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

Eirini Skrimizea, Lou Lecuye, Nils Bunnefeld, James R. A. Butler, Thomas Fickel, Isla Hodgson, Carolin Holtkamp, Mariella Marzano, Constanza Parra, Laura Pereira, Sandrine Petit, Diana Pound, Iokine Rodriguez Fernandez, Paul Ryan, Jutta Staffler, Adam J. Vanbergen, Pieter van den Broeck, Heidi Wittmer, Juliette C. Young

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages57
Specialist publicationAdvances in Ecological Research
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Agriculture
  • Agroecology
  • Conflict
  • Food systems
  • Sustainability
  • Transformation

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