Now Accepting Applications for the 2023 Agroecology Extension Summer Research Fellows Program

The Agroecology Extension (AX) Summer Research Fellowship is uniquely tailored for students looking to deepen their knowledge of sustainable agricultural approaches, developing transdisciplinary research and outreach skills, and engaging with extension in Vermont.

The AX Fellowship is a fully paid, 10-week research and outreach experience open to undergraduates from across the US – UVM provides the project, mentorship, and research sites – you bring your enthusiasm and willingness to get engaged under the Vermont summer sun!

Click here for further information about the program and to apply.

The AX Fellowship is a collaboration between UVM Extension and the Plant and Soil Science Department, and coordinated by Institute for Agroecology on UVM’s main campus in Burlington, VT. This fellowship is designed for students who seek to deepen their knowledge of sustainable agricultural approaches and to develop transdisciplinary research and outreach skills. It will match undergraduate fellows with UVM faculty, staff, and graduate students engaged in a variety of applied research and outreach projects that include pest management, vegetable/berry farming, fruit tree farming, ecological landscape design, environmental science, and sustainable cropping systems.

 

Program logistics

The AX Fellowship starts May 30, 2023, and runs for 10 weeks, M-F 8am-4:30pm. 

  • Students will receive a $4,000 stipend. 
  • On-campus housing is provided. 
  • Takes place on campus and in the field.  
  • Project locations are dependent upon mentor’s research and outreach. 
  • Personal transportation is preferred but not required. 

 

Click here for further information about the program and to apply.

Hiring three new staff positions for Institute for Agroecology at UVM

Join our team

The University of Vermont is in the final stages of approving a new Institute for Agroecology. This will be a university-wide hub of learning and research, focused on transformative agroecology, justice and equity in food systems. The Institute builds on a decade of work in the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), a community of practice that focused on transdisciplinary agroecology and participatory action research. Our small and deeply committed team is excited to invite interested applicants for several new staff positions. At the Institute for Agroecology, we are creating a culture of belonging where a diverse mix of talented people will be inspired to do their best work. We are committed to nurturing a learning and working environment across culture, age, gender, race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. Please circulate widely and reach out if you have any questions.

Operations Manager

You enjoy looking at a situation and thinking about what is missing and what needs attention. You can piece together disparate pieces to solve a complex puzzle and are familiar with working within institutional settings and systems (e.g. at a university). You thrive in spaces where there is a wide variety of activities and personalities. You will focus on:

      • Systems development to support successful collaborations among the team, with external partners and within the UVM ecosystem
      • Strategic financial planning and budget management
      • Creative communications to share our work with the world

For further information on this position, or to apply on-line, please visit our website at:  https://www.uvmjobs.com/postings/59259. Applications due January 20, 2023

Learning Programs Coordinator

You are passionate about learning in both formal and non-formal settings and enjoy supporting a diversity of students in their personal, academic, and professional growth. You like to think about distinct types of knowledge (e.g., scientific, cultural traditions, the practical experience of farmers) and ways of knowing, and how learning can help to advance transitions towards more just and sustainable food systems. You are outgoing and like to help people connect with each other and resources that further their goals. You thrive in spaces where there is a wide variety of activities and personalities. You will focus on:

      • Administrative and technology support for dynamic and growing slate of learning programs (includes both in-person and online offerings)
      • Content management and logistics for courses, workshops and retreats
      • Recruitment, enrollment and retention across for- and non-credit offerings

For further information on this position, or to apply on-line, please visit our website at:  https://www.uvmjobs.com/postings/59571. Applications due January 20, 2023

Global Programs Coordinator

You are passionate about advancing agroecology and just food systems through international networks and can make connections across contexts and regions. You are comfortable in creating bridges between people working in different languages and cultural settings and have a vision for the ways research, education, and outreach complement each other. You believe in the power of building strong relationships as a basis for effective change-making and can track and manage relationships across complex networks and projects. You will focus on:

      • Strategic coordination across projects and liaising with international partners
      • Administrative support for all programs with global reach including international events
      • Creative communications to share our work with the world (includes accessibility in multiple formats and multiple languages)

For further information on this position, or to apply on-line, please visit our website at:  https://www.uvmjobs.com/postings/59569. Applications due January 20, 2023

The University of Vermont is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other category legally protected by federal or state law. The University encourages applications from all individuals who will contribute to the diversity and excellence of the institution.

Agroecology – A Promising Alternative to the Biodiversity Crisis in Agriculture and Industrial Food Systems

 Agroecology builds biodiversity into agriculture and food systems and should be a key strategy of global biodiversity conservation. Nature and our lives depend on it.
Written by Colin Anderson, Ernesto Mendez, Patrick Mulvany and Faris Ahmed 
Also posted on AgroecologyNow!

As mentioned in our previous blog post, representatives from the world’s nations are currently gathering in Montreal for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The goal of the meeting is to adopt a “Global Biodiversity Framework” which will guide international collaboration to reverse dramatic losses of global biodiversity for the next 30 years. Yet, to our peril, agroecology and agrobiodiversity have been marginalized in these debates. 

I (Colin) grew up on a farm in the Canadian Prairies and am still charmed by the region’s big skies and agricultural landscape. Seas of yellow canola flowers blossoming as far as the eye can see. Wheat fields, gently swaying in the wind, stretching from fencerow to fencerow. Beautiful blankets of color, pleasing to the eye.

These simplified agricultural systems have an alluring beauty on the surface, but they are devoid of the potential diversity of crops and livestock that, when integrated, allow for a more efficient and synergistic use of resources. What’s more, they are hostile towards wild biodiversity through the elimination of habitat, the application of herbicides and pesticides and the degradation of soil health.

Nevertheless, the intensification of industrial agriculture in this image remains the dominant model being promoted globally – a model of agriculture that must be transformed if we are to reverse global biodiversity losses and sustain life on Earth for our grandchildren. That is why the United Nations set up the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in 1992, and why, 30 years later, with biodiversity losses still accelerating, decisive action by governments is vitally urgent.

Where is agricultural biodiversity in global decision-making about biodiversity conservation?

The COP15 meeting comes during a mass extinction event. A high percentage of global biodiversity, and biosphere integrity, is at risk, and threatened especially by the dominant economic and social drivers of industrial food systems. In short, the stakes for this CBD meeting are unfathomably high.

The evidence from FAO, IPBES and IPCC has clearly established that agriculture and land use change are among the main drivers of biodiversity loss. Large-scale, industrial-style agriculture threatens 86% of the 28,000 endangered species and, in a blow to food security and resilience, these farming systems are responsible for the loss of most of our genetic diversity in crops and livestock over the last century. Currently, only 12 plant species and 5 livestock breeds make up 75% of the world’s industrial food system, with just 3 species (wheat, rice and corn) providing half the calorie intake.  According to the IPBES Global Assessment, these genetically shallow agricultural systems are increasingly vulnerable to pests, pathogens, climate change and other factors.

Notoriously sidelined in UN negotiations, however, is a focus on highly threatened ‘agricultural biodiversity’ – the major sub-set of biodiversity in the areas where people live and work. It includes all the biodiversity, above and below ground and in waters, which supports our food and agricultural systems, provides food, fiber, shelter, clean water, medicine and underpins vital ecosystem functions.

Without deeply transforming industrial food systems towards ones that will prioritize agroecological systems of production, the losses of agricultural biodiversity will proceed unabated, placing the very basis of human existence in peril.

Instead, CBD debates on biodiversity have come to focus on proposals for setting aside large areas of land to conserve pristine nature. The touted 30×30 campaign, for example, proposes setting aside 30% of territories in Protected Areas by 2030. These types of programs, however, often harm and displace millions of knowledgeable, biodiversity-conserving Indigenous Peoples and local communities from their traditional territories.

Such a focus distracts attention from what is happening on the other 70% of land, where there’s a drive to intensify agricultural production using biodiversity- and habitat-reducing homogeneous monocultures. This aligns with the power structures of the industrial agrifood system. It intentionally marginalizes and displaces the people who have the greatest history, sophisticated knowledge, and potential to protect, restore, and enhance highly heterogeneous agricultural biodiversity.

Biodiverse agroecology – a compelling alternative paradigm to build back agricultural biodiversity and confront our intersecting crises

Indigenous Lepcha farmers in Sikkim, India practicing traditional agroecological seed saving and agriculture

Agroecology in Vermont, USA

Women-led agroecology in Kenya

Photo credit: LEISA India

A growing chorus of scientists, institutions, civil society organizations, and small-scale food providers have gotten behind agroecology as an alternative paradigm for organizing and transforming food systems.

Biodiverse agroecology involves the application of ecological principles to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems, drawing from Indigenous and local knowledge, and directly addressing the political changes needed to transform food systems. It focuses on redesigning agricultural practices, policies, networks and governance, based on a set of principles that emphasize biodiversity, resilience, people’s knowledge, the fundamental role of women and the importance of food sovereignty.

While industrial food systems are destroying biodiversity, smaller-scale agroecological farms are at the forefront of conserving and enhancing agricultural biodiversity, and improving ecosystem functioning, while producing the majority of the world’s food. Peasant, indigenous and territorially rooted agroecology is vital to maintaining agricultural biodiversity, within farm plots and across rural landscapes. These agroecosystems conserve the heterogeneity and variety within species and among species at community and ecosystem levels.

There are countless examples of agroecology emerging around the world. Agroforestry systems enhance biodiversity through incorporating trees and shrubs into cropping or livestock lands, providing resiliency against climate change and improved rural livelihoods. The adoption of intercropping, such as in the Mesoamerican milpa systems, where corn is planted alongside beans, pumpkin, chili, and other vegetables create rich mosaics of biodiversity in farms and landscapes. In India, Amrita Bhoomi trains farmers on Zero Budget Natural Farming – a local agroecological method that needs no external inputs, very little water, and relies on natural processes. These agroecological approaches not only enhance agricultural biodiversity in farmers’ fields but also provides habitat for the biodiversity in the surrounding ecosystems, to the wider benefit of people and the environment (see infographic below).

COP15 Blog_SoilToSkyFlyer_ChristensenFund_400x711

'Soil to Sky of Agroecology vs. Industrial Agriculture' Infographic by the Christensen Fund

Click Image for Downloadable Full-Size Version

By working with – not against – nature, and diversifying our farms, landscapes, fishing waters and the foods we eat, agroecology supports biodiversity, contributes to the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promotes resilience. All while supporting livelihoods and some of the healthier diets on the planet.

To build up biodiverse agroecology, it is important to transform the enabling environment and confront the power of corporations and agribusiness in maintaining the status quo. This requires prioritizing, in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the inclusion of the implementation of already agreed upon actions that sustain agricultural biodiversity. Specifically, we need to scale out peasants’ dynamic management of biodiverse agroecology while respecting indigenous peoples’ and peasants’ collective rights to seeds, livestock breeds, territories and forms of production.

Regardless of the outcomes of this year’s CBD /COP15, civil society actors should engage in broad, coordinated actions and movement building to continue to strengthen agricultural biodiversity in communities and policies. Only in this way can we truly transform food systems, stem the loss of agricultural biodiversity and address the intersecting crises of inequality, diet-related illness, climate change, and hunger.

New Edited Book: Critical Adult Education in Food Movements

Critical Adult Education in Food Movements

This book focuses on research that shows the importance of critical adult education for the spread of food sovereignty and agroecology to more people and places. It pays particular attention to the important role that learning, education and pedagogy can play in social transformation for food sovereignty and justice—an approach referred to broadly as “Learning for Transformation”. It reveals common dynamics and principles that critical education for food sovereignty share in different contexts. The book draws together 8 chapters that offer new critical insights about why, where, and how learning for transformation is being implemented,—and what next.

This book contributes to the ALC stream of research on “pedagogy and learning for agroecology”, which can be viewed hereThis book, originally published as a special issue in Agriculture and Human Values, brings further visibility to the contributions of the authors. Over the last three years, the work on pedagogy, education and learning in agroecology, food sovereignty and sustainable food systems continues to grow, with many new contributions deepening our understanding of the ways that learning can be configured in different contexts to advance change. For example, this recent special issue on, Critical and Equity-Oriented Pedagogical Innovations in Sustainable Food Systems Education, includes 14 original research and perspective articles that dig deep into questions on how to tackle inequity and build critical perspectives in/through food system education. A quick search on Google Scholar on education and agroecology (here) or food sovereignty (here) reveals a trove of wonderful papers from around the world exploring some of the evolving contours of this area of scholarship. For those hungry to develop their understanding, theory and practice – we invite you to click through and explore. Should you lack access to any of these articles, please reach out to the authors.

Critical Adult Education in Food Movements
Editors: Colin R. Anderson, Rosa Binimelis Adell, Michel P. Pimbert, Marta Rivera Ferre

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Introduction to the symposium on critical adult education in food movements: learning for transformation in and beyond food movements—the why, where, how and the what next?. . . 1
Colin R. Anderson, R. Binimelis, M. P. Pimbert, and M. G. Rivera-Ferre

Transformative agroecology learning in Europe: building consciousness, skills and collective capacity for food sovereignty . . . 11
Colin R. Anderson, Chris Maughan, and Michel P. Pimbert

Farming for change: developing a participatory curriculum on agroecology, nutrition, climate change and social equity in Malawi and Tanzania . . . 29
Rachel Bezner Kerr, Sera L. Young, Carrie Young, Marianne V. Santoso, Mufunanji Magalasi, Martin Entz, Esther Lupafya, Laifolo Dakishoni, Vicki Morrone, David Wolfe, and Sieglinde S. Snapp

Multi-actor networks and innovation niches: university training for local Agroecological Dynamization . . . 47
Daniel López-García, Laura Calvet-Mir, Marina Di Masso, and Josep Espluga

What’s wrong with permaculture design courses? Brazilian lessons for agroecological movement-building in Canada . . . 61
Marie-Josée Massicotte and Christopher Kelly-Bisson

Teaching the territory: agroecological pedagogy and popular movements . . . 75
Nils McCune and Marlen Sánchez

Food sovereignty education across the Americas: multiple origins, converging movements . . . 91
David Meek, Katharine Bradley, Bruce Ferguson, Lesli Hoey, Helda Morales, Peter Rosset, and Rebecca Tarlau

Images of work, images of defiance: engaging migrant farm worker voice through community-based arts . . . 107
Adam Perr

Protocols, Principles and Guidelines for Participatory Action Research + Related Traditions of Research

We frequently hear requests for simple, short guidelines or principles that can be used by practitioners of participatory approaches to research, learning and action. In this context, we put a call out for ‘your input!’ to create a crowdsourced curated reading list on ‘protocols and guidelines for participatory, engaged-, decolonial, indigenous, feminist and other related traditions of research’. 

While we will make reference to more conceptual and longer pieces on these topics (and the importance of not only focusing on technical ‘protocols’), we are focusing on compiling accessible, short and pragmatic resources.

Do you have anything to add? Ideas? Comments? Links? Write to: colin.anderson@uvm.edu

List curated by Colin Anderson with input from Csilla Kiss, Maywa Montenegro de Wit, Michelle Nikfarjam, Jasber Singh, Tabitha Martens, Stephane McLachlanChiara Tornaghi and Lamis Jamil

The Curated List

Other related resources suggested as a part of the crowdsourcing process

New Publication Series: Perspectives on Agroecology Transitions

The ALC Agroecology Support Team in their work with the McKnight CCRP program launches a new publication series: Perspectives on Agroecology TransitionsThis series of short publications explores different aspects of agroecology transitions. It focuses on praxis, which is the continual consideration of theory/reflection with practice/action. This helps us to think deeply about our work and how to best contribute to social transformation. These short publications, each available in French, Spanish and English, are intended to be used by agents of change in agroecology transitions (including farmers, activists, researchers, policy-makers and others). 

The first publications in the series have been released:

No. 1 – Sweet Rose in the Field

English; French; Spanish

A spotlight profile on Ross Mary Borja, Director of EkoRural in Ecuador and her reflections on agroecology transitions.

No. 2 – Embracing Critical Friendship for Agroecology Transitions

English; French; Spanish

Presents the idea of critical friendship as as a method for anyone seeking to become better agents of change in processes of agroecology transitions.

Further publications in the series are in the works and will be released occasionally as they are finalized. Stay tuned for more.

Join our Introduction to Agroecology Course this Spring

Join our Introduction to Agroecology Course this Spring

Looking for a crash course that brings a learning community together to explore the social, political, ecological and cultural dimensions of agroecology? Join in on our Intro to Agroecology course. This year’s offering is fully online and will bring you into an interactive learning environment with committed instructors and inspiring guest speakers. More information below.

Click here to learn more and to register.

Questions can be directed to the co-instructors Vic Izzo (victor.izzo@uvm.edu) and Martha Caswell (martha.caswell@uvm.edu).

This 4-week online course presents an in-depth overview of research and applications in the field of agroecology. The last week students will participate in a virtual experience that engages with practitioners from our widespread agroecology network.

The course seeks to provide students with both conceptual and practical content, covering the evolution of the field of agroecology, from its origins to the present, as it gains increasing recognition in scientific, policy, social movement and farming spaces. Students will engage in some of the debates agroecologists are now facing, as they grapple with maintaining the core characteristics of the field as it is increasingly applied by a wide diversity of actors. A special emphasis is placed on discussing the different expressions of agroecology as a science, a social movement and a practice. We will consider the intersections of agroecology and transdisciplinarity, as we integrate different knowledge systems to search for solutions to the current challenges of our agrifood systems. And finally, we will explore the use of participatory action research (PAR) and agroecology principles, as an essential approach to agroecological research and practice. We will cover international and domestic geographic perspectives, and examine, more in- depth, agroecology and PAR with 3-4 local Vermont farms.

COURSE DAYS & TIMES: 

  • Full Course timeline: May 23 – June 17, 2022

By the end of this course, students will be able to: 

  • Describe the state and evolution of the field of agroecology and engage in the debate on agroecology’s dimensions as a science, a social movement and a practice
  • Understand and apply a principles-approach to agroecology
  • Understand some of the opportunities and challenges of applying agroecology and PAR in three local Vermont farms
  • Understand the challenges and opportunities of applying agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach
  • Engage in active peer-to-peer learning with fellow classmates, instructors and guests.

Students taking it as a non-credit course will receive a Digital Badge signifying completion of the course.

Shifting Funding to Agroecology for People, Climate and Nature

A new report produced by ActionAid with the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative and Cultivate! on “Shifting Funding to Agroecology for People, Climate and Nature“.

Click here to read the new report:
Shifting Funding to Agroecology for People, Climate and Nature

The majority of public and philanthropic funding supports ecologically and socially damaging forms of agriculture and food systems. How can financing be transformed so that it fosters transitions towards more just and sustainable food systems and enables agroecology to meet its full potential? This is the question that underpins a stream of research led by Coventry University, the University of Vermont and AgroecologyNow!.

The Need to Transform Food Systems

We urgently need to transform food systems. The depth of the ecological and social threats we are facing are staggering. A growing pile of high-profile UN and scientific reports have shown how the industrial food system is failing to nourish people around the world and at the same time is directly linked to growing inequality, injustice, ill-health, climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse.

Business as usual is no longer an option and we need to transform how we produce, move around and consumer food. Agroecology reflects a paradigmatic shift that can guide our pursuit of more  just and sustainable food systems, and reflects a bold transformation that is becoming increasingly attractive, viable and urgent.

Our action research on agroecology transformations is a part of a growing body of work in social movements, civil society, academia and amongst food producers to figure out how we get from here to there: how do we transition from our current state of crisis and degeneration to just and sustainable food systems. The question of how to finance or resource these transitions is a vital, yet grossly underdeveloped area of work.


Video 1 – UVM’s Colin Anderson and Nina Moeller (from CAWR at Coventry University) presented results of their studies analyzing finance for agroecology at an official COP26 side event in Glasgow November 2022. “How effective is climate finance in catalzing an urgently needed paradigm shift in food systems?” with a resounding: “a lot remains to be done!” A representative of the Green Climate Fund listened. We can only hope the conversation will continue. Click this link to watch the recording.

Our recent brief highlights how, in an enabling policy context, agroecology has proven to achieve robust gains in poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, women and youth empowerment and biodiversity and climate resilience.

Agroecology applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. It includes practices aimed at mimicking or harnessing complex ecological processes, moving beyond the farm to include food production, distribution, consumption, and waste management.

Historically, although science plays an important role in developing agroecology, the knowledge that underpins agroecology has emerged from the practices of indigenous peoples and smallholders across the world. Agroecology is a scientifically and experientially justified practice of agriculture that (1) is sensitive to the ecosystems in which it takes place and (2) fosters the democratic participation of food producers, putting human rights and agency at the center.

Video 2 – In a recently published animation, we articulate the main arguments that have arisen through our research on financing and agroecology. “Institutions keep pouring money into harmful industrial agriculture. We urgently need investments in agroecology. We need to defund industrial agriculture and funnel that money into agroecology. Furthermore the delivery of funding needs to be better so that it can support agroecological pioneers and work for systemic change. It’s time to make money move for agroecology and together foster social justice and sustainability in food systems.” Also in Spanish and French subtitles.

Transforming Finance for Agroecology


Our research makes it clear that financing from institutions and donors for agricultural and rural development is woefully inadequate and work against just transitions in food systems.  This is an issue of both quantity and quality:

1. Quantity: There is not enough money going to agroecology.

Even within the already small amount of financing for agricultural development as a whole, almost all of this funding is allocated to encouraging farmers to adopt detrimental forms of high-energy, high-input industrial agriculture. A growing body of research has shown how agroecology is significantly marginalised in the financial architecture of development at all levels. There is a clear need to shift more funds towards agroecology.

The need to shift the quantity of money away from industrial agriculture was articulated brilliantly by one of our research participants,

“But another dimension of funding agro ecology is also linked to the amount of funding and the amount of support both in terms of policy as well as in terms of investments, that goes to the opposite of agroecology. And in some respect, one could claim that stopping this counter investments and the continued policy inclination for the opposite of what the agroecology wants to the kind of transformational agroecology wants to promote is equally important than generating let’s say, direct funding for agroecology. You could say that many agro ecological solutions actually squeezed by an over funded and an over emphasized other type of agriculture and other type of food system.”

2. Quality: Funding that is allocated towards sustainable agriculture and agroecology is often delivered in unhelpful and even damaging ways

The mechanisms, delivery and ‘modalities’ of funding are often highly problematic because they: are driven by donor rather than peoples needs; fail to affirm the agency of people; are inflexible; have inappropriate monitoring/evaluation systems; do not address inequity; and are based on short term approaches.

We have been working with Donors (e.g. the European Union, FAO, Green Climate Fund, Agroecology Fund), advocacy groups (Action Aid, CIDSE) and other researchers to explore the question of: When donors do decide to target sustainable agroecological food systems, how can we transform the modes and approaches of financing so that it actually enables agroecology?

Based on this research, a recent policy brief with Action Aid International provides a series of considerations and recommendations to increase the quantity and quality of funding for agroecology:

  • Substantially shift funding allocations to agroecology.
  • Funding for agroecology should be underpinned by a principle of co-governance where donors are accountable to the most affected. Donors should consider long-term multi-phased support for building agroecology in territories.
  • For financial support to be effective in supporting agroecology, a large portion of it needs to be comprised of small to mid-scale grants through food producer organizations and civil society organizations who are close to the ground.
  • Currently, agroecology is often marginally, or not at all, included in agricultural funding programs. Donors should closely evaluate their funding programs and shift towards agroecology explicitly as a target of funding.
  • Agroecology transitions are complex social and participatory processes that require adaptability in how plans are developed and implemented. In this context, it is vital that funders allow for flexibility in spending, activities and in monitoring and evaluation.
  • We recommend that donors engage in an in-depth and ongoing dialogue with food producer organizations to examine and increase the quantity and effectiveness of funds that are allocated towards agroecology, and to improve the quality of delivery.

This work continues, as we collaborate with our partners to advance the Transformation of public and philanthropic finance so that agroecology can achieve its unmet potential as a vital approach to confronting our global challenges.

Contact: colin.anderson@uvm.edu for more information.


Sign up for online Course on Participatory Action Research (PAR) and transdisciplinary approaches to Agroecology

Interested in learning about how to apply participatory, trandsdiciplilary and action research in your work? Sign up for this online course taking place from September to December 2021.

Participatory, transdisciplinary and action research have become internationally recognized as pillars of knowledge production for agroecology and food sovereignty. These approaches are also complex and unorthodox in many contexts and requires a careful and intentional cultivation of a researcher’s commitments, skill and competencies. This course will help students to meet this challenge through a systematic engagement with theory, skills, methods and a critical reflexive self-examination of our role in the research processes.

INSTRUCTOR: Colin R. Anderson

AVAILABLE FOR CREDIT OR FOR NON-CREDIT (CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT). Visit here for more info. Email: colin.anderson@uvm.edu with questions.

CLASS MEETING TIMES AND LOCATION: Weekly zoom meetings on Tuesdays from 13:15 to 15:15 EST.

In this course, we will build a foundation for our learning by examining the ‘politics of knowledge’ or the ways that power and privilege shape science, academia, innovation and development. To this end, we will engage with critical theoretical traditions, such as feminism and decoloniality, to help students understand and challenge oppressive power relations in society as they are expressed in the knowledge systems that we are embedded within.

The course will explore different approaches to participatory and transdisciplinary research applied in different contexts.

If this sounds like challenging material, that’s because it is! But don’t stress too much, we’ll do our best to demystify and unpack these concepts together and to ground these ideas in relation to our own work, lives, and perspectives. We will also get practical and focus on the nuts and bolts of doing Participatory Action Research (PAR), which can be described as a process of research, education and action in which participants work together to understand and transform reality. It generally involves iterative cycles of inquiry by collectives of people seeking to address problems of common practical and political concern. We will shine a spotlight on several methods used within this tradition including, for example, participatory photography, popular education, theatre, indigenous approaches, deliberative methodologies, auto-ethnography and different forms of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods inquiry.

The course will explore the value of ‘people’s knowledge’ and the notion of cognitive justice which demands, “It demands recognition of knowledges, not only as methods but as ways of life. This presupposes that knowledge is embedded in an ecology of  knowledges, where each knowledge has its place, its claim to a cosmology, its sense as a form of  life. In this sense knowledge is not something to be abstracted from a culture as a life form; it is connected to a livelihood, a life cycle, a lifestyle; it determines life chances.” (Visvanathan 2009)

We will look at PAR especially in the context of agroecology and examine how the integration of PAR and transdisciplinary approaches can serve to deepen our collective understanding of complex problems/issues. Students will learn how to apply a transdisciplinary PAR approach to topics in agrifood system studies and action. We will examine examples of agroecological PAR projects, to draw lessons learned and to find inspiration. Students will be asked to articulate and develop their own self-understanding of their praxis as a researcher.  In addition to asynchronous online learning, this course will include a synchronous 2-hour weekly online meeting via MS Teams that will involve a range of different interactive activities including discussions, workshops and guest speakers. Regular and active participation in these sessions is a core component of the course learning and assessment. Students will take on a rotating role in designing and facilitating a student-led component of the weekly meetings. 

READINGS:

Required: 

  • Wakeford, T., and Sanchez Rodriguez, J. (2018). “Participatory Research: Towards a More Fruitful Knowledge”, in: Connected Communities Foundation Series.(Bristol: University of Bristol/AHRC Connected Communities Programme).
  • Weekly assigned articles, videos, podcasts, etc.

Recommended:

Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2021) Decolonizing Methodologies: research and indigenous peoples. 2nd edn. London: Zed Books

Méndez, V.E., C.M. Bacon, R. Cohen and S.R. Gliessman (Eds.) (2015)Agroecology: a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. Advances in Agroecology Series. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis.

Freire, P. (2017) Pedagogy of the Oppressed(Penguin Modern Classics). London: Penguin.

All required readings (e.g. journal articles, news excerpts, fact sheets, etc.) will be provided

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

By the end of this course students will have:

  • Developed an understanding of participatory action research (PAR) and transdisciplinary approaches, and how they are distinct from other research and action approaches;
  • Deepened their understanding of how knowledge is situated, gendered, racialized, colonial and thus has contributed to social injustice and oppression;
  • Considered how these structures and power dynamics influence research processes;
  • Explored how PAR and transdisciplinary approaches can be applied in agroecology, including through the examination of inspirational case studies;
  • Learned about designing research that is both rigorous and provides meaningful contributions to the community/stakeholder(s) and the researcher(s);
  • Thought about their own positionality to situate themselves in the learning objectives above;
  • Developed strategies for critical self- and collective reflection and evaluation in participatory research processes and practice;
The course will include an exploration of the nuts and bolts of participatory and transdisciplinary research.