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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pathways to agroecology : mediated markets and credit access in Santa Catarina, Brazil Guerra, Jillian


Agroecology applies ecological principles to the design and management of agricultural systems, while also seeking to improve the social and economic livelihoods of farmers and rural communities. Agroecology is defined both as a social movement and as an applied science, and is often operationalized as the adoption of a set of particular principles and agricultural practices. A call to transition to more sustainable agricultural practices in general, and agroecological practices more specifically, is endorsed by social movements, scholars and prominent international institutions. Identifying and evaluating pathways that facilitate the adoption of agroecological production practices, as part of a broader sustainable agricultural transition is thus necessary, but research specifically evaluating pathways that may facilitate the transition to agroecology is understudied. The problem is approached via two studies conducted in the context of Santa Catarina, Brazil. The first study uses agricultural census data to evaluate the relative significance of a specific set of economic, social and knowledge-related factors on the use of agroecological practices by family farmers. The analyses showed that credit access has a strong and enduring positive relationship with the use of agroecological practices, though it is also positively associated with an increase in agri-chemical use. These results suggest that the effect of credit access on agroecological management practices is undervalued in the agroecology literature. However, the characterization of the diverse agricultural systems that are represented by Brazilian agricultural census data reveals a need to further investigate contextual factors that may be driving the dominance of credit access in the results. The second study evaluates if and how public food procurement programs that include incentives for agroecology certification can mitigate common constraints to adopting agroecological practices. Drawing on interviews with participants in Brazil’s National School Feeding Program (PNAE) and key informants, we found that the PNAE offers an economic incentive to begin an agroecological transition by creating a price-differentiated market, which is otherwise absent in the regional context. However without broader participation in agricultural networks, including farmers’ associations, cooperatives and extension agencies that support agroecological practices, the PNAE’s influence was limited in stimulating the broader transition to agroecological production practices.

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