Call for papers: Agro-ecology: Securing Sustainable Futures?

Smallholder rice fields, India. Photo: Zareen Bharucha

2nd Call for Papers: Agro-ecology: Securing Sustainable Futures?

Session Organisers: Dr Larch Maxey, Plymouth University (larch.maxey at and Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones, Aberystwyth University (sxw at

This session would form part of the RGS-IBG International Geography Conference 2012

Outline: As debates around food security, sustainability, and community resilience heat up, this session brings together geographers and practitioners to explore the role small-scale agro-ecology businesses can play in shaping sustainable futures. We encourage a range of contributions which set practical measures on the ground within the context of wider policies and debates. Specifically, it is acknowledged that agricultural policies around the world are becoming increasingly fraught and contested, with different models of production valorised in different quarters. However, there is a clear lack of consensus on the way forward, with the elusive proposition of sustainable intensification encapsulating an array of impossible promises and sparking endless debate: from the use of GM, through to the need to lower carbon emissions and input costs.

Beyond the lobbying of large-scale, corporate agri-businesses, advocacy for smaller-scale agro-ecology systems has emerged. These include multi-cropping, low input systems that often draw on traditional practise and ecological design principles. A further key component of these models is their focus on localised supply systems, which often collapse the boundaries between producer, retailer, and consumer. These systems are now being adopted by a range of producers including: allotment holders; community and guerrilla gardens, community supported agriculture, gardening groups and small scale independent enterprises. Support has emerged at a grassroots level, through community organising and buy-in, but equally through government funding, for community growing schemes in particular. This support is offered in response to both the ecological benefits of these enterprises and their impact on community cohesion, health, and wider social wellbeing. However, tensions remain around the extent to which governments consider small-scale agro-ecology as a viable model for wider adoption.

This session intends to address such tensions and invites insights from producers and representative groups, alongside academics to provide a more grounded and participatory analysis. In particular, papers are invited to focus on:

  • Agro-ecology’s prioritisation of self-sufficiency, which is seen as a key tension in global food strategy as highlighted in the 2011 Foresight Report on Global Food Security.
  • The effectiveness and resilience of slow growth / steady state business models associated with agro-ecology enterprises.
  • The potential for future development and expansion of these approaches: barriers, tensions, solutions and opportunities.
  • How these businesses work as part of transitions to new development models based on low carbon economies.

Format: The final session format will be decided with the presenters. We are currently considering an Open session with Short papers (10-15 mins), aimed to feed into a ‘World Café’ style discussion / workshop. We are happy to provide further details on the proposed format if needed (Outlines are available on the RGS website).

Please send abstracts and expressions of interest to sxw at and larch.maxey at