Brussels, August 2018

As history would show it, even the most urbanized of human societies, faces the age-old
agri-food nexus. To live without hunger, each and every city needs to organise a continuous
food surplus from farmers, without which a collapse would ensue. How to do this? This
question, imposed on us on regular daily basis, is instigated starting from our own homes all
the way to the arenas of transnational politics.

For the members of our research group, the core question then becomes:

How can we adequately feed ourselves while ensuring a dignified livelihood for
farmers and fostering the integrity of socio-ecosystems, locally and globally?

Formulated in this way, the agri-food nexus breaks free from the realm of engineering into
which it has long been confined. The issue extends to the social sciences and humanities
integrating highly entangled questions of a political, philosophical and ethical nature.
Agroecology, in its broadest sense, explicitly embraces transdisciplinarity. Ecological,
technical, human and social factors are interlinked to formulate and analyse a very diverse
set of issues within this agri-food nexus, allowing a wide spectrum of actors’ active
participation in this process.

Agroecology can be thought of as both the product of, and the response to the ever-growing
global, multidimensional crisis into which the twentieth century modernisation project has
propelled peasant communities and urban dwellers alike. Worldwide, farming communities
and socio-ecosystems are still on pathways leading to further social and ecological
breakdown, while hunger, malnutrition and emerging diseases related to low-quality food are
rampant. However, in the meanwhile other models and modes of organising the agri-food
nexus emerge from a variety of stakeholders, in a common quest for autonomy. This
movement of repeasantization holds promise.

Repeasantization requires a genuine transformation of practices, both conceptually
(paradigmatic shifts) and practically (risk taking, complexification). It implies an arduous
journey by a diversity of players, yet is hampered by many interdependent barriers, locking
most of these players into reproducing the ways of doing, thinking and being that are part
and parcel of the very crisis that is being tackled.

In our view, one of the challenges we will face is overhauling research practices and creating
novel ways of articulating researchers, economic actors, the civil society and the
policymakers. These novel ways require profound changes of approach and posture. As
researchers, we distance ourselves from “objective” expert-research approaches based on
the transfer of technological packages from the lab or the experimental farm to the end-
users. Experimentation in agronomy and ecology is not abandoned, but thought through and
practiced differently.

To improve the relevance and contribution of research toward agroecological innovation, we
run action-research projects within the context of the question studied, and within multi-
actor networks
. This way of working implies a true commitment to “dialogues of
” for better participation and integration of different ways of knowing. We aim to
do this in a flexible, iterative and reflexive way. The process of experiential learning is as
important as the results themselves. Within this process, the emergence of an autonomy of
thinking and acting interweaves with the socio-ecological transformation we aim to foster.

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