Book Chapter

Sustainable agriculture: Recognizing the potential of conflict as a positive driver for transformative change



Skrimizea E, Lecuyer L, Bunnefeld N, Butler JRA, Fickel T, Hodgson I, Holtkamp C, Marzano M, Parra C, Pereira L, Petit S, Pound D, Rodríguez I, Ryan P & Staffler J (2020) Sustainable agriculture: Recognizing the potential of conflict as a positive driver for transformative change. In: Bohan DA & Vanbergen AJ (eds.) The Future of Agricultural Landscapes, Part I. Advances in Ecological Research, 63. London: Academic Press, pp. 255-311.

Transformative changes in agriculture at multiple scales are needed to ensure sustainability, i.e. achieving food security while fostering social justice and environmental integrity. These transformations go beyond technological fixes and require fundamental changes in cognitive, relational, structural and functional aspects of agricultural systems. However, research on agricultural transformations fails to engage deeply with underlying social aspects such as differing perceptions of sustainability, uncertainties and ambiguities, politics of knowledge, power imbalances and deficits in democracy. In this paper, we suggest that conflict is one manifestation of such underlying social aspects. We present an original conceptualization and analytical framework, wherein conflict is recognized as an important motor for redistribution of power and leverage for social learning that—if addressed through a conflict transformation process—could potentially create a step-change in agricultural transformation towards greater sustainability. Our analysis, building on an extensive literature review and empirical case studies from around the world, suggests a novel approach to guide future transdisciplinary research that can support agricultural transformations towards sustainability.

Agriculture; Conflict; Transformation; Sustainability; Food systems; Agroecology

Additional co-authors: Adam J Vanbergen, Pieter Van den Broeck, Heidi Wittmer, Juliette C Young

Title of seriesAdvances in Ecological Research
Number in series63
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online09/10/2020
PublisherAcademic Press
Place of publicationLondon
ISSN of series0065-2504

People (2)


Professor Nils Bunnefeld
Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Isla Hodgson
Dr Isla Hodgson

Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences