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Distributing Responsibilities in an Agricultural Ecosystem

Insights from the Lake Naivasha Water Basin in Kenya

Gaële Rouillé-Kielo

This article explores the responses to acknowledged anthropogenic transformations of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, whose ecosystem is considered to have been disturbed by the intensification of agricultural uses of natural resources (notably land and water) over the last half century. It examines the ways in which a “payments for environmental services” (PES) project has been implemented, reflecting the rationale of ecological modernization. This article aims to challenge the environmental narrative that supports the project by revealing its oversimplifications. Empirical data demonstrates how the environmental issues addressed by the project are embedded in historically inherited land trajectories. This in turn forces us to reflect on the necessary question of responsibility, an issue at the heart of the debate since the emergence of the Anthropocene concept.

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Ariela Zycherman

The expansion and intensification of agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in tropical forests and for global climate change. However, over the past decade Brazil has significantly reduced its deforestation rates while simultaneously increasing its agricultural production, particularly cattle and soy. While, the scholarly literature primarily attributes this success to environmental policy and global economic trends, recent ethnographic depictions of cattle ranchers and soy farmers offer deeper insight into how these political and economic processes are experienced on the ground. Examples demonstrate that policy and markets provide a framework for soy farming and ranching, but emerging forms of identity and new cultural values shape their practices. This article argues that to understand the full picture of why Brazil’s deforestation rates have dropped while the agricultural industry has flourished, the culture of producers must be present in the analysis.

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Extractive Conservation

Peasant Agroecological Systems as New Frontiers of Exploitation?

Anne Cristina de la Vega-Leinert and Peter Clausing

In view of the Aichi international policy targets to expand areas under conservation, we analyze to what extent conservation has become an inherent element of extraction. We scrutinize the Land Sparing versus Land Sharing debate by explicitly incorporating environmental justice issues of access to land and natural resources. We contend that dominant conservation regimes, embedded within Land Sparing, legitimize the displacement of local people and their land use to compensate for distant, unsustainable resource use. In contrast, the Land Sharing counternarrative, by promoting spatial integration of conservation in agroecological systems, has the potential to radically challenge extraction. Common ground emerges around the concept of sustainable intensification. We contend that if inserted in green economy’s technocentric and efficiency-oriented framework, sustainable intensification will contribute to undermining diversified peasant agroecological systems by transforming them into simplified, export-orientated ones, thereby stripping peasant communities of the capacity to provide for their own needs.