Day 1, Stream 1

Ideologies, Tools, and Advocacy

A Provocation on the Critical Agroecology, Peoples’ Knowledge, and the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit

Keynote Address by Maywa Montenegro de Wit

Maywa has compiled some supplementary readings for Conviviality participants. Click here to access a collection of resources related to UN Food Systems, and click here to read Maywa's new open access editorial, written with Steve Gliessman for the journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

The contradictions of conviviality (and their resolution)
Graeme MacRae
Massey University

Social movements as living labs of conviviality and their (in)formal transnational context in the Balkans
Milica Kočović De Santo
Institute of Economic Sciences

Between a rock and a chainsaw: Convivial tools, labour productivity and European peasants
Simon Popay
Coventry University

Climate ethics based on conviviality theory in a Brazilian perspective
Frederico Salmi
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

Thanks to Paige West and Michael Goldsmith for acting as Discussants for this panel.

Click here to watch Paige West's response to all the Presenters.
*Please note that some participants are having trouble viewing this recording. In this instance, the conference team recommend using a different web browser, clearing cache and cookies, and/or disabling any ad blockers*

To respond to the Presentations, leave a reply in the comments section below.
If you would like to include an audio or visual reply, email this to before October 9.

 Serena Stein is the Chair of this Stream.

Comments 21

  1. Thank you Maywa for an interesting key note presentation on a favourite topic of mine – food and food systems. I appreciate the material you have supplied. I was particularly interested in the tensions you identified between social movements/activists versus the UN and the ‘science movement’. How do you see social movements/activists claiming their legitimacy and ownership of knowledges and sciences that speak to their cause?

  2. Kia ora Maywa. Thank you so much for your presentation which did a wonderful job of setting the scene for the theme of conviviality. I found your juxtaposition of the links between UN Food Systems summit and corporate neoliberalism alarming, but sadly not surprising, and I applaud the work of you and your broad network of scholars, activists and other stakeholders who are bringing better science to this critical area. Certainly from my position here in Aotearoa New Zealand I can see the relevance and importance of your talk.
    I hope to learn more during this conference about how people like yourself and other activists are influencing the discourses of global corporate food businesses which seem to be leading policy discussion about the future of food.
    Best Ngā mihi nui, Janet

  3. Hey Graeme, thank you for your presentation. I found it really interesting to consider the role of humans in nature and with other species – the requirement of each to thrive. The notion of reciprocity is definitely required, and I guess we don’t have that balance right often. I agree we all desire conviviality, but don’t often live up to that ideal. Like Maywa’s opening presentation, I’m left reflecting on how indigenous wisdom can be ‘heroed’/further legitimised alongside western science and technology. Or how we disentangle knowledges to delimit western ideologies and paradigms.

    1. Have loved the presentations. Thanks for a great conference.

      Re Graeme’s presentation and Heidi’s comments: I wonder how connecting with nature in itself can disentangle dominant ideologies/paradigms? Or likewise, connect us with whakapapa? Conviviality and relationships with nature (not to separate it out from us) are built through time, appreciation, dialogue, openness and necessity – and hard work too. Our connection to our whakapapa is likewise. How might our reciprocity with nature and our connections to our whakapapa be linked?

      1. Hi Libby, yes I think you’re right. A stronger connection to nature, whakapapa and I always feel mauri as well, should most definitely enable us to reimagine ideologies about nature, agriculture and food. I was so inspired by Robert’s discussion yesterday about the Pewen and Pewencha which I think really exemplified the connection and reciprocity that is possible.

    2. Hi Heidi, this is a great line of inquiry to draw out. The move to recover indigenous knowledge as long-existing processes of ‘experimentation’ at once de-provincialises the rationality, authority, and legitimacy from exclusive to Eurocentric agronomic and ecological cultures of science, but at the same time is a move that seems an attempt to put indigenous and traditional practices into the language of western science toward gaining legitimacy in its set hierarchy of knowledge. I’m also curious about learning more about these latest uses of dichotomies of rational/emotional, productivism/care, and so on, leveled against agroecology advocacy as well as taken up in global forms of environmentalism that can obscure the ways they intermingle in both the practice and technologies by multinational and corporate entities and by diverse grassroots agrarian and indigenous groups.

  4. Hi Milica, thanks for an interesting presentation from so far away from me! Continuing my train of thought on the sessions I’ve watched so far, and reflecting on your discussion of the changes in Serbia’s political landscape, how do you think cultural ideologies such as indigenous practices and knowledges have been impacted over this time of change in Serbia.

  5. Hey Simon, I really enjoyed your presentation and the quotes from your research. It was interesting to drill down and examine the relationship between tools and agroecology, and particularly the views of the farmers you engaged with. As a human geography masters student, I find the relevance or implication of spatialisation interesting. I am doing research on small-scale growers in a provincial region, and found the discussion of increasing population as producers and consumers interesting too. Can you mention what your farmers were producing and aimed at what markets?

    1. Hi Heidi,

      Thanks for the comment and question. The farmers were producing quite a broad range of different products, and some farmers were quite mixed (animals, grains, fruit, vegetables etc) while others were specialised as market gardeners or meat producers. Where they were marketing to was really interesting. Most farms were selling more or less directly, including local market stalls, vegetable box deliveries, informal networks, solidarity purchasing groups etc… (this is largely because I was researching ‘alternative farms’ rather than conventional farms). In Cornwall, most farmers could benefit from a strong tourism sector to market their produce ‘locally’. In Calabria, where the tourism sector is weaker and there is no strong non-agricultural sector, there was a lot more selling to the north of Italy and other parts of Europe. That being said, farmers have different opportunities for marketing as well as different ideological attitudes which shape where they sell.

      What region are you doing your research in? I’d be interested to know if some of the marketing tendencies I came across are similar elsewhere.

      1. Thanks for your reply, that’s very interesting. Will look out for your Ph.D. or subsequent articles! Well done on your work. The research project I’m involved in is in Taranaki and deals also with ‘alternative’ growers (organic, permaculture, regenerative etc.) at small scales. We have been working with people who are growing in their backyards or on small urban, urban periphery, and some rural land. Look for ‘Farming to Flourish’ on Facebook or Instagram (sites are currently down so can’t link at the moment!) for more information. Part of the research is looking at how they get their produce to market, hence my question of what your farmers were producing. I am using the research for my thesis while considering digging in further for a Ph.D. possibly!

      2. Hi Simon an Heidi, Great to see the exchanges. I wanted to bring together the comments on advocacy and convivial tools in relation to investment, as Simon raises. I did my PhD research with smallholders in a setting a bit further afield in Mozambique, and the presentations and keynote gave me a lot to think about in terms of how to identify “convivial tools” across different contexts, and what kinds of investments to push for, and for and by whom. Indeed what is convivial in a community of farmers may pit their aspirations against other cultivators, and agroecological farming still – to various extents – pits human aspirations against (at least some) non-human species, with the necessary choosing of certain species and their thriving over others (deemed invasive, pests, etc, even by the most convivial of agroecological farmers or gardeners). As I mention in my welcome comments to the conference, in my own research the disconnects between smallholders I worked with and the transnational politics of environmentalism and peasant resistance that spoke on their behalf was not recognizing the diverse kinds of farmers across Mozambique’s landscapes. I argue that smoothing over the rapid stratification of farmers toward commercialization (as young people turn to farming with a drive toward professionalization, abandoning dreams of urban living and returning to rural village life, or as middle-aged household leaders expand production as a sort of “risk portfolio” for retirement and hedging effects of climate change, for example) ultimately hinders broader convivial politics by excluding many farmers’ aspirations or dismissing them as minority practitioners, perhaps because their farming and objectives are inconvenient to political mobilization. A consequence of these disjunctures is that it render general calls for “investment” in convivial “tools” on behalf of “smallholders” in this context almost meaningless. Even as I pressed policymakers, advocacy leaders, and farmers to identify tools and investments they desired (whether manufactured implements like crimp rollers or irrigation drips, or small tractors and on-farm storage containers; or techniques, methods already existing locally that needed greater support), people struggled with naming any specifics. I’d like to see more detailed and comparative discussions across world regions on the specific histories of small-scale agroecological technologies and cases of investment and introductions in relation to indigenous practices – especially if they are not only stories of conflict and failure (as Sarah Osterhoudt’s “bright spot” ethnography presentation will explore) but what worked in particular times and places.

  6. Thanks everyone – especially Heidi (its always nice to know somebody is listening) + also Paige and Mike for your thoughtful and insightful summaries and commentaries.

    1. We are certainly listening! I suspect many people are a bit sheepish to comment. Even I feel that sentiment, having encouraged this format, because it is open access and making visible ‘rough draft’ discussions. I hope everyone is easing into the spirit of the virtual conference, and finding a footing in watching and commenting. In any case, we are aware that many more people are watching presentations than are commenting, and, again, hope that you will reciprocate with at least a comment of appreciate, or a question, posted to the section. The comments sections will be open through Oct. 15 for exchanges to continue. – Serena

  7. Kia ora Simon, thanks for the really interesting presentation – very refreshing to see someone tackling the very hard question of energy and the hidden ‘labour’ upon which many alternative producers rely upon, whether that’s a direct use of fossil fuels in tractors/transport, their embedded use in more ‘low tech’ tools, or the perennial question of physical labour via WWOOFING, farm internships or “self-exploitation” etc… no easy escape from overshoot!

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on two interesting developments in this space: Open Source Ecology’s attempts to make more bottom-up versions of key industrial machines ( and FarmHack’s community-led efforts to ‘hack’ tools for small scale farming ( I understand that both of these to varying degrees rely on existing networks of material production and fossil/fuels capital, but would love to hear what you think about their potential (or not!) for circumventing some of the issues you raised…

    1. Hi Dan, nice question. Admittedly I haven’t given this a lot of thought before, so these are just some rough ideas in response. In my presentation I partly avoided it by referring specifically to technologies embedded in capital, but of course there’s a really interesting link between tool/machine and technology. A nice example is in this paper ( where they discuss machines put together through a farm-hack like process before translating it into codified/shareable open-source designs. There are also limits to the universality of open-source designs – specific contexts and requirements demand specific technologies and machines, so open-source designs may be limited to offering inspiration.

      I think one thing Farm Hack and other initiatives show is how there is not a clear division between industrial and convivial forms of production. As you say, there is often an underlying relation with industry (especially materials, but also with tools used to make other tools, like welding equipment), but it’s clear that Farm Hacks and open source tools can displace aspects of industrial production. Part of the production process is necessarily industrial, but much of it doesn’t have to be. This can be pretty variable though – I’ve been to one Farm Hack where tools ranged from smaller-scale DIY versions of weeding robots to making wooden hand tools. The list of tools on the link you posted is also very variable.

      In another sense these initiatives (especially Farm Hack) are variations on the ‘no 8 wire mentality’ (If you’re not from/in NZ see which I think is pretty common in farming communities more generally. I suspect the kinds of technologies that develop will continue to respond to the specific conditions farmers face – how competitive they need to be, how much labour they have, what resources are available locally. It will be interesting to see what kinds of technologies might emerge out of these initiatives, whether they better suit farmers’ needs, and whether they do challenge current dependencies on industrial production. If you have any more ideas in this space let’s talk more!

      1. Great reply thanks Simon, such an interesting paper too. I like your distinction between tool and technology; so much of what makes farms run is social, and I’ve long been fascinated by the work Thomas Talhem has done looking at the links between more and less collective forms of agricultural production (rice verses wheat) and how individualistic or collective the associated cultures are ( ) – makes me think about some of the social technologies we have available and the ways they are and aren’t linked to capital… lots to reflect on going forward! Thanks again for the thought provoking talk 🙂

      2. This is a great conversation brewing, and I’d like to continue it with you, too, especially coming from the vantage of the Global South and southern Africa more specifically where there has been part of Global North universities and start-up competitions, but also increasingly a focus in southern African university design and engineering competitions and start-up culture. The “small” agritech is an important arena to look at both in relation to, and to carry conversations beyond, capital critique, especially as there is so much focus on agritech in academic literatures centered exclusively in Silicon Valley tech landscapes (such as the fantastic recent articles and critiques by Julie Guthman, Madeleine Fairbairne, Emily Reisman, and others in the STS Food & Ag network) where the knowledge of agriculture, involvement of farmers, gender and racial dimensions, are quite specific to hegemonic tech players and casts large global shadows in terms of how agritech developments…but by no means is what may be most relevant to the lives and practices of most smallholders worldwide.

  8. Perhaps we can also direct some comments toward Milica, Frederico, and Graeme, also in relation to Maywa’s keynote, by amplifying some of the discussants’ questions? Specifically, Michael mentions the “fundamental definitional issue” in terms of ‘agroecology’ in terms of “agriculture which ticks certain boxes” such as mimicry of natural ecosystems (which immediately raises the issue of what is ‘natural’); avoiding certain kinds of productivism and intensification; and adopting a critical perspective on science and technology.” He asks: “leaving aside the role of technology for the moment, aren’t all agricultural systems ‘ecological’ in some sense? What is the cut-off for agroecological? I would add, is agriculture ever truly convivial? Is there an ideal convivial set of relations in agriculture? is a way I ask, in my welcome commentary, the same. Michael mentions that is has become fashionable (Against the Grain, etc) to take the invention of agriculture as the first step toward the planetary mess of today. What are thoughts here, especially Milica, as you think through broad politics across diverse groups attempting to harmonize across these questions and amid murky spectra of socialism and capitalism in relation to productivist agriculture). Frederico, can you say a bit more about agroecologies – plural – and perhaps unexpected frictions encountered from the Brazilian context in relation to climate politics?

  9. Frederico, I really enjoyed your presentation. I like how you went beyond the techno-economic framework by including concrete categories which offer a way forward. A social-justice generator – what a great idea! The concept of superclusters is also very useful way of conceptualizing parts of a larger-social ecological system. Thank you for sharing your work, I look forward to reading your paper.

  10. Milica, thank you for sharing the practical ways for living better with others. I certainly agree that protecting small scale producers and economies is absolutely key. I look forward to reading your work.

  11. Dr Graeme Mcrae, your lecture was very informative. I really like the point you made about how convivial (multispecies) ideologies are not difficult to find. It is ‘living up to’ these ideologies in our neoliberal world which is hard. It is useful to remember we are patching together ideologies that work rather than trying to start from scratch. Thank you for sharing you presentation.

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