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In 2008, a German-funded interdisciplinary research project in Khorezm province, Uzbekistan, initiated a participatory approach to innovation development and diffusion with local stakeholders. Selected agricultural innovations, developed by the project and identified as ‘plausible promises’, have since then been tested and modified accordingly by teams of researchers, local farmers and water users. This paper discusses the challenges faced in this process of joint experimentation and learning between researchers and local stakeholders whose behaviours, attitudes and actions are heavily shaped by the local context, academic discipline and hierarchical culture of knowledge governance.

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