To Cultivate Peace: Agriculture in a World of Conflict
by Indra de Soysa & Nils Petter Gleditsch, with Michael Gibson & Margareta Sollenberg
In this article we examine the post–Cold War pattern of conflict with a focus on the role of agriculture. In developing countries, the primary sector of the economy is dominant. Closely linked to basic human needs, it is directly affected by environmental degradation and by violence. The agricultural sector is subject to strong governmental intervention in most countries, and can easily suffer from capricious politics.
The conditions of food production and distribution is a good arena for observing the interaction of politics, economics, and environmental issues as they influence violent conflict – how it is generated, how it is escalated, how it is contained, and how it is resolved. We conclude that the rehabilitation of agriculture is a central condition for development, reducing poverty, preventing environmental destruction, and for
reducing violence. Poor conditions for agriculture hold grave implications for socio-economic development and sustainable peace. We also see good governance as crucial in building healthy conditions for agriculture, and thus in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty, scarcity, and violence. The central issues are not merely technical: they relate directly to the way human beings organize their affairs and how they cope with natural and man-made crises.
Practising Food Democracy by Neva Hassanein
There is a tension regarding the potential of the alternative agro-food movement to create meaningful change. From one perspective, individual and organizational actors working to change the dominant food system need to be engaged on a daily basis in political and social struggles and accomplish what is presently possible given existing opportunities and barriers. From an alternate view, such pragmatism is woefully inadequate for achieving the complete transformation of the food and agriculture system that many movement actors and academic analysts see as necessary. This paper examines some of the issues underlying this tension. It is argued that the ‘‘sustainability’’ of food and agriculture systems is understandably a contested concept because it inevitably involves
both conflicts over values and uncertainty about outcomes. These same characteristics make democracy the method of choice for the alternative agro-food movement, and this paper discusses the emerging concept of ‘‘food democracy’’ in order to elaborate upon its
practical utility with respect to collective action. The existing alternative agro-food movement is the main source of the pressure to democratize the agro-food system. While the movement in the United States (and elsewhere) is very diverse in terms of organizational forms and strategies, there are important opportunities for developing coalitions among various groups. Lastly, food democracy is discussed as a pragmatic method for transforming the agro-food system.