Urban agriculture is embedded in an urban food system, and its full potential can only be understood by looking into the dynamics of the system. Involving a variety of actors from civil society, policy, and the market, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the food system of the city of Basel, Switzerland, including policy and actor analysis, analysis of perceptions on urban agriculture, food flow analysis, and a sustainability assessment. The article presents the results of these analyses and discusses how research can contribute to the societal debate on food systems transformation. We particularly reflect on how the research project became a boundary object in a dynamic process to develop new ideas and activities, as well as to create a space for future debates in the city’s food system.
A Food System Analysis Based on Interaction between Research, Policy, and Society
Heidrun Moschitz, Jan Landert, Christian Schader and Rebekka Frick
Agri-cultures in the Anthropocene
Martin Skrydstrup and Hyun-Gwi Park
Today when we think about climate change and Greenland, we do not think about agriculture, but of the melting ice. Perhaps the most evocative articulation of this connection was made in December 2015, when Paris was hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21. At this event, artist Olafur Elisasson and geologist Minik Rosing exhibited their art installation Ice Watch at the Place du Pantheon: a circle of icebergs with a circumference of twenty meters, which resembled a watch ticking and/or a compass providing orientation for the world’s leaders in the palm of Paris. The ice had been transported by tugboat from the harbor of Nuuk—Greenland’s capital—to France. The captain of the tugboat was Kuupik Kleist, former prime minister of Greenland, who was quoted saying: “Ninety per cent of our country is covered by ice. It is a great part of our national identity. We follow the international discussion, of course, but to every Greenlander, just by looking out the window at home, it is obvious that something dramatic is happening” (Zarin 2015).
Challenging Traditions among Rural Yezidis in Post-Soviet Armenia
Hamlet Melkumyan and Roman Hovsepyan
The Yezidis of Armenia, traditionally considered transhumant pastoralists, have been changing their economic habits over the past century. Nowadays, they are more engaged in agriculture than they were a century ago. The social and cultural backgrounds of these transformations are discussed, showing the involvement of the treatment of the Armenians and the adaptive character of the Yezidis’ economy. Presently, the Yezidis practise animal breeding and plant cultivation in parallel, using the human resources available in their family. The ongoing transformations in the economy and their engagement in agriculture are challenging the conservative lifestyle of the Yezidi community. Thus, the people who have shifted to the agrarian economy are seen as outsiders in the traditional framework and are perceived to be of low prestige.
The case of a remote tribal village in southwest Iran demonstrates the circumstances conducive to positive rural development. My research suggests that since the founding of this village around 1880, its people - led by a progressive, literate young chief - successfully defended their realm against incorporation into the neighbouring chiefs' reigns of lawlessness and warfare; introduced and modernised irrigation agriculture and fruit cultivation then unique in the whole region; and embraced formal education. Discussing such adaptive strategies, I argue that a strong ethos of progress and achievement, including civic awareness, motivated local people from the beginning to pursue new ways to improve their livelihood.
Climate Change and Long-term Stakeholder Engagement
Carrie Furman, Wendy-Lin Bartels and Jessica Bolson
As awareness of the potential threats posed by climate change increases, researchers and agricultural advisors are being called upon to determine the risks that different stakeholder groups will likely confront and to develop adaptive strategies. Yet, engaging with stakeholders takes time. It also requires a clear and detailed plan to ensure that research and outreach activities yield useful outputs. In this article, we focus on the role of anthropologists as researchers and conveners in stakeholder engagement and provide a generalised overview of a long-term engagement process proceeding in three stages: (1) fact-finding and relationship- building; (2) incubation and collaborative learning; and (3) informed engagement and broad dissemination. We conclude with a discussion of perspectives and challenges that were encountered during two engagement experiences in the south-eastern United States.
The lottery and precarity of farming in Peru
Astrid B. Stensrud
The neoliberal global food system has intensified the uncertainties associated with peasant farming and agrarian livelihoods around the world. This article examines processes of precarization among smallholder farmers in the Majes Irrigation Project in Peru. By discussing price volatility and uncertainty related to the “free market,” I argue that the conditions of small-scale entrepreneurial farmers today can best be understood in terms of gambling and precarity. After four decades of neoliberal deregulation, farmers in Majes describe agriculture as a “lottery” where one can win or lose everything. Despite prospects of growth and progress, most farmers rely on low-income dairy farming or contracted crops for agro-industrial corporations. The freedom to take risks in the open market entails uncertainty and often results in loss, and farmers must negotiate the ambiguous relation between autonomy and dependency.
In the aftermath of World War I, public concerns about the “female surplus” promoted various efforts to stimulate women’s emigration to the dominions in order to relieve the presumed burden on the postwar economy. Opportunities for women in agriculture were part of the campaign to relocate women for work, but the plan soon encountered challenges from domestic groups that objected to the “dumping” of “surplus” females in the dominions and argued that, although farming in Britain experienced a decline in the 1920s, there were opportunities for women who wished to work in agriculture. This article examines the legacy of women agricultural workers in postwar Britain and argues that, although emigration efforts ultimately failed, the new farm woman of the 1920s and 1930s was presented as an educated professional, with evocations of traditional womanhood, making her an acceptable, nonconfrontational, progressive British woman worker by the outbreak of World War II.
The Small Non-Greek Farmers of Global Greek Countrysides
James P. Verinis
Though Greek agriculture is arguably the picture of rural underdevelopment in Europe, life in rural Greece is transforming within a new global migratory context. Farmers now work with myriad non-Greek minorities who, with the onset of the postsocialist period, have begun to play a diversity of socio-economic roles. These immigrants help to de fine what agricultural (dis)incentives, environmental stewardship, social fabric and territorial occupation mean in the countryside. Together with locals they now co-manage new tensions stemming from European rural development programs and global commodity markets.
Scholarship tends to reify the conclusion that immigrants are merely transient, exploited labourers. In conjunction with macroeconomic analyses of rural 'stagnation', such characterizations misrepresent current realities and undermine alternative potentialities. As some new residents join the ranks of small-scale Greek farmers, new rural values are crystallising, opening a door for new interpretations of rural development in Greece.
Post-industrial French Paysans Fight for a Solidaire Global Food Policy
If the post-war industrial model entails a mix of technological and chemical interventions that increase farm productivity, then post-industrial agriculture (emerging in the 1970s) constitutes agricultural surpluses, as well as an array of trade, aid and biotechnology practices that introduce novel foodstuffs (processed and genetically modified) on an unprecedented scale. While industrial agriculture reduces the farming population, the latter gives rise to new sets of actors who question the nature and validity of the industrial model. This essay explores the rise of one set of such actors. Paysans (peasants) from France's second largest union, the Confederation Paysanne, challenge the industrial model's instrumental rationality of agriculture. Reframing food questions in terms of food sovereignty, paysans propose a solidarity-based production rationality which gives hope to those who believe that another post-industrial food system is possible.
European Sugar Reform in Poland
Dong Ju Kim
In the last two decades, privatisation has been slowly progressing in Poland. I examine the case of beet-sugar factories in western Poland, which were privatised between 1995 and 2003. As this process was coming to an end, reform for the European Common Agricultural Policy was implemented and, after Poland joined the European Union, the European sugar market reform started to take shape as a result of a global trade dispute on subsidised sugar prices. I recount the story of sugar factory privatisation and multiple reform processes from the viewpoint of sugar beet farmers, factory managers, and local rural experts from the province of Wielkopolska in western Poland. These accounts will show how sugar market reforms affected the aftermath of privatisation and factory close-downs, and how these experiences have prompted local people to think of being Polish within Europe, but reluctantly European within a global framework of sugar trade.