Cultivating social-ecological relationships at the margins
: agroecology as a tool for everyday peace formation in fragile environments

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research considers the transformative potential of agroecological processes in rural farming communities beset by a history of endemic violence, and where the unresolved national question of identity and nationhood, intrinsically linked to agrarian change, has contributed to a succession of protracted crises that continue to foment political violence and reinforce power asymmetries. The research question has sought to explore whether emerging agroecological learning processes have contributed to the resilience and agency of practicing communities, and how these might inform conflict transformation in the context of everyday peace. To answer this, the study was designed to unfold inductively around the participatory and heuristic principles of agroecology itself, and involved three communities of agroecological practice in Zimbabwe; each defining the central research concepts of resilience, agency and peace, and co-developing a series of emic indicators in order to explore how these are experienced in the everyday by others in their community. Viewed through a political ecology lens the analysis focuses on the social-ecological processes and relationships through which each community mobilises and shapes change on their own terms. With a highly masculinised and exclusory popular imaginary, intolerant of pluralism and driven by a centralising developmentalist state, even deviation from technocratic farming norms may be considered seditious. This research explores the extent to which these small ‘non-movements’ are able to move beneath the radar and employ agroecological strategies as a set of non-threatening and situated tools to shape their physical landscape and negotiate social change by forging farmer networks based on principles of reciprocity and trust. In drawing upon, questioning and contextualising ‘transformation’, the research proposes that the practice-based, bottom-up processes at the core of transformative agroecology that involve the remembering of subordinated subjectivities have profound implications for culturing social change towards more equitable outcomes for sustainable peace at the rural margins.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorJulia Wright (Supervisor), Andrew Adam-Bradford (Supervisor) & Alpaslan Ozerdem (Supervisor)

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