CfP POLLEN20 – How can agrarian movements address the global food and environmental crises?*

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

*This session is part of ‘Conversations between political ecology and critical agrarian studies’, a series of six linked sessions that will explore complementarities and tensions between political ecology and critical agrarian studies in relation to land, energy, environment and nature, degrowth, green economies and agrarian struggles and agrarian and environmental movements. 

Session organizer

Thomas Cooper-Patriota ((Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex). Please send abstracts of 250 words of less to T.Cooper-Patriota@ids.ac.uk no later than November 22nd.

Session description

Peasants, agricultural workers, middle farmers, indigenous peoples – alternatively referred to as ‘small-scale food producers’, ‘peasants and other people living in rural areas’, or ‘peasant and indigenous family farmers’ make up close to 40% of the world’s population. Women and men of all ages involved in small-scale agriculture, pastoralism, fishery, or forestry activities, predominantly living in the Global South, still make up the planet’s largest labouring constituency. They are also the most vigorously organised, with the decline of industrial labour unions since the 1980s, and the rise of transnational agrarian movements since the 1990s.

Yet, the last decades have seen an increasing concentration of production, processing and distribution processes in the hands of a reduced number of agri-food giants across largely unaccountable and often predatory ‘global value chains’ reproducing and accentuating core-periphery dependency. Peasant movements mobilising their energy in influencing non-binding international treaties (CFS Tenure Guidelines, UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants), campaigns (International Year and Decade of Family Farming) and goals (SDGs) have drawn attention to their causes and mobilized policy momentum with significant achievements in some areas of the world. This has partly been possible by demonstrating that peasant family farmers are responsible for the production of most of the world’s food and the main stewards for sustainable use of natural resources, despite representing the majority of the world’s undernourished and most vulnerable populations to climate change, biodiversity loss, and soil degradation.

Nevertheless, most national government budgets and strategies – let alone international trade and financial flows – still remain oblivious to people living in rural areas, whom they by and large perceive as reserve armies of cheap labour. Though increasing portions of urban populations begin to perceive peasants/family farmers as part of the solution to the global food and environmental crises, we are still very far from a paradigm shift.

This panel will look at experiences highlighting relationships between agrarian movement action and significant policy change. It will relatedly explore how agrarian movement policy drives towards economic, social and environmental sustainability may contribute in shaping the contours of a post-neoliberal era.