News

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.

Update from the Field: Studying Soil Health with Smallholder Coffee Growers in Mexico & Guatemala

We’ve added a new update about our work on soil health with coffee farmers to our project blog that tracks our Participatory Action Research process with producer organizations in Mexico and Central America. To read the new field update, please click here.

Two months ago, our tenacious project teams in Mexico and Guatemala visited more than 50 smallholder coffee farms as part of what we’ve come to call the Suelos project (“suelo” is Spanish for soil). These activities are officially supported under a project called “Towards a regional vision for agroecological soil management in the coffee landscapes of Mesoamerica” with funding through a Gund Institute Catalyst Award.

The objective of the project, in short, is to co-produce knowledge about the relationships between the structure of coffee agroecosystems, indicators of soil health, coffee productivity and coffee cup quality. This knowledge will be the basis for articulating a local plan of action for protecting soil health in coffee-producing landscapes.

To read more about our recent visits to the coffee plots (and about our Participatory Action Research process in general), head over to our project blog.

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.

Centering Agroecology in the Conservation of Biodiversity: UVM joins our allies at COP15 in Montreal to push for change

Centering Agroecology in the Conservation of Biodiversity:
UVM joins our allies at COP15 in Montreal to push for change

This week, a coalition of organizations including UVM’s Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative (soon to be the Institute for Agroecology) heads to Montreal to participate in the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15, for short). 

The COP15 convenes governments from around the world to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is structured around a range of high-level negotiations and side events.    

Click on the image above to read the policy brief

Our coalition’s mission at this event is to emphasize the critical importance of including agroecology within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Agroecology and its focus on agricultural biodiversity is critical to all three pillars of the CBD: conservation, sustainable use, and equity, and must be incorporated in Target 10 of the Global Biodiversity Framework. As substantiated by scientific evidence, agroecology represents an unparalleled opportunity to address the losses to biodiversity being driven by industrialized food systems. In addition to its contributions to biodiversity conservation, agroecology delivers multiple co-benefits: climate change adaptation, food security, ecosystems resilience, sustainable livelihoods and human rights.

With the inclusion of language that proposes concrete solutions, we can transform from damaging industrial global food systems to biodiverse agroecology. To that end, the coalition has developed a policy brief that lays out how agricultural biodiversity and agroecology can be integrated into the Convention on Biological Diversity. We will also hold a side event on Thursday, December 8th, at 1:15 EST called “Missing the Mark? Biodiversity Targets Risk Failure without Agroecology” (see flyer below and click here to register for the meeting online).

How can you get involved?

If you have questions, please contact anyone from UVM’s ALC team (Janica Anderzén, Matt Burke, Maya Moore, Michelle Nikfarjam, Seanna McGraw and Martha Caswell).to

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

New Edition of Agroecology Textbook Features ALC Co-Authors

Hot off the press! The new edition of the foundational textbook “Agroecology” is now available! Congratulations to co-authors Ernesto Méndez (ALC), Vic Izzo (ALC), Steve Gliessman, and Eric W. Engles, and to Andrew Gerlicz (ALC) who provided editorial support!
 
This edition focuses on the transformations necessary for achieving a just and sustainable food system, capturing agricultural, ecological, economic, social, cultural, and political elements of agroecology. It includes new chapters of relevant topics, such as ‘Ecological Pest, Weed, and Disease Management’, ‘Agriculture and the Climate Crisis’, and Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture.
 

The ALC Receives Regional Award for Excellence in Community Engagement Scholarship

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named the University of Vermont (UVM) as regional winner of the 2022 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award in recognition of the extraordinary community engagement of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), as a community of practice working to advance participatory action research (PAR) and agroecology around the world. Read the full article by CALS Communications Manager Rachel Leslie, here. View the video produced as part of the award competition below.

Each One Teach One Agroecology Encounter brings together activists, farmers, and farmworkers from the Global North and South

Tammy Harris of SAAFON facilitating a session at the Encounter. Photo Credit: Jesús Vázquez

The use of agroecology to confront social injustice was at the center of discussion during this summer’s Each One Teach One Agroecology Encounter, a three-day event convened by the organization Rural Vermont as a celebration of La Vía Campesina’s 30-year anniversary. The Encounter brought together around 140 activists, farmers, and farmworkers from throughout the Americas at the Center for Grassroots Organizing in Marshfield, Vermont. Those attending included local Vermont organic farmers, migrant farm workers and climate migrants; members of the Black agrarian movement from the Southern US; urban farmers and youth of all ages; and delegates from national and international peasant and farmworker organizations (see full list below). The Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) was on hand to gather stories, support organizers, and facilitate participation by international guests.

The format of the event was part community discussion, part skill-share. Local farmers and community leaders shared workshops on draft animals, the solidarity economy, herbalism, work brigades, printing, and participatory pizza-making. While participants held in common the goal of healthier communities, ecosystems, and societies, the unique perspectives present contributed to dynamic conversations where distinct ways of understanding and using agroecology were explored.

Photo Credit: Jesús Vázquez

Attendees also looked to the future, envisioning a system of Via Campesina North American schools of agroecology (NASA) where people from grassroots organizations would build skills in both the productive and community-organizing dimensions of agroecology. This approach is inspired by existing and successful models of agroecology and movement-building schools in other regions of La Via Campesina. The schools provide technical agroecological training, popular political education, and traditional ecological knowledge, while being rooted in the specific needs of local communities. The dialogues at the Agroecology Encounter revealed questions about access and audience and, in particular, a demand for educational processes that meet the needs of young people of color who don’t currently have access to farmland. These topics will re-emerge in additional listening sessions planned for the months to come.

The event is part of process that began with a Campesinx-a-Campesinx gathering in 2014 in Florida, which gave rise to around a dozen encounters of the People’s Agroecology Process in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico between 2014-2020. In 2021, the ALC partnered with the People’s Agroecology Process to offer an advanced course in people’s agroecology – using technology to further enrich the conversation and relationships even when gathering in person wasn’t an option. The ALC engages in movement activities as part of its Participatory Action Research approach and its commitment to transformative collective impact through scholar-activism and long-term, horizontal relationships.

National and International Peasant and Farmworker Organizations Represented at the Encounter: Family Farm Defenders (USA), Small and Heritage Black Farmers & Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (USA), National Family Farm Coalition (USA), Migrant Justice (USA), Farmworkers Association of Florida (USA), Union Paysanne (Canada), National Farmers Union (Canada), Unión Nacional de Organizaciones Regionales Campesinas Autónomas (Mexico), Unión de Pueblos de Morelos (Mexico), Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (Nicaragua), Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas, Indígenas y Negras (Ecuador), and the Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas (Chile)
Photos Credit: Jesús Vázquez

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