Research

Various of us at Cultivate! are engaged in research on agroecology and healthy food systems, often in collaboration with others. Below, you can find some of our current research processes as well as a selection of some of the academic papers individuals of Cultivate! have published.



> Harvesting wild rice as an act of food sovereignty

Food sovereignty, in the indigenous North American context, involves a re-connection to traditional land-based food and political systems. This research explores how the indigenous-led revitalisation of wild rice, a culturally important food for the Ojibwe people of the Upper Great Lakes area of the United States, has become a centrepiece in the struggle for food sovereignty. Using a feminist political ecology perspective, the project explores Ojibwe people’s historical and current relationships with wild rice. Traditionally a women’s realm, the research uncovers how commodification of wild rice displaced women and led to a loss of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage, and how it is being revitalised today.

Contact: Jessica Milgroom, jessica[at]cultivatecollective.org


> Understanding transition to sustainable food systems through agroecology

Partners: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) of Coventry University, FAO

Cultivate! is currently collaborating with CAWR on a study to identify enabling factors for the amplification of agroecology as a transition pathway to sustainable food systems. This study was requested by FAO. It is based on a systematic and critical literature review and case studies of agroecological transition in different regions, at different scales. A review team of with representatives from academia, farmer organisations and social movements has discussed a first draft. We will develop a framework that can be used to examine the dynamics and building blocks for agroecological transitions.

Contact: Janneke Bruil, janneke[at]cultivatecollective.org


> Ethnovideography with young agroecologists in Brazil 

Partners: Federal University of Viçosa (Brazil), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), Centre for Alternative Technologies, CTA (Brazil) and others.

In Brazil, Cultivate! is analysing the various emancipatory strategies of young agroecologists to change the dominant discourse on agriculture and rural-urban migration. Combining action-research with ethnovideography, we collaborate with peasant unions, youth collectives and land reform settlement groups. We facilitate video making workshops on their request, and film their emancipatory practices. All footage, audio-recordings and film screenings are used to generate data. As part of this research, we also co-design and test educational materials on audiovisual memory to enhance learning on agroecology. The ambition is to align visual action-research methods with emancipatory practices. In August 2020 this research, which is part of a PhD, will be finalised.

Contact: Margriet Goris, margriet[at]cultivatecollective.org

>Mapping agroecology

Partners: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (Coventry University), AgroEcology Fund

Mapping is all the rage.  Everyone wants to map what is going on where.  Groups are mapping farms, consumers, markets, stores, varieties, innovative practices and more. People map for all sorts of reasons: to network with others, to inspire people, to exchange knowledge, to shape narrative and policies, to self-promote and to analyse change. Groups are mapping using very different approaches, from highly controlled, rigorous processes, to open, participatory processes. But has anyone stopped to wonder how all this mapping helps or hinders the amplification of agroecology around the world?  How does mapping influence what we think we know about agroecology?  Whose voices are getting left off the map?  The Guide to Mapping for Food System Change (2019) systematizes how mapping can best support the agroecology movement through conversation with mappers and analysis of mapping initiatives.

Contact: Jessica Milgroom, jessica[at]cultivatecollective.org 

> Evaluation of West African programme to integrate agroecology, equity and nutrition

Partners: ANSD (Burkina Faso), Sahel Eco (Mali), Agrecol Afrique (Senegal), Groundswell International

Janneke Bruil of Cultivate! was invited by Groundswell International to evaluate their programme to enable small scale farmers and their families in the western Sahel, who have become chronically vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity, to strengthen their resilience. Designed as a ‘proof of concept’ the programme demonstrated that agroecology can greatly enhance the resilience of the dryland farmers in the Sahel if integrated with explicit strategies to: 1) strengthen women’s empowerment in  agriculture, 2) foster social equity, 3) integrate nutrition, 4) diversify women’s livelihoods through savings and credit, 4) improve local governance and 5) create a multiplier effect through networking and alliances with national farmer organisations, documentation, and advocacy. Together with local organisations, Cultivate! assessed to what extent this approach has promoted the resilience of dryland farmers and fostered a more favourable environment for it to spread. Read the final evaluation report (2019) .

Contact: Janneke Bruil, janneke[at]cultivatecollective.org


> Shrubs and trees on drylands making a difference for West African farmers

Partners: Wageningen University, IRD, and CIRAD

Soil degradation in semi-arid West Africa can be reversed when farmers apply organic matter intensively, in particular from woody perennials. This research reviewed how agroforestry and wood amendments affect soil properties and crop yields in semi-arid West Africa. Findings indicate that the presence of shrubs and trees on agricultural fields has overall positive but variable effects on soil carbon stocks and cereal yields.

Contact: Georges Félix, georges[at]cultivatecollective.org


> Territorial governance and ritual plant use in Mexico

Partners: Council of Communal Goods of Cherán (Mexico), National Autonomous University of Mexico, Hamburg University (Germany)

Accompanying processes of self-determination of peasant and indigenous communities is part of our work at Cultivate!. In Mexico, we are documenting the management strategies of ritual plants in Cherán, a Purepecha community in Michoacán state and the first self-governing indigenous community to gain legal recognition from the Mexican government. The objective is to obtain baseline data on plant uses, threat and conservation status of useful plants and, particularly, edible crops, crop wild relatives, as well as the ecological knowledge embedded in rituals. Moreover, we aim at contributing to Cheran’s ongoing process of reclaiming their identity and cultural traits, as well as to informing their strategies to achieve food and health sovereignty. The results of this project were presented in Cherán mid-2018.

Contact: Diana Quiroz, diana[at]cultivatecollective.org


Academic papers

Below is a selection of peer reviewed articles co-authored by members of Cultivate!:

Anderson, C.R.; Bruil, J.; Chappell, M.J.; Kiss, C.; Pimbert, M.P. From Transition to Domains of Transformation: Getting to Sustainable and Just Food Systems through Agroecology. Sustainability 2019, 11, 5272.

Wezel, A.; Goris, M.; Bruil, J.; Félix, G.F.; Peeters, A.; Bàrberi, P.; Bellon, S.; Migliorini, P. 2018. Challenges and Action Points to Amplify Agroecology in EuropeSustainability 10, 1598.

Van den Berg, L., Hebinck, P., Roep, D., 2018. ‘We go back to the land’: processes of repeasantisation in Brazil. The journal of peasant studies 45(3): 653-675.

Félix GF, Scholberg JMS, Clermont-Dauphin C, Cournac L, & Tittonell P. 2018. Enhancing agroecosystem productivity with woody perennials in semi-arid West Africa. A meta-analysis. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 38(6).

Félix GF, Diedhiou I, Le Garff M, Timmermann C, Clermont-Dauphin C, Cournac L, Groot JCJ, & Tittonell P. 2018. Use and management of biodiversity by smallholder farmers in semi-arid West Africa. Global Food Security 18: 76-85.

Timmerman, C., Félix, G., Tittonell, P., 2017. Food sovereignty and consumer sovereignty: Two antagonistic goals? Agroecology and sustainable food systems 42(3).

Tittonell P. et al., 2016. Ecological Intensification: Local Innovation to Address Global Challenges. In: Lichtfouse E. (eds). Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, vol 19. Springer, Cham

Timmermann, C. & Félix, G.F. 2015. Agroecology as a vehicle for contributive justice. Agriculture Human Values 32: 523.

Milgroom, J. 2015. Policy processes of a land grab: at the interface of politics ‘in the air’ and politics ‘on the ground’ in Massingir, Mozambique. Journal of Peasant Studies 42(3-4):585-606.

Milgroom, J., K. E. Giller, and C. Leeuwis. 2014. Three interwoven dimensions of natural resource use: quantity, quality and access in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation AreaHuman Ecology 42(2):199-215.

Milgroom, J., and K. E. Giller. 2013. Courting the rain: Rethinking seasonality and adaptation to recurrent drought in semi-arid southern Africa. Agricultural Systems 118:91–104.

Milgroom, J., and M. Spierenburg. 2008. Induced volition: Resettlement from the Limpopo National Park, Mozambique. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26(4):435-448.