Research Group: Policies and institutions for resilient food and water systems

Research Group: Policies and institutions for resilient food and water systems

Power and politics are crucial in resilience thinking and practice. Our research critically explores the politically progressive thinking and action that is often needed to challenge and transform unsustainable structures and hold powerful actors and networks to account. For example, this research aims to better understand how, - and under what conditions -, can citizens be more centrally involved in policy-making and the governance of resilient food and water systems. This theme also seeks to analyse the power relations implicit in adaptive management as well as the historical, cultural, and political-economic processes that drive human-environmental changes that ultimately impact on water and food security/food sovereignty.

About our group

Research in this area identifies the policies and institutions needed to scale up and mainstream equitable and resilient systems for food and water security. It focuses in particular on exploring the policies and institutional frameworks needed to enhance community self-organization for socio-ecological resilience at different scales. Key research topics include:

  • Policy research on how social innovations might give food and water providers (farmers, water collectors, forest dwellers, pastoralists, peri-urban farmers, men and women...) continued access and greater control over land and territories, water, seeds and livestock breeds, biodiversity-rich landscapes, and ecosystem services that are essential for socio-ecological and community resilience in food and water systems.
  • Critical examination of what policy and institutional frameworks support resilient food and water systems based on principles of agroecology, hydrology, community self-organization, social inclusion, and circular economy models.
  • Policy research on ways of re-governing markets, economic exchanges, and investments to enhance the resilience of food and water systems in a context of uncertainty and rapid change, including climate change.
  • Critical assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of methodological and institutional innovations designed to facilitate citizens' participation and agency in local, national and international policy-making on resilience for food and water security.
  • Identifying enabling policies for the implementation of the 'right to food' and the ‘right to water’ for all: how can this human right best be respected, protected, and fulfilled for men and women engaged in community self- organization for environmental and socio-ecological resilience in rural and urban contexts?

Our policy research not only lives up to traditional academic measures of excellence such as rigour, originality, and reliability. It also aims to solve real-world problems. It seeks to improve citizen engagement in decision-making, contribute to community and socio-ecological resilience, and realize peoples’ fundamental right to water and food security/sovereignty.

Project spotlight

CAWR researchers standing with women land owners.

Women's communal land rights

The overarching objective of this project is to draw lessons from and scale up efforts to advance women’s rights to communal land in East and West Africa. It supports 4 farmer and pastoralist organizations with developing their internal capacity to conduct participatory action research (PAR) based on their advocacy goals.

Man reaching down to pick apples out of wooden crate.

COACH - Collaborative Agri-food Chains

COACH facilitates collaboration between farmers, consumers, local governments and other actors to scale up short agri-food chains which rebalance farmers’ position, create win-wins for producers and consumers and drive innovation in territorial food systems.

Tomato plants growing in organic soil.

Organic-PLUS (O+)

The Organic-PLUS (O+) project has the overall aim of providing high quality, trans-disciplinary, scientifically informed decision support to help all actors in the organic sector, including national and regional policy makers, to reach the next level of the organic success story in Europe.

Carrots being cut on wooden chopping board.


The purpose of the FOOdIVERSE project is to produce practice-oriented knowledge on how diversity in diets, novel food supply chains and food governance contributes to more organic and sustainable food systems.

A weighing scale with a person and food on one side and money on the other side.

Financing & Resourcing Agroecology

This project investigates the quantity and quality of finance which is supportive of an agroecological transformation of food systems vs. finance in support of the industrial agricultural paradigm.


  1. The Rise of New Rights for Peasants. From reliance on NGO intermediaries to direct representation. Transnational Legal Theory.
    Date of publication: 2019
    Author: Claeys, Priscilla.
  2. Policy Processes of a Land Grab: at the interface of politics ‘in the air’ and politics ‘on the ground’ in Massingir, Mozambique. Journal of Peasant Studies.
    Date: 2015
    Author: Milgroom, Jessica
  3. ‘The Innovation Imperative’: The struggle over agroecology in the international food policy arena. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5.
    Date: 2021
    Author: Colin Anderson and Chris Maughan
  4. Authoritarian populism and neo-extractivism in Bolivia and Ecuador: the unresolved agrarian question and the prospects for food sovereignty as counter-hegemony. The Journal of Peasant Studies Volume 46, Issue 3: 626-652
    Date: 2019
    Author: Mark Tilzey
  5. Absent Agroecology Aid: On UK Agricultural Development Assistance Since 2010. Sustainability, 10(2), 505.
    Date: 2018
    Author: Pimbert, M., & Moeller, N. I.
  6. Governing Seed for Food Production: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Research Paper 139, South Centre. 
    Date: 2021
    Author: Moeller, N. I.
  7. Let the people decide: citizen deliberation on the role of GMOs in Mali’s agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 38: 1097–1122
    Date: 2021
    Author: Pimbert, M.P and B. Barry
  8. The genetically modified organism shall not be refused? Talking back to the technosciences. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space (2021): 25148486211042307.
    Date: 2021
    Author: Van Dyck, B, Kenis, A. and A. Stirling
  9. Plantation slavery and landownership in the west Highlands and Islands. A discussion paper for Community Land Scotland.
    Date: November 2020
    Authors: MacKinnon, I. & Mackillop, A.
  10. La Vía Campesina and the UN Committee on World Food Security: Affected Publics and Institutional Dynamics in the Nascent Transnational Public Sphere.
    Date: 2017
    Author: J. Brem-Wilson.

Theme contact

If you wish to find out more about this theme, please get in contact with Michel Pimbert.

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