Young people resignify agroecology as a movement of repeasantization that reworks local culture so that it is more inclusive of different populations, generations and genders. In her recently defended PhD thesis, Margriet Goris of Cultivate argues that peasant agroecology can be a pathway toward ecologically and socially inclusive food systems simultaneously, once multiple, intersecting forms of oppression are addressed.
Intergovernmental organizations and researchers point to agroecology as a pathway to preserve biodiversity, address climate change and achieve the sustainable development goals. While they acknowledge that much of the change will have to come from the next or a new generation of farmers, little is known about how young people become engaged in agroecology.
Past research on youth in agriculture has focused on the main mechanisms responsible for them leaving the countryside, pointing to the importance of the lack of access to land, de-skilling, the negative societal image of agriculture, a lack of on-farm dialogue about succession, the gendered division of labour, farm management, payment, and or affective relationships in this process. This thesis complements these studies by concentrating on the aspects that youths themselves see as hampering them from starting or continuing agroecological farming (e.g. their peasant identity, age, gender, class, race, sexual orientation).
In particular, it zooms in on how grassroots popular education and social movement organisations support youth in their efforts to deal with these issues and help them engage in transformative changes toward agroecology. In so doing, this thesis throws unique light onto the way in which young agroecological peasants create space for themselves by exercising a variety of emancipatory practices.
Young people build and alter their relationships with peers, with family, and with nature and culture through popular education on agroecology. By alternating periods of school time and farm time in popular education both students and their parents become engaged in agroecological transformations. The assignments they have to do during the farm time enhance dialogues and practices. Through those relationships, they co-produce a form of relational autonomy which has strong emancipatory value.
The thesis “Emancipation of young agroecological peasants in Zona da Mata, Minas Gerais, Brazil: an identity in-the-making.” by Margriet Goris is currently under embargo and not available online. You can request a copy by sending a message to margriet [at] cultivatecollective.org.