, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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The critical role of agriculture and rural development in contributing to a sustainable global development path - reflections and sketch of an alternative comparative research agenda
Bernardo Mancano Fernandes, Kjell Johannes Havnevik

Last modified: 2018-12-14


In order to understand how agriculture and rural development can contribute to a future global sustainable development path, it is our assessment that a broad and long-term interdisciplinary reseearch agenda is required. This agenda must address critical and emergent issues of relevance to rural change including (i) population growth and employment, especially for the rural youth, (ii) rural-urban migration at local, national and transnational levels, (iii) rural livelihoods, (iv) the understanding of scale, technologies and interconnections/competition between agricultural production regimes, (v) environment and climate- and (vi) gender issues.

One way to address these issues will be to conduct long-term comparative research where experiences and knowledge from different continents and production regimes can be juxtaposed. We envisage that a comparative study of Brazil, East and Southern Africa and Scandinavian countries could be fruitful for understanding the background to and the potential for agriculture, food production and rural development to contribute to economic and social development which can also reduce the negative impacts on the environment/climate.

In this paper we will inquire into the background, trends and character of smallholder agriculture. We will analyse historic, agronomic, economic, cultural and employment trajectories of African smallholder agriculture and whether and how this model has a potential to contribute to sustainability. We will juxtapose this analysis to the experiences and outcomes of large scale agricultural regimes in Brazil to identify critical factors for shifting the current trajectory of rural and agrarian development onto a sustainable development path.

Agriculture and rural change and development in Brazil and East and Southern Africa are also impacted by external forces. One section of the paper will focus on Swedish (pension funds, investors and churches) and Norwegian (state agencies, private investor and churches) intersts in and involvements as sources of large scale investments (agriculture and forests) in Brazil/Latin America and East and Southern Africa. An understanding of the motives and driving forces of these external initiatives/investments will be useful for understanding the complexity of the relationship between the north and the south as regards large scale agro/forest-investments and whether such investments can be beneficial for lal involved partners. We will present some results from our research on these issues.


agriculture, rural development, Brazil, Africa, Nordic countries, large- versus small scale, agro-ecology and sustainability

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