Among all of the possible approaches to reducing hunger in the world, efforts to increase agricultural productivity dominate in development institutions and large philanthropies. In this productivist paradigm, the function of agriculture is narrow, and further investments in industrial agriculture are the greatest need. This view clashes with the intricate diversity and multiple functions of farms and gardens in Yucatan, Mexico. Agroecosystems there are spectacularly diverse. Besides providing many products to eat and sell, those farms are uniquely well suited to feed households in the increasingly erratic weather of Yucatan, where droughts and storms often wipe out certain crops. In a diverse garden, there is nearly always something to eat. There is little evidence that increasing agricultural production alone promotes food security, and there are many instances in which the drive for productivity has exacerbated hunger. In this article, I investigate why productivism has dominated development policy and discourse for so long.
Productivism, Agroecology, and the Challenge of Feeding the World
Devon Sampson investigates the dynamic and creative ways that smallholder farmers adapt to a changing world. His work focuses on the biodiversity that farmers manage as part of their agroecosystems, and how that biodiversity contributes to the ability to make a living in increasingly unpredictable climactic and economic conditions. Devon advises organizations on methods for measuring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and on participatory approaches to gathering and analyzing data. He draws on his experience as a gardener and farmer, a teacher, and a community organizer in his work. He is co-host of the radio show and podcast Delicious Revolution, and holds a PhD in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz.
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Devon Sampson; Productivism, Agroecology, and the Challenge of Feeding the World. Gastronomica 1 November 2018; 18 (4): 41–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.4.41
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