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Agrobiodiversity Nourishes Us/La Agrobiodiversidad Nos Nutre: Action Research for Agroecological Transformations

Painting by boyD. Reused with permission.

About our Editorial Collective: We are a team of co-editors who have been working together for three years, as part of an NSF-SESYNC Pursuit team:
Veronica Limeberry, American University School of International Service ([email protected])
Maywa Montenegro de Wit,, University of California Santa Cruz ([email protected])
Alder Keleman Saxena, Northern Arizona University and Chr. Michelsen Institute ([email protected])
Diana V. Luna-Gonzalez, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, International Institute for Applied System Analysis, ([email protected])
Marcela Cely-Santos, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society ([email protected])
Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, American University School of International Service ([email protected])
Karl Zimmerer, Pennsylvania State University ([email protected])

La versión en español está aquí.

The evidence is mounting that agricultural biodiversity (“agrobiodiversity”) is vital for supporting human food sovereignty, food security, and nutrition (FS/FSN). Biodiversity-rich agriculture has proven able to provide a stable, diversified, and nutrient-rich supply of food for farmers and their communities while supporting ecological functions important for resilient and sustainable food production and the sustenance of complex ecosystems. However, agrobiodiversity has declined dramatically in the last decades, with diverse impacts for human and more-than-human communities. Multiple studies point to the links between homogenization of the global food supply and the persistence of hunger and malnutrition among consumers, both rural and urban.

At the same time, it has become increasingly evident that capitalist colonialism is contributing on multiple fronts to the dramatic decline and potential cooptation of agrobiodiversity—at a time when the resilience that agrobiodiversity confers is needed most. Input-intensive industrial agriculture has led to widespread landscape simplification through monocropping regimes, contributing to soil erosion, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of both managed and unmanaged agrobiodiversity. Though agrobiodiversity conservation efforts are expanding, many remain rooted in ex situ-centric logics of extraction and cooptive control. Ex situ conservation prioritizes the accumulation and expropriation of biodiversity resources, knowledge, and value in off-site, often proprietary institutions. By contrast, in situ and in vivo reproduction of agrobiodiversity resources and knowledge by local communities remains overlooked and underrated. Governance of agrobiodiversity, meanwhile, has proven ineffective in protecting peasant and Indigenous seed systems, raising questions about the place of international seed and biodiversity treaties and policies at a time when the corporate concentration of power in the seed sector grows ever stronger.

This special feature emerges from the crucial question of how agrobiodiversity nourishes, in all senses of the term. We ask: What is the relationship between, on one hand, the diversity of farms and living productive landscapes, and, on the other, the physical, affective, and collective wellbeing of farmers and eaters? How are the pathways that connect agrobiodiversity to FS/FSN mediated by markets, policy, knowledge networks, and trade regimes across scales? How do power dynamics from household to global levels affect for whom and by whom agrobiodiversity works?

Intentionally transdisciplinary in scope, audience, methodology, and publishing format, the feature encourages critical analysis of current agrobiodiversity approaches as well as proactive research, policy, and organizing agendas. Through an array of research articles, policy briefs, practice bridges, commentaries, and multimedia (see article types below) we seek to better understand the pathways that exist between agrobiodiversity and nourishment, and guide action-based change to support the construction and maintenance of these pathways, long term.


The first set of papers in this special feature emerges from a 3-year project, funded by the NSF National Socioenvironmental Synthesis Center (NSF-SESYNC). We combine decolonial and political ecology perspectives to map the complex pathways between agrobiodiversity and FS/FSN. These papers address the broad question: Under what social, political and economic conditions does agrobiodiversity nourish and how do we uncover these pathways through engaged research-action? More specifically, we engage questions such as: Where, how, and in what contexts does agrobiodiversity contribute to community food security, nutrition, and health? Where, how, and when do these contexts support nourishment, food and seed sovereignty, and food, farm, and land justice? What potential is there for partnerships grounded in equitable power relations and shared analysis amongst frontline communities regarding agrobiodiversity for agroecological resilience and collective nourishment?


We are now calling for a second set of papers to add to this collection. We invite contributions from a wide range of social and natural sciences and practice-based traditions. We seek papers that illuminate successful examples of, and challenges for, agrobiodiversity stewardship, sovereignty, and governance for FS/FSN. We invite discussions of how different research agendas, data collection and analysis, and scholarship influence agrobiodiversity conservation, utilization, and effects on human wellbeing.

We welcome contributions from scholars of agrobiodiversity, from disciplines in constructive dialogue with agrobiodiversity issues, and from communities of practice whose expertise is the foundation of agrobiodiversity renewal: Indigenous peoples, campesinx, grassroots movements for food sovereignty and seed sovereignty, and seed saving initiatives, among others (see notes on language and funding below).

We are particularly interested in papers exploring the following aspects of agrobiodiversity for nourishment (the following list is not exclusive).

  1. Ecology, Nutrition, and Health Sciences. How does agrobiodiversity relate to and build connections among fields like ecology, agroecology, and the nutrition and health sciences? At their intersections, what can we learn about how aquatic biodiversity, soil microbial biodiversity, agroecology, and complex social ecological systems supporting biodiverse food cultivation? What is the nature of the relationship to FS/FSN? We welcome contributions that address emergent questions in:
    1. Agroecology, including agroforestry
    2. Aquatic biodiversity, freshwater and marine
    3. Soil biodiversity, including above- and below-ground connections
    4. Health, nutrition, and nourishment of human and non-human life
  2. Local/Global Governance & Policy. What is the role of governance, at various scales, in sustaining agrobiodiversity and its roles in nourishment? How do grassroots mobilizations articulate and enact alternative and customary governance principles and practices for agrobiodiversity and nutrition? Where do false solutions emerge in policies and programs - and how can they be overcome? We welcome contributions that address emergent questions in:
    1. Law, policy, and intellectual property (eg. Plant Treaty, UPOV)
    2. Social movements and grassroots mobilizations (eg. seed and food sovereignty)
    3. Everyday practices and politics (eg. of farmers, workers, and publics) as they relate to governing agrobiodiversity and nutrition
  3. Shocks and Risks. How does agrobiodiversity relate to long-term and sudden crises; and what kinds of governance, practices, relationships, and networks help maintain agrobiodiverse farming and nourishing food systems under crisis conditions? We welcome contributions that address the intersections of agrobiodiversity, nourishment, and crises including:
    1. Pandemics, epidemics, and zoonotic diseases
    2. Armed conflicts, military occupation, state violence, refugee movements
    3. Global supply chain disruptions and trade dependency
    4. Financial crises, food price spikes, farmgate price collapses, the cost and availability of inputs
    5. Climate crises, weather extremes and volatility, and water resources and availability
    6. “Root cause” shocks including racial capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism
  4. Methodologies and Engagements. How do formal and vernacular ways of knowing converge, complicate, and co-create knowledge about agrobiodiversity and FS/FSN? In concrete terms, how do researchers, farmers, workers, food preparers, and other actors develop shared understandings? We invite experience-based contributions considering:
    1. What methods or approaches assemble human/non-human collectivities around agrobiodiversity, nourishment, and the pursuit of sovereignty?
    2. How do participatory and action-based methods, including community-based, practitioner-led approaches lend themselves to the study of pathways connecting agrobiodiversity and FS/FSN?
    3. How agrobiodiversity-FS/FSN research, policy, and activism are being informed by decolonial approaches, and movements for socially just and environmentally sustainable food systems?


Paper types & Language: Elementa offers a number of article types, including research papers, policy bridges, practice bridges, videos and audio files, and commentaries. We welcome contributions across the spectrum of article types, as well as those with relevant original and public domain visuals (from tables and data visualization to photography and art). We also welcome Spanish language contributions and will work with author teams to support peer-review and translation into English for bilingual publication.

Open Access: Elementa journal is fully open access, meaning that there is no charge to read, download, or use any content published, and content is published with open reuse licenses. Authors should consult the publication fees page for the costs associated with each article type. University of California authors are eligible for a fee waiver, as are authors who lack external or institutional funding to pay their publication fees. Authors from low and middle-income countries—whose primary affiliations are eligible for the Research4Life program, Groups A & B— are currently automatically offered a 75% discount.

Timelines: The deadline to submit a ~400 word abstract is March 1, 2022. Please also submit a ~100-word bio for each author-contributor. Submissions go to Veronica Limeberry ([email protected]). Invited papers will be announced in early 2022. Additional papers will be selected on a rolling submissions basis, so if you are unable to meet these deadlines, please submit your abstract at your earliest convenience and indicate your anticipated time frame along with your abstract.

About Elementa: Published by the University of California Press, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal committed to the facilitation of collaborative, peer-reviewed research. Impact Factor: 6.053. 

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Painting by boyD. Reused with permission.
Painting by boyD. Reused with permission.
Painting by boyD. Reused with permission.

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