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Decolonizing land governance for agroecological futures

Authors: Dana James*, University of British Columbia, Hannah Wittman, University of British Columbia
Topics: Food Systems, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: agroecology, land, land governance, food sovereignty, decolonization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 1:00 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Virtual Track 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The food sovereignty movement proposes agroecology as a “production mode” to sustain communities, provide dignified worker livelihoods, and enhance ecosystem health. Yet land – as concept, resource, and territorial basis for agroecological relationships – is heavily contested through processes of enclosure, commodification, and more recently, financialization. These dimensions of the political economy of land are tied to questions of power and privilege. But tensions around land access often presuppose a Western ontological and epistemological understanding of land which can also be contested: What is land, what purpose does it serve, and to whom? And how do we know?

In this paper, we highlight tensions around land for agroecological futures in two settler-colonial contexts: Canada and Brazil. We first review key concepts at the intersection of land governance, food sovereignty, and agroecology. Using a case study approach, we then explore the potential for, and relations around, agroecological transitions across different land governance contexts – from working within the private property regime to directly challenging it. We discuss the resulting impacts on people, landscapes, and agroecological outcomes of interest, and conclude with the access, equity, and justice implications of these different land governance approaches for sustainable food systems into the future.

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