Competing Discourses of Sustainability in African Agriculture: A Case Study of the Sustainable Agriculture Discourse of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Despite wide acceptance of the importance and desirability of “agricultural sustainability,” the concept remains slippery and contested. While research has focused on links between sustainable practices and productivity, and the reasons why farmers do or do not adopt recommended measures, less is known about how the notions and expectations of sustainable agriculture are shaped and evolve over time. This study addresses this gap by investigating how a well-resourced organisation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), frames sustainable agriculture and promotes it to stakeholders in African agriculture. The research seeks answers to three interrelated questions: 1) How does AGRA conceptualise sustainable agriculture? 2) How has AGRA’s framing of sustainable agriculture evolved? 3) How does AGRA communicate and promote its notion of sustainable agriculture to farmers and other stakeholders? The study draws on political ecology theory and employs sociological discourse analysis to investigate these questions using evidence from the annual reports of AGRA from 2008–2018. The findings reveal that AGRA’s definition of sustainable agriculture generally prioritises the use of industrial inputs to increase production on a targeted land base. This framing has its beginning as the promotion of “improved” seeds and synthetic fertilisers, enhanced market access and credit and financing for farmers, to advocacy for national policies that are favorable to these forms of intensification and market integration. AGRA promotes this framing to farmers through universities and other research institutions, government agencies, extension professionals, and farmer organisations. While this study’s primary focus is deconstructing the evolving discourse of agricultural sustainability in key public documents of AGRA, it also considers how the organisation has elaborated campaigns that appear to connect with broader concerns of agricultural sustainability but ignore the implications and complications of their own roles in promoting a particular agenda. The study contributes to the larger discussion of how discourses of ‘sustainability,’ climate change, hunger, and poverty, are deployed in the production and the reproduction of farming systems compatible with the development agendas of key commercial interests.
Sustainable, Agriculture, Africa, Agrifood, AGRA, Green Revolution
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Gertler, Michael E
Wright, Laura;Mitchell, Matthew I;Wotherspoon, Terry