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Tropentag 2022, September 14 - 16, Prague, Germany

"Can agroecological farming feed the world? Farmers' and academia's views."

Agroecological transitions: a case study of the Terra Vista settlement

Luisa Pereira Goss

University of Hohenheim, Social and Institutional Change in Agricultural Development, Germany


Reshaping agri-food systems requires systematic analysis and a detailed understanding of successful and failed existing examples. Agroecology is widely considered a powerful tool for transforming food systems and a key element for a growing emancipatory movement that seeks to strengthen rural people’s power and control over their own production systems.
Using the case of a successful transition to agroecology in Brazil, we combine theoretical concepts on rural social movements and agroecology to analyse the transition process and the scaling potential.
The case study focuses on the Terra Vista settlement, located in north-eastern Brazil, and a member of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra - MST). The land, a former cocoa monoculture, was occupied in 1992 and the settlers pursued an industrial agricultural model, producing conventionally and consequently further degrading the settlement’s environment. Faced with a moral, economic, and environmental crisis, the settlement started the agroecological transition in 2000.
Our research questions were 1) how did the settlement transition to agroecology, 2) what were the main enablers and challenges in the transition, 3) how do different actors perceive agroecology, 4) does the settlement have the potential to scale agroecology.
We use a qualitative case study approach and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques. Data collection consisted of 15 narrative interviews. To elicit the transition process until 2022, we used a time spiral. Grounded theory concepts were applied to data analysis. The time spiral showed that the transition has been a very long process in which education, collectivity and women’s emancipation played a special role. Rather than being a linear process, it is cyclical and ongoing and now moves towards seeking autonomy and sovereignties (food, energy, and water). The findings show that agroecology is a way of life and a fight against hegemonic powers, rather than a set of agricultural practices. Results also demonstrated that the settlement has potential to scale agroecology, however, there is a lack of public policies promoting agroecological production and a lack of favourable markets (e.g. alternative food networks). Lastly, agroecology was crucial in overcoming a crisis, it is political and a result of the settlement’s fight.

Keywords: Agroecology, agroecology transitions, MST, rural social movements

Contact Address: Luisa Pereira Goss, University of Hohenheim, Social and Institutional Change in Agricultural Development, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany, e-mail: luisapereiragoss@gmail.com

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