Agroecology as a vehicle for contributive justice

Cristian Timmermann, Georges F. Félix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)
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Agroecology has been criticized for being more labor-intensive than other more industrialized forms of agriculture. We challenge the assertion that labor input in agriculture has to be generally minimized and argue that besides quantity of work one should also consider the quality of work involved in farming. Early assessments on work quality condemned the deskilling of the rural workforce, whereas later criticisms have concentrated around issues related to fair trade and food sovereignty. We bring into the discussion the concept of contributive justice to welcome the added labor-intensity of agroecological farming. Contributive justice demands a work environment where people are stimulated to develop skills and learn to be productive. It also suggests a fairer distribution of meaningful work and tedious tasks. Building on the notion of contributive justice we explore which capabilities and types of social relationships are sustainably promoted and reinforced by agroecological farming practices. We argue that agroecological principles encourage a reconceptualization of farm work. Farmers are continuously stimulated to develop skills and acquire valuable experiential knowledge on local ecosystems and agricultural techniques. Further, generalized ecological studies recognize the significance of the farmer’s observations on natural resources management. This contributes to the development of a number of capabilities and leads to more bargaining power, facilitating self-determination. Hereby farm work is made more attractive to a younger generation, which is an essential factor for safeguarding the continuity of family farms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-538
Number of pages16
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Meaningful work
  • Knowledge-intensive farming
  • Capabilities
  • Peer recognition
  • Mutual influence
  • self-determination
  • Empowerment


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