Re-examining pathways to smallholder food security and the transformative potential of agroecology: A case study from Malawi
Based on interviews with small farmers in Malawi, I find that the current framing of food security in scientific literature reproduces discursive assumptions, presupposing farmers’ problems and aspirations in a way that privileges production outputs for income generation as the solution to hunger. These assumptions limited the analytic power of theorized pathways to explain the mechanisms behind the way that farmers interviewed were moving towards food security. I argue instead that altering social and ecological relations of production, by which I mean control over land, labor, and farming inputs, are at least as important for smallholders’ access to stable, adequate food as improvements in production outputs. Agroecology does much more to transform these relations than other agricultural paradigms, yet because of the analytical limitations of food security as a discourse, these “social and ecological pathways” to food security are overlooked. This exclusion matters because when core pathways remain invisible, the potential of paradigms like sustainable intensification to jeopardize food security by actively undermining these pathways goes unrecognized. I propose that food sovereignty provides a better narrative for understanding what matters for Malawian smallholders’ food security, and the factors at play behind agricultural transitions to food security in many smallholders’ contexts.
agroecology; farm-level pathways; food security; food sovereignty; production relations
Bezner Kerr, Rachel
Gomez, Miguel I.
M.S., Development Sociolog
Master of Science
Attribution 4.0 International
dissertation or thesis
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution 4.0 International