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Global Development Institute

Agrarian change and political ecology

Agrarian change and political ecology

The challenge:

Ending extreme poverty and hunger requires a transformation of agricultural production systems and the linkages between agriculture and the rest of the economy. While migration and urban development are important, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved without major agrarian change.

Three acute cotemporary challenges include:

  • Competition for water between different forms of agricultural production, industry, hydropower and urban consumers. This is exacerbated by the uncertainty created by climate change and often involves competition across national borders.
  • Agriculture is a major source of pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, yet it’s highly vulnerable to processes of climate change. Conversely, it’s potentially also as part of the solution—as a source of biofuels, increased food production and carbon sequestration.
  • The feasibility (and environmental desirability) of mass industrialisation across the Global South raises major questions regarding the role of the agricultural sector and its labour force within the economy and future patterns of structural transformation.

How we are addressing it:

Our research is on focused on three main areas:

  1. Systems of resource governance (land, water and forests), focusing on the political implications of state, neo-customary and alternative governance models and the political economy drivers of institutional change.
  2. Agricultural production systems, including alternative production systems, cooperatives and agricultural production within value chains, in relation to environmental and social sustainability and the implications for workers’ rights.
  3. The growing use of ICT in agricultural production and marketing systems and the implications this has for productivity and equality.

Research Projects

Our teaching agenda:

Our master’s course on Environment, Climate Change and Development links environmental understanding grounded in the physical sciences with study of the social and economic bases of planning and managing development.

People and publications:

Click on the names below to read their latest publications or read the latest publications from the Global Development Institute.

News and insights:

Research project archive