Home About Browse Search

Tozer, Emma, 2016. Agroecology as a social movement : a case study of the Prince George's County Food Equity Council in Maryland, United States. Second cycle, A2E. Alnarp: SLU, Dept. of People and Society



The United States has experienced a drastic change in its food system within the last century. A locally-based, self-sufficient model has been replaced by one that is characterized by a consolidation of business and farms into fewer hands; a mechanization and specialization of agriculture management; and the looming threat of urban development encroaching on farmland. On the other side of the food supply chain, consumers in the U.S. are increasingly susceptible to obesity and diet-related illnesses, even though a substantial part of the population is food insecure. Low-income communities feel these ailments the most, as the most affordable food in these areas is highly processed, grain-based, and calorie dense, yet lacking in nutrition. Compounded with these flaws is the country’s fragmented and contradictory policy approach to food and agriculture.
In response to these numerous systemic shortfalls, hundreds of food movements have developed and expanded in the U.S. and around the world: local food, Slow Food, community food security, food justice, food sovereignty, fair trade, and agroecology. In recent years, researchers have explored the local food policy council movement as an opportunity to converge these various interests. By joining a diverse group of community stakeholders, local food policy councils can potentially develop comprehensive food policies which are responsive to local needs. This study is inspired by this potential, as well as the potential of agroecology movements as enablers for systemic policy change. In 2009, Wezel et al. categorized agroecology as a scientific discipline, agricultural practice, and social movement. In movement form, agroecology often works in conjunction with other food movements for mutual benefit. This thesis research set out to gain a clearer understanding of agroecology as a social movement, and to understand its relationship to food policy councils.
A case study was conducted of the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) in Maryland, U.S., using three main methods of data collection: semi-structured interviews, direct observations, and archival records and documents. The research assumed a systems approach and constructivist paradigm. Data was analyzed by testing for the presence of agroecology principles – namely, ‘inclusivity’, ‘community orientation’, and a ‘food systems approach’ –, which were determined from a preliminary literature review. In addition, analysis considered concepts from social movement literature.
It was found that the FEC works to include a diversity of stakeholders from across the food supply chain, including members of the general public. The principle of community orientation is present in the FEC’s policy activities. For example, the decision to name the council a food equity council, rather than a food policy council, was based on the FEC’s acknowledgment that fairness is a prominent issue throughout Prince George’s County’s food system. Results from data collection indicate that the FEC’s food systems approach is influenced by the member demographic of the council. It was found that the FEC – as well as many food policy councils – work to identify and break down barriers to the implementation of programs and policies. While councils strive to maintain a food systems approach in their activities, one challenge observed in the data and literature is the acquisition and maintenance of a diversity of stakeholders representing the entire food supply chain.
The outcomes of the study show that food policy councils and agroecology movements share similar characteristics and values. As a social movement organization, food policy councils benefit from inclusion of an array of stakeholders, in that movement networks are both converged and expanded. These network connections can also facilitate engagement of a broader community population. In addition, the strengthening of these networks serves to benefit councils in the sense of resource mobilization: extensive, diverse network connections can facilitate a flow of knowledge, political capital, and other resources useful for furthering movement interests. These networks are characteristic of an alternative paradigm which has emerged in global justice movements. The paradigm emphasizes the importance of decentralized, participatory movement networks in bringing about social change. In this context, food policy councils offer an opportunity to coordinate, harmonize, and strengthen the various initiatives and interests of food movements.

Main title:Agroecology as a social movement
Subtitle:a case study of the Prince George's County Food Equity Council in Maryland, United States
Authors:Tozer, Emma
Supervisor:Hofny-Collins, Anna
Examiner:Pálsdóttir, Anna Maria
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2016
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:LM005 Agroecology - Master's programme 120 HEC
Supervising department:(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of People and Society
Keywords:social movements, food policy councils, Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, agroecology, food systems, systems thinking, equity, resilience, food policy
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Development economics and policies
Deposited On:24 Jan 2017 12:15
Metadata Last Modified:24 Jan 2017 12:15

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per year (since September 2012)

View more statistics