Agro-ecology in Chile: Science, Democracy, and Sustainability

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:40 AM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton)
William San Martín, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Organic and agroecological farming have gained increased attention among farmers and consumers in Europe, the United States, and Latin America during the last few decades. Global concerns about food security, sustainability, and climate change have contributed to revitalizing this public awareness about the social, ecological, and political dimensions of food production and consumption. In Latin America, however, these concerns have been profoundly entangled with struggles about racial democratization, state formation, and science-policy interface.

This paper examines the development of agroecology as a scientific discipline, a set of management practices, and a social movement in Chile between the 1980s and 2000s. While experiencing the effects of radical neoliberal economic reforms implemented during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, scientific communities, non-profit organizations, and ecclesiastical institutions shaped agroecology as a contesting project for agricultural democratization in Chile.

Within a growing international scientific awareness about the environmental effects of industrial agriculture, Chile's agroecological movement contested the dominant narrative of the "economic miracle" and placed small-scale farmers and indigenous communities at the center of an alternative project for "sustainable development." The history of agroecology in Chile unveils links between agrotechnological change, democratization movements, and environmental justice in Latin America. It places agricultural and ecological experts, small-scale farmers, and research institutions within a broader history of environmental movements in Chile. And re-centers the role of Latin America and indigenous epistemologies within global environmental policies and politics.