Participatory mapping (Niayes, Senegal) Pic: Bottazzi 2019

In semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa, farming populations face harsh climatic
conditions but also very unequal and dynamic social processes that affect their resilience. This study addresses aspects of power and social justice related with the social-ecological system of the Niayes coastal region of Senegal, and examines the potential of agroecology to improve the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers. We performed a knowledge co-production process with a local farmer union to identify the main social-ecological nexuses that matter for smallholder farmers, their dynamics and the influence of powerful actors and institutions on them. We also look at the potential actions of the farmer union under the banner of agroecology to transform these dynamics. We found that social-ecological dynamics involve reinforcing feedback loops that undermine
the resilience of smallholder farmers and that powerful actors such as
agribusinesses have a strong influence on these processes. Union actions
promoting agroecology have enhanced system thinking and related solutions, but observed social justice claims are very recent and have a limited scope. Our findings expand the notion of resilience grabbing, understood as the undermining of resilience through the loss of commons, to include systemic degradations due to direct and indirect actions of involved stakeholders. We also propose to expand the notion of resilience justice vertically, integrating procedural and recognition justice, and horizontally, integrating linked social-ecological issues. We conclude that agroecology can become a transformative bridge from resilience grabbing to resilience justice, but must be more sensitive to power relations, in particular around labour.

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