July 8th 2021

Transitions in agriculture: organic, agroecological and conventional farming

A paper on the diversity of dynamics in agroecological systems by Dumont, Gasselin and Baret.


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The contribution of the multi-level perspective (MLP) to study transition dynamics is widely recognized. MLP involves examining interactions between three socio-technical levels: niche, regime and landscape.

However, empirical analysis of niche-regime interactions when applying this framework to agricultural transitions to sustainability remains challenging.

The diversity of historical farming systems within a region can make niches and regimes highly heterogeneous. In addition, agricultural transitions to sustainability may be driven as much by technological changes as by institutional features, including normative rules and cultural cognitive rules that are less adequately addressed by MLP.

To tackle these two challenges, the authors combined the MLP with two additional frameworks to describe transition processes: the comparative agriculture framework, drawn from agro-economic, geographic and historical analyses of agricultural crises, and the justification of practices framework, drawn from pragmatic sociology.

In this paper, the authors apply these three frameworks to the fresh vegetable production sector in Wallonia (Belgium) and discuss visions of transition through the lens of the agroecological paradigm.

This leads them to predict a situation of coexistence between two socio-technical configurations of Transition frameworks production: an old, organic and conventional configuration reoriented toward more commercial autonomy for the producers, and a new configuration oriented toward agroecology.

The study contributes to a major debate discussing the extent to which the agroecological paradigm is being co-opted by the regime or remains faithful toits original principles and opens up perspectives for public policy development in the context of increasing governmental attention to the agroecological paradigm.


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