Bottom-up Attempts at Agroecological Transitions in China

Agroecology transition strategies for smallholder farmers in China

Liu, Chuang, Natalia Pinzón Jiménez, and Paul Rogé. 2023. “Bottom-up Attempts at Agroecological Transitions in China: The Comparative Cases of Sanliwan and Sanggang Villages.” Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 11 (1): 00033.

Abstract: Smallholder farmers have practiced sustainable agriculture for thousands of years in China. Numerous smallholder farming systems remain, but most have shifted to industrial production. There is growing interest in agroecological transitions for smallholder farmers, but more attention needs to be paid to the challenges that may be encountered in the process. We conducted qualitative research in Sanliwan village in Shanxi Province because it represents the general dilemma facing smallholder farmers in China, and we compared our findings to those obtained in Sanggang village in Hebei Province because of its successful bottom-up experience in transitioning to agroecology. We found 4 challenges in the transition to agroecology in Sanliwan village: environmental degradation, the lack of direct markets, the need for more technical extension in agroecology, and farmer atomization. Bottom-up strategies for overcoming these challenges were identified in the case of Sanggang village. Notably, in the agroecological transition, the organization of smallholder farmers was a critical first step. From that point, smallholder farmers integrated internal resources and utilized external resources more efficiently to enhance environmental stewardship, improved technical extension in agroecology, and developed new markets. More research is needed to understand how top-down strategies can respond to such challenges and opportunities identified for bottom-up agroecological transitions.

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