process happens through the use of three periods per year, divided into combinations such as tobacco-rice-rice, or tobacco-rice-fallow land and tobacco-rice-other (beans, manioc, and red pepper). Most of producers are elderly and more likely to retire than changing from tobacco cultivation to other kind of production. Besides, they do not believe that their sons and daughters will keep this tradition. The Government of Taiwan, as well as the strongest tobacco company in this country cut their subsides for tobacco plantation, bearing in mind the advantages of importing this product and encouraging the change of crops (GEIST et al., 2009; RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--).

Germany presents continuous cultivation agriculture, emphasizing crop, wheat and barley, followed by tobacco and other products in smaller volumes. In average 10% of lands explored by agriculture are used for fallow land or grazing land. Workers divide their opinions with respect to the continuity of plant cultivation by their sons and daughters; however, most of them consider the possibility of changing plant cultivations due to financial matters. Studies show that few farmers survived to a change of plant cultivations due to the high level of expertise in tobacco plantation (GEIST et al., 2009; RATHMANN et al., 2008, SOBER, 20--).

The use of diversified agriculture mentioned by Geist et al (2009) is strong in three of four countries. The acquired knowledge, to these agricultural producers, is mostly transferred from parents to children, which vary in relation to the application of tradition to further generations. There are cases in which there is continuity; in other situations, there is no continuity and in other cases the situation is a mix of the last two options. In their majority, farm workers receive private or governmental financial Support through policies and even with knowledge increase (RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--; SOUZA, 2006; TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008, TONET; PAZ, 2006; TERRA, 2005).

4.2 Applied research

The region of Morro Azul is linked to the municipality of Timbé do Sul, located in the South of Santa Catarina state. This region is characterized by tobacco and rice plantation, as well as chicken farming. Forty four kilometers away from Timbé do Sul, North of Santa Catarina State, is located the municipality of Forquilhinha, which also an agricultural area, with rice and corn plantation, as well as chicken farming. With the objective of proving the above-mentioned theory, an interview with six local agricultural producers was made, as shown in Table 3:

Table 3 – Profile of smallholders


Educational level

What crops do you plant?

When did you begin each of your crops?

Why did you search for crop diversification?

Why did you choose this agricultural crop?


Incomplete high school level

Tobacco and Rice

Twenty years of experience in rural activities.

Rice growing started by curiosity and necessity.

Growing tobacco is a family tradition. Rice growing started due to the adaptability of soil for this crop.


High school level

Chicken and tobacco

Thirty years of experience with tobacco and seven years raising chicken. Nowadays, they are dedicated to chicken farming.

Working with tobacco became difficult due to scarce labor force and small-sized territory, which led the producers to start chicken farming.

Tobacco cultivation is been passed on from father to son. Chicken farming was based on the activities of farm's surroundings, mainly because of small-sized territory owners.


Incomplete elementary school level

Chicken and rice

Fifty-one years of rice growing. Formerly their lands were leased for tobacco producers, but twenty-two years ago, they are exclusively dedicated to chicken farming.

Due to the need of income growth, land lease for tobacco plantation has stopped and gave place to chicken farming.

Growing rice is a family tradition. Chicken farming started due to scarce labor force and good forecasts of success.   


High school level

Rice, Tobacco and Chicken

Thirty years of tobacco crop. Chicken farming has been done for eighteen years and rice has been growing for tem years.

In order to reach a better financial position and improve safety, chicken farming started as an opportunity given by the government. Rice growing has started in order to value the land.  

Growing tobacco is an activity undertaken by their parents. Chicken farming started as a productive business. Rice growing replaced cattle farming, seeking to value the land, considered suitable for rice crop. 


Incomplete / complete elementary school level

Tobacco, Rice and Chicken

Rice cultivation has been doing for twenty-eight years. Chicken farming has been done for fourteen or fifteen years. Prior to rice cultivation, the producers used to grow sugarcane.

Rice and tobacco were always cultivated in the property. Chicken farming, in its turn, started aiming a better financial condition to the Family.

Rice growing is a continuity of the activity developed by the producer's brother, as well as tobacco, that was cultivated by the parents. Chicken farming, in its turn, started after the influence of community due to the good results that led the producer to join chicken farming.


Elementary school level

Rice, Corn and Chicken

Sixty-five years of experience with rice and corn growing. Before that, the Family used to grow tobacco, however, after some time, rice and corn growing become the main activities. Chicken farming has been done for five years.

Rice and corn production were activities developed by the producer's parents. Chicken farming was motivated by the purchase of a land property. 

Rice growing has begun through experience sharing from father to son, so as with corn.  Chicken farming was motivated by the purchase of a land property and because of a property with a poultry house, which motivated chicken farming.

Source: Created by the author based on research data

The first crop produced by smallholders is linked to the expertise of farm workers' parents, where activities were continued. Other cultivations are added aiming economic improvement to the family, which characterizes the activity as agricultural diversification (RATHMANN et al., 2008; SOBER, 20--). The lands in the region show to be favorable to rice crop, due to the humidity of soil and, additionally, the presence of a large food company favors chicken farming.

Most of the chicken farmed in this region goes to this large food industry via consortium. So, poultry productions follow certain standard in production, participate in lectures and are constantly supported by veterinary technicians. Individual innovations are limited in poultry productions, if taken in consideration the uniformity demanded by this company, which set standard rules for production.

Tobacco produced in Timbé do Sul is also oriented to specific companies by an average of three tobacco companies. So, tobacco cultivation, as well as poultry productions, is followed up under the supervision and support of veterinary technicians that follow standards from purchasing companies in order to maintain a product standard.  

Considering plantation opportunities, the farm workers were asked with respect to their expertise in many areas, as presented in Table 4:

Table 4 – Source of knowledge


Where did you learn the techniques used in your crop?


The principles of knowledge on tobacco cultivation were passed on from father to son. In addition to this knowledge, together with the knowledge necessary to rice growing, the help of technicians and lectures promoted by the cooperative and the tobacco company was useful, as well as the experience from the yearly analysis and the information shared by neighbors that work with tobacco cultivation.


Knowledge about tobacco plantation came from the parents. The wife retained knowledge on a different kind of plantation, and after marriage the husband passed on all the knowledge learned from his parents. Part of this knowledge was complemented by technicians of tobacco companies, by means of lectures, meetings and debates. The company that purchases their chicken also helps with technicians. Thirty years of agricultural experience provided an important part of knowledge; the other part came from socialization with neighbors.


Rice cultivation was learned from parents. At that time, there were no lectures or organizations helping with their technicians. Some years ago, EPAGRI (agricultural research 

Company in Santa Catarina, Brazil) started to lecture and offered the work of their technicians, as well as cooperatives. Knowledge to start chicken farming came from observing neighbors, help from technicians and related work.


The principles of knowledge about tobacco plantation came from the parents, with some help from technicians. Most was learned from experience and practice. The knowledge about rice plantation came most from observation and help from neighbors; Technicians helped the family with chicken farming. 


Most of knowledge is passed on from father to son; the other part come from experience, observing and from trial and error. Technicians also helped in the development of agriculture, so as lectures. 


Knowledge came from observing, most of his father's production. He also attends to lectures, although most of times he considers that lecturers have less knowledge than him.

Source: Created by the author based on research data

Knowledge comes mostly from parents, as farm workers learned from practice, by working since childhood together with their family. The socialization of knowledge between farm workers and their neighbors is very clear, mostly after a harvest or change of chicken delivery, by making comparisons and seeking the application of well succeed techniques. This experience generates tacit knowledge, and its sharing motivates an expertise. Exchange, which reflects in knowledge increase among the community, most of times with immediate application in nearby properties (TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008; TERRA, 2005; TONET; PAZ, 2006).

With relation to producers' tacit knowledge, the use of technicians has failed some times. Some information comes from theories. When implemented, this information resulted in adverse possibilities from the expected, in which losses were borne by the smallholders. This reflects in the lack of confidence in technologies and ways of work presented by technicians to smallholders. These happenings highlight the importance of tacit knowledge towards scientific knowledge, allowing changes and the necessity for constant researches. The smallholders recognize the importance of knowing, taking into account that three of six farmers interviewed agree that knowledge is never enough and that it is necessary to seek for new knowledge. Other three farmers believe that have had knowledge enough or that all knowledge needed was taught by technicians. In order to acquire new knowledge, farm workers use explicit and tacit knowledge, that is, through television, magazines, the Internet, technicians or socialization with other farm workers. With relation to new acquired knowledge, three interviewees use to test knowledge before applying it; two farmers believe that new knowledge were already tested by technicians and only one of the interviewees applies the new knowledge only if and when necessary.

At the time of the interview, although smallholders do not have the habit of registering their knowledge by writings, photographs, video or audio, which would help on knowledge sharing, the authors noted that most of the farmers have long memory. Their memories of past crops, relating productivity to weather conditions through the years, prove this characteristic.

In order to help in knowledge acquisition, smallholders count on lectures and orientations financed by cooperatives and companies that buy their products, except the producers from Forquilhinha, that is not supported by technicians and lectures (TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008). In the same way that smallholders are supported by agricultural technicians, they also are visited by new technology sellers, which keep them updated in accordance with their family budget. The farmers also mentioned the case of a Master Degree candidate, author of a study that aims to help on the development of a chicken feed, and other case in which there was not technological updates. The search for updates is shown by a producer:

"Things change so much these days, some technicians help us a lot, because things change and something you learned ten years ago not necessarily will work nowadays [...] that is all about time, what we learn day-by-day. Each year is different (PRODUTOR 4, 2015)".

Knowledge acquired after years of experience is shared with daughters and sons. The perpetuation of the activity to descendants is chosen by producers' children. However, the objective of parents is that their children study and, if they decide to continue their parents' activity, which is better changing to poultry production than experience the challenges of agriculture. Nevertheless, parents' tacit knowledge is shared with daughters and sons by means of day-by-day practice, through conversations and by following their activities. So, the theory of the importance of tacit and explicit knowledge is proved and acknowledged by the farm worker, however their daughters and sons are interested in acquiring scientific knowledge, that is, explicit knowledge, they do not forget to pass empirical knowledge on to their descendants, in theory known as tacit (TAKEUCHI; NONAKA, 2008).

At the end of the interview, smallholders were asked about what they consider the most important: their material goods used in agriculture, considering the area, machinery and equipment; or their knowledge, acquired since childhood, by means of expertise and lectures. Five producers said that knowledge is their most important asset, because their goods become from that knowledge. Only one farm worker considered material goods as important. This is relevant, considering the small sample. In this context, the statements agree with the theory pointed out by Souza (2006), Terra (2005), Tonet and Paz (2006), in which industrial society passes through a transition to knowledge society, which values intellectual goods the most, in comparison to material goods. One of the producers sets out his point of view:

"[...] I have not learned everything yet. You die without knowing everything, because every soil has a different potential of production; one soil needs one kind of fertilizer, another kind of soil needs another fertilizer, and you realize that this is not easy, even with techniques, EPAGRI, everything, you do and make many mistakes, many times (PRODUCER 3, 2015)".

One can conclude that, although producers could not have studied, experience made the interviewees to realize the importance of seeking knowledge and, when possible, the combination between scientific and empirical knowledge.

5. Final considerations

This study had as an objective knowing how knowledge management actions in agricultural diversification of Brazilian family farming, based on studies already held, as well as a further development of six cases of smallholders from the South of Santa Catarina state. At a first moment, there was a filtering process, using a sample of three Brazilian articles on social area, using the subject agricultural diversification. At a second moment a semi structured questionnaire was applied for with six producers of different crops in the South of Santa Catarina State.

The result of this study shows the importance of knowledge management for the good sequence of the rural property. It works by means of private or governmental support, using booklets, courses, laws, lectures, visits to other family farming, all paid by producers, in which empirical and scientific knowledge sharing are held.

Knowledge management also happens when preparing the employees, or even in the moment in which parents pass on their knowledge and experiences to their descendants. Although it is not purely scientific, this knowledge is accepted due to years of application.

Under the point of view of Riquinho and Hennington (2014), the authors highlight the importance of knowledge management. The study points out the necessity of a leader seeking for knowledge. Yet, they affirm that smallholders, in the moment of transition from peach to tobacco culture end up losing acquired knowledge, mostly by experience, as well as the distance that hinders sharing. Tobacco industry, in its turn, gets closer to society with the objective of strengthen tobacco plantation, from knowledge sharing among producers. Nevertheless, government and private organizations and even the initiative of farm workers, at one moment in favor and at other moment, against tobacco, look for alternatives with an environment focus. This search is fostered by scientific knowledge, through universities and research institutes, as well as empirically, with knowledge sharing among other smallholders that use different crop formats.

In the article of Novo; Jansen and Slingerland (2012), the necessity of studies to evaluate the more profitable way of exploring the scenario was evident. The authors present numerous ways of using land. However, in the beginning of the study the wish to continue milk production was mentioned. The maintenance of a product demands investments so that it can be updated and able to compete in a macro market. This process of technological improvement is composed by numerous studies and need to be shared to be applied.

The study of Geist et al (2009) specifies governmental or private support to production, including techniques. It also analyzes the possibility of continuing the application of knowledge from parents to children, in which most of them is not sure of their decision. Nevertheless, if possible, there is knowledge sharing. One can highlight that only one country does not support tobacco agriculture, which causes fall of knowledge creation and sharing.

Based on the above considerations, one can conclude that the interviews prove the statements found in the studies analyzed. At first, farm workers acquired knowledge from their parents, and over time improve their practice by observing and socialization. Yet, the use of SECI model was realized with socialization, externalization, combination and internalization. This knowledge was passed to their descendants. However, the descendants can choose whether they will stay or not in agricultural activity. Choosing diversification occurs from opportunities, by the location of companies, ideal land for cultivation, better economic positioning or curiosity due to the success of neighbors.

This study cannot be generalized, as it is considered a qualitative study. The authors observe that there is no uniformity nor a consensus of knowledge management actions in the studies found, in the action of productive diversification in family farmers. The producers interviewed show that practical and technical knowledge is considered to be important, however, there is no continuous applicability in properties. Therefore, for further studied, the research field application in other properties is recommended, aiming results comparison. 


Support received from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – MCTI/CNPQ/UNIVERSAL 14/2014 - Brasil, ao Programa de Pós Graduação em Desenvolvimento Socioeconômico PPGDS/UNESC e ao grupo de estudo e pesquisa em Estratégia, Competitividade e Desenvolvimento (GEComD).


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Revista Espacios. ISSN 0798 1015
Vol. 37 (Nº 22) Año 2016


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