Between institutional reform and building popular movements : The political articulation of agroecology in Brazil

Berg, L. Van den; Behagel, J.H.; Verschoor, G.; Petersen, P.; Gomes da Silva, M.


Agroecology is increasingly seen to contain solutions that can be used for wider societal transformation. While debates have mainly focused on reformist versus revolutionary strategies, less attention has been paid to how such strategies connect to peasant demands and how they can be combined for agroecological transformation. In this article we study transformation by the agroecology movement in Brazil through the theoretical lens of political articulation. We show that peasants’ local demands for land, alternative farming and local markets were mobilised in an institutional politics to gain policy support and in a populist politics to create movements that pose a systemic challenge to authority. We then argue that the political viability of wider societal transformation lies in the ability to create movements and organisations that politicise peasants and embrace local demands. We conclude that attention should not only be paid to individual strategies and their immediate effects but also on how diverse politics combine, to build the material and symbolic capacity of the movement and their potential for transformation over the long run.