Agroecological practices as territorial development: an analytical schema from Brazilian agroforestry case studies
Les Levidow is a Senior Research Fellow at the Open University, UK, where he has been studying agri-food-environmental issues since the late 1980s. His research topics have included the following: sustainable development, agri-food-energy innovation, bioeconomy, biofuels, agroecology, waste-conversion technologies, institutional capacity-building and learning, agricultural research priorities, European integration, regulatory expertise, scientific uncertainty and the precautionary principle. He is co-author of two books: Governing the Transatlantic Conflict over Agricultural Biotechnology: Contending Coalitions, Trade Liberalisation and Standard Setting (Routledge, 2006); and GM Food on Trial: Testing European Democracy (Routledge, 2010). Read more details on their webpage
Agroecological practices have been widely promoted as an alternative to the hegemonic agri-food system, yet they also can help to ‘green’ the system. To strengthen a transformative agroecology, Latin American activists have promoted the concept desenvolvimento territorial rural (DTR or rural territorial development), which has different versions. The dominant version advocates broad multi-actor coalitions to strengthen DTR and thus benefit poor people, yet this obscures rival territorial agendas. An antagonistic version instead analyses how capital accumulation drives societal conflicts, contingently resulting in DTR trajectories. This complements agrarian political economy perspectives on how the capital accumulation process has increasingly subsumed small-scale farms, but also how agroecological alternatives seek to minimise or bypass this subsumption. Drawing on those perspectives, here an analytical schema helps identify how agroecological practices are appropriated for diverse trajectories of territorial development, illustrated by Brazilian agroforestry case studies. Such analysis can inform a ‘strategic reading of territory’ by identifying multi-actor opportunities to counter the hegemonic agri-food system through a transformative agroecology.