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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Principles and processes for food sovereignty : an evaluation of the blueberry sector in British Columbia Klassen, Susanna Elsie


As a concept that has increasingly been invoked in discussions of social and political food systems dynamics, food sovereignty calls for the holistic consideration of human and ecological aspects of agricultural systems with a focus on power and political dynamics. We investigated an export-oriented agricultural production system as a case study to understand how and to what extent food sovereignty principles can be enacted in the context of agriculture in the Global North. The blueberry industry in British Columbia, Canada, is socially and economically significant within a regional food system, and is globally integrated through export and trade. This study employs the framework of food sovereignty by drawing on principles of equity, empowerment and ecology as a methodological tool for assessing food systems, and examines how local producers in the BC blueberry industry are responding to pressures, constraints and opportunities in the global food system. I identified and operationalized key principles and processes for food sovereignty in the form of indicators. I conducted 33 structured interviews with blueberry growers representing a range of scales and modes of production. Significant themes and dynamics related to food sovereignty discussed by growers were: high demands for seasonal labour leading to mechanization; blueberry production as a means to attain a farming lifestyle while supplementing with significant off-farm income; and a perceived lack of power among growers relative to other actors in the food system. Participants expressed reduced decision autonomy through resource constraints and economic pressures. The combination of economic forces and social dynamics that have most growers locked into an industrial production cycle represent a barrier to achieving food sovereignty principles. On the other hand, there were several important institutions in the industry that support and empower growers through democratic participation opportunities, knowledge translation, and field expertise. A significant re-orientation of food systems governance and policy combined with economic re-structuring and social empowerment mechanisms would be needed to approach the realization of food sovereignty principles in the BC food system.

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