Brief primer on the “great” land-sharing debate: Ripped from the #BTEHBook cutting room floor…

This “excised excerpt” is one of several I’ll be posting here that I was not able to fit in my forthcoming book Beginning to End Hungerbut which I think are useful or (hopefully) interesting and informative. As a friend said when I made the difficult decision to cut this out, “That’s what blogs are for.” :-p

In this case, it is my simple (but hopefully not overly simplistic) two-paragraph summary of the land-sparing/land-sharing debate (about which, much has been written; some might argue too much).

[The erstwhile] Box 4: The great land debate

Land sharing: Sharing both space and governance with farmers and other land-users to foster both agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. Recognizes both the need for protected areas and the need to manage agricultural land to support on-farm biodiversity and biodiversity in surrounding natural habitats. But views it as equally fundamental to conduct this management through substantively democratic and just processes, in concordance with securing adequate livelihoods for all land-users.

Land sparing: Seeking to produce as much as possible from any given agricultural plot, regardless of its impact on biodiversity within that plot, in order to allow other spaces to be set aside and protected from production, given the assumption (and some empirical results) that the net effect on biodiversity is positive if and when corresponding additional areas are placed under protection. May assume, but rarely directly addresses, substantively democratic and just mechanisms and outcomes.

Both land-sparing and land-sharing recognize the vital need for protected natural areas. But how to design, designate, and manage those areas and the spaces around them, and how to effectively implement the necessary variety of locally-tailored approaches are matters of substantial on-going debate.


Butsic, V., & Kuemmerle, T. (2015). Using optimization methods to align food production and biodiversity conservation beyond land sharing and land sparing. Ecological Applications, 25(3), 589-595.

Fischer, J., Abson, D. J., Butsic, V., Chappell, M. J., Ekroos, J., Hanspach, J., . . . von Wehrden, H. (2014). Land sparing versus land sharing: moving forward. Conservation Letters, 7(3), 149–157.

Hill, R., Miller, C., Newell, B., Dunlop, M., & Gordon, I. J. (2015). Why biodiversity declines as protected areas increase: the effect of the power of governance regimes on sustainable landscapes. Sustainability Science, 10(2), 357-369.

Law, E. A., Bryan, B. A., Meijaard, E., Mallawaarachchi, T., Struebig, M. J., Watts, M. E., & Wilson, K. A. (2016). Mixed policies give more options in multifunctional tropical forest landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, Early Access. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12666

Phalan, B., Green, R. E., Dicks, L. V., Dotta, G., Feniuk, C., Lamb, A., . . . Balmford, A. (2016). How can higher-yield farming help to spare nature? Science, 351(6272), 450-451.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Early praise for Beginning to End Hunger

Rob Wallace, the astute political phylogeographer and author of Big Farms Make Big Flu and Neoliberal Ebola (and, full disclosure, a friend who spent no small amount of time offering advice and feedback) has this to say about my forthcoming book, Beginning to End Hunger (out December 2017; available for pre-order now):

Jahi Chappell’s Beginning to End Hunger is at one and the same time an erudite, passionate, and accessible account of Belo Horizonte’s award-winning efforts to end hunger in that Brazilian city of 2.5 million people. Chappell connects the impacts of Brazil’s history and the politics of regional interventions on food access to the economics of local farming and the agroecology of the forest.

But the book is much, much more than that. Beginning to End Hunger is a road map for the difficult path to ending hunger and famine everywhere. The two chapters with which it begins take on the big picture, refuting the core of the productivist model of food and famine upon which much of the agribusiness paradigm depends as an existential rationale. In passing, Chappell shows us the extent to which even many a dedicated food activist and scholar has accepted false premises about food production and availability.

Ludwig Wittgenstein offered that the best a philosopher can do is help free his or her reader from many a historical trap, like helping a fly out of a bottle. What is done with that liberty is entirely up to the reader. For Chappell’s efforts here, I am grateful for my new found freedom. A foundational text.

Rob’s positive comments on the book mean a lot to me. I highly recommend checking out his writing at and his recent books, particularly Big Farms Make Big Flu. And don’t forget, in light of Rob’s assessment, to pre-order your own copy of Beginning to End Hunger, of course.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to make “good policy” from “good science”? An agroeco-infodump with Steven Rosenzweig

In other “original content” news, the following conversation on ResearchGate with my co-author Steven Rosenzweig seemed like it might be useful, so I thought I’d give it a (slightly?) larger audience than the comments section for my 2013 conference presentation, The need for action, ethics and values in ecology: Examples from food systems and conservation (though thank you to all of the countless folks who no doubt have been closely following it with baited breath!)
Steven commented:
I think your point about the disconnect between “good science in” and “good policy out” is as salient as ever. I’ve often fantasized about really diving into the solution implementation literature, which it appears you may have done. Is it as enlightening as you would have hoped? I feel as if there is more analysis to be done about why we aren’t seeing the environmental policies we would expect by looking at surveys of public environmental concern. Maybe I’m still swimming in pessimism of the election, but many federal politicians aren’t beholden to the public or to the truth, and the incentive structure in policymaking isn’t necessarily designed to reward well reasoned and forward thinking decision-making. Where do scientists fit in in this new political reality? I think you may be right that we need to enter the political and moral realm more explicitly.
Writing back to him, I pointed to some sources others might find useful:
Thanks for the comment, Steven Rosenzweig .
From my point of view, the “solution implementation literature” is fully as enlightening as I would have hoped, though of course what it did not provide was a straight-forward recipe for fixing things.
That said, it has offered any number of useful insights.
One, as well established in numerous venues, science is not and cannot be “neutral,” particularly with regards important issues of the day. (Even the choice of a researcher to focus on one issue versus another, and seek to procure public or private resources for it, is a powerful signal of what that researcher considers important, and puts at the very minimum support for their research as having a higher priority in their mind than other research, and implicitly higher than other uses of public funds. The fact that researchers often don’t think of it this way does nothing to decrease the force or effects of this dynamic and its implications.)
This may or may not be a point I have made before
I continued —
Two, policies almost never get changed/passed/improved without a policy advocate. One necessary corresponding idea is thus that if a scientist has an idea about proper/better policies, and incorporates it into their work (motivations, questions, or conclusions), they are implicitly assuming one of the following:
(a) Someone involved in policy will read their article/ideas and advocate for it on their behalf;
(b) Their article/ideas may influence a broader consensus, such that someone involved in policy will be influenced by the “proper” synthesis of this consensus and advocate for appropriate corresponding policy ideas;
(c) Policy advocates are not necessary and that policy-making bodies as a whole proceed based on careful assessment of often-complex, often-contradictory, often-paywalled, often-technical body of research, and make time for this above other completely valid priorities (and any questionable ones as well).
None of these are true or present. A scientist with ideas for proper policy who does not advocate on their ideas’ own behalf, or work with others who may be willing to do so, is consigning him or herself to very, very low probabilities of having any important influence on policies.
Further, ethically speaking, scientists should not assume that there is unlimited time for everyone in society to consider each problem in its details, and so in the scheme of things, priorities have to be made. Scientists who are not involved in considering the larger political economy–competing priorities and effects on others of their preferred policies, whether directly or from opportunity costs–again are hobbling their ability to be effective.
I have a rather long bit on how policy change *does* work, but for short versions, I highly recommend Paul Cairney’s work: . His “1000 word” summaries are very useful.
Hmm…. I also would add that something scientists seem loathe to consider “how much evidence is *enough* evidence for action?” in their opinion. While evidence & research are important and necessary, we too often act like it is possible or desirable for things to slow down and wait for nice, clear research, instead of the constant need to make decisions in the absence of certainty. When scientists lack any idea of competing priorities, limitations on budget, etc, their ideas are all the more likely to be ignored.
But I suppose the SHORT SHORT version of policy implementation is I am quite convinced we cannot achieve many of our policy objectives–substantive equity, sustainability, halting and adapting to climate change, stopping biodiversity loss, food security–fully within our current governance systems. From many researchers, but including Elinor Ostrom and Prugh, Costanza & Daly, I believe there is clear and compelling evidence that a more participatory democracy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for solving these various problems. While many see political change as hopeless or too slow, I would point out that political change obviously *does* happen, so while it does not happen on a set schedule, it behooves us to work towards it, as working towards it makes it more likely to happen; and that I think there is ample evidence we don’t have an alternative, so however long it takes is how long it takes, but that there are no effective shortcuts. (Prugh, Costanza and Daly argue that top-down/benevolent dictator approaches seem attractive with reference to stopping environmental catastrophe, but that there is ample evidence that this does not, and is extremely unlikely to ever, work.)
In the “meantime”:
The snake finally eats its own tail! I’ve managed again to link to myself.
Steven made the claim (which I cannot scientifically verify) that he found these responses enlightening, and that others would, too. I leave that question to you, dear reader. (Or readers, if there actually is more than one of you.)
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A (hopefully lasting) return to original content: Big update – The Book is Done!

Hello fine folks of the interwebs–

It’s been pretty much nothing but reposts for months now here on Agroecopeople. I have been focusing on finishing a fairly major project! That is, my (first?) book, Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Beyond, due out this December from University of California Press! Based on my research in Belo Horizonte, Brazil over the past 15 years, the book presents BH’s story.

Vista do mirante no bairro Mangabeiras em Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil.

(c) bcorreabh / Adobe Stock

From the official summary at UC Press, Belo Horizonte


“is home to 2.5 million people and one of the world’s most successful city food security programs. Since its Municipal Secretariat for Food Security was founded in 1993, malnutrition in Belo Horizonte has declined dramatically, allowing it to serve as an inspiration for Brazil’s renowned Zero Hunger programs. The Municipal Secretariat’s work with local small family farmers also offers a glimpse of how food security, rural livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems can be supported together. While inevitably imperfect, Belo Horizonte offers a vision of the path away from food system dysfunction, unsustainability, and hunger. This case study shows the vital importance of holistic approaches to food security, offers ideas on how to design successful policies to end hunger, and lays out strategies for how to make policy change happen. With these tools, we can take the next steps towards achieving similar reductions in hunger and food insecurity elsewhere in the developed and developing worlds.”

Beginning to End Hunger is available for pre-order from UC Press, and also from the various normal outlets!

A paper co-written by several of the erstwhile Chappell lab crew on the (possible) biodiversity effects of Belo Horizonte’s food security programs was published last year in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (author’s copy available on ResearchGate here.)

And you can learn more about Belo Horizonte’s stories from several other sources, including fantastic work by my mentor Cecilia Rocha of Ryerson University and colleagues (e.g. here, here, and here); and several videos on YouTube (for example, a brief documentary based on Belo Horizonte’s win of the Future Policy Award, and another one put together a bit back by my friend and colleague, Lindsay Smith).

I hope to visit a number of cities next year to talk about the book; feel free to comment or otherwise contact me to let me know if you’d like me to visit where you are!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Critiquing the ‘Double food production’ narrative

Ideas for Sustainability

There is little doubt that 9-10 billion people will need to be fed during the next few decades. How we do it is open for debate. The research in our group focusses on the food-biodiversity nexus (Fischer et al 2017), i.e. the challenge of attaining food security for all while conserving global biodiversity. In this field a couple of arguments on how to achieve these goals dominate the discourse. If you want to read more about them then see here, here, here and here for some examples.

Typically, papers addressing these two challenges begin with statements about how agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss, something like “Land use change is the biggest threat to biodiversity”, and then the attention turns to food security. Here is where you will more often than not read about the need to increase food production by 70-100 % to…

View original post 200 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New paper: A fresh perspective on food and biodiversity

More great work from Joern Fischer and colleagues.

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

I’m writing to share new paper of ours that just appeared online in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Following from our earlier work, this is our most concrete attempt yet to show what a social-ecological approach to the food-biodiversity nexus might look like. The PDF is available here.

SES food and biodiversity

In a nutshell, we argue to conceptualise the food-biodiversity nexus via four archetypical outcomes. Hypothetical outcomes regarding food security and biodiversity conservation could be win-win, win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose. We then argue that all of these outcomes can be observed in the real world, and that – importantly – they are not entirely idiosyncratic. Rather, each has typical system characteristics associated with it. These characteristics are (i) features of the system (e.g. the kinds of capital stocks and governance arrangements in the system); (ii) drivers of the system (external influences that push the system in a…

View original post 348 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boundary contestation in global food governance: Reflections from CFS43

From last year, a great post and contemplation of the dynamics at the Committee for World Food Security by my colleague, Josh Brem-Wilson. Should world agrifood governance move towards *publicisation* or “multi-stakeholderism”? That is, new and more *substantively inclusive* deliberative democratic forms, or neoliberal multistakeholder forms that reify the apparent sovereignty of the private sector? Read on and find out–or at least, to understand and share in the unresolved questions presented by Josh.

Food Governance

By Dr Josh Brem-Wilson

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

This week we launch the first thematic cluster The CFS: What for? with Josh Brem-Wilson’s reflections on how disputes over the boundaries between the spheres of public authority and private autonomy frame debates in the CFS.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know:

Attending this year’s plenary meeting of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security, I became struck by how much of the work and debates of the CFS are contextualised by an ongoing, yet un-acknowledged, dispute over the character of the agrifood system (in its international, regional, national and…

View original post 1,037 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An underappreciated contributor to Democrats’ losses?

There are many conversations going on about the “populist” surges around the world, their causes, stakes, implications, etc.

For all the stories going around regarding the Trump victory and “forgotten” white and rural voters, I haven’t seen this one come back ’round, on the Obama Administration’s backing down on agricultural market concentration.

Specifically, Lina Khan, the author of a stunning and thorough 2012 piece in Washington Monthly on concentration in agribusiness, particularly contract poultry, says:

It is no stretch to assume that, from the perspective of the White House, the choice to abandon an apparently failed effort to protect independent farmers from such abuses may have seemed politically pragmatic. But over the longer term, it may prove to have been a strategic political failure. By raising the hopes and championing the interests of independent farmers against agribusiness, the administration effectively reached out to the millions of rural voters who don’t normally vote Democratic but whose ardent desire to reestablish open and fair markets for their products and labor often trumps any traditional party allegiance. Instead of translating that newfound trust into political capital, the administration squandered whatever goodwill it had begun to earn. Worse, the administration’s silent retreat amounts to a form of moral failure. Having amply documented the outrageous abuse of fellow citizens, it decided it was not worth expending more political capital to right this wrong.

While it seems unlikely that this particular battle was “the” thing that pushed certain rural voters one way or another, one wonders if it might not be an important, and under-appreciated part of it. Indeed, as you can see in this simple diagram by legal scholar Daniel Cole, effective action, trust, reciprocity, and reputation are all tied together — tied together in a way that I think is both intuitive, and under-appreciated/valued in progressive political thought. In essence, an importance of process AND action: getting things done together reinforces trust, reputation, and willingness to sacrifice for each other (reciprocity), but of course, if you don’t have a process that connects people and builds trust and engages people repeatedly/regularly, the loop of the “virtuous circle” won’t really be closed, either.

In any case, I’d say the example of the anti-trust back-down is perhaps another case where Democrats, and Obama’s legacy, may have been hurt by insufficient progressiveness and daring. Even had a stronger push been defeated, as it looked likely to be, Khan implies that the “backdown” of the Obama Administration did not go unnoticed by the farmers and supporters who showed up for the “listening tour” on anti-trust. Certainly, the sense of betrayal, of our politicians not really “being there” for [certain] people is something seen repeatedly in today’s discourse. Perhaps the value of being there for a group, even when you might (or do) lose, needs to be re-visited for the long-term movement-building that US electoral politics mitigates against. That is, people often remember those who stood by them and fought for them even when the odds were against them, and all did not go according to plan. “Cutting your losses” can sometimes also mean you’ve cut–wounded–your relationship with putative allies and supporters.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Combine Good Evidence and Emotional Stories to Change the World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy


This is my 2-page pitch for the Political Studies Association’s Total Exposure 2017 event on Thursday:

People are too quick to criticise the negative role of ideology, emotion, and manipulation in politics, especially after ‘Brexit’ and the rise of Donald Trump. Yet, a good positive and emotional story with a hero or convincing theme is just as important as ‘the evidence’ to social and policy change. This programme gives examples, shows you how to do it, and identifies what stories work. Through first person narrative, it describes the experiences of people telling their own stories, or of their heroes, to generate political attention and support for their cause. It provides additional narrative by experts on storytelling as a craft, and on the science of storytelling effectiveness, to connect powerful stories with the evidence on their role in politics. The end result is a programme which is entertaining, socially relevant…

View original post 938 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why doesn’t evidence win the day in policy and policymaking?

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

cairney-southampton-evidence-win-the-dayPolitics has a profound influence on the use of evidence in policy, but we need to look ‘beyond the headlines’ for a sense of perspective on its impact.

It is tempting for scientists to identify the pathological effect of politics on policymaking, particularly after high profile events such as the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as US President. We have allegedly entered an era of ‘post-truth politics’ in which ideology and emotion trumps evidence and expertise (a story told many times at events like this), particularly when issues are salient.

Yet, most policy is processed out of this public spotlight, because the flip side of high attention to one issue is minimal attention to most others. Science has a crucial role in this more humdrum day-to-day business of policymaking which is far more important than visible. Indeed, this lack of public visibility…

View original post 2,436 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment