Agroecology, Sustainable Food Production and Landscape Conservation: International Collaborations between Japan and the Americas

Fieldwork in Kuma Kogen, Ehime Prefecture, Japan


OVERVIEW: The goals of the proposed project are 1) to conduct anthropological, archaeological and sociological research on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in rural Japan, 2) to conduct ecological research on case studies of agroecological farmers with a focus on the contribution of local and traditional ecological knowledge, and 3) to develop food and ecoliteracy outreach programs based on the results of 1) and 2). Agroeology initially started as a discipline of natural science, specifically as the study of ecological phenomena in crop fields. Today, agroecology is defined as an interdisciplinary research field, with an emphasis on establishing both scientific and social foundations for alternative agricultural practice. In the latter context, agroecology critically examines whether conventional agricultural practice with large amounts of external inputs, including chemical fertilizer and pesticide, is sustainable in the long run. The discipline of agroecology covers not only experimental studies in the crop field but also anthropological and sociological examinations of agricultural systems.

Our research team is divided into three groups: 1) TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) Research Group, 2) Agroecosystem Group, and 3) Food and Ecoliteracy Education Group. Together, these three groups aim to develop inter- and trans-disciplinary discussions on the resilience of agricultural practice in the face of disasters and climate/social change. By conducting comparative studies between Japan and the Americas, our project aims to develop international networks to move the discipline of agroecology forward.

In this project, we propose to examine the resilience of agroecosystems at multiple spatial and temporal scales with an emphasis on macro-scale analysis (i.e., regions and the longue durée). The primary geographic foci of our research will be on 1) the northern Tohoku region, 2) the Tama Hill of Tokyo-eastern Yamanashi, 3) Kyoto, and 4) Shikoku & Hiroshima.

This project is funded by the Environmental Research Grant of the Sumitomo Foundation through the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) . It is a logical extension of the 2016 Kyoto Agroecology Declaration, a statement issued after a transdisciplinary workshop on agroecology of May 21-22, 2016, hosted by the Small-Scale Economies Project at RIHN.

COPING WITH COVID-19 AND OTHER DISASTERS : An important research focus of this project is to evaluate the advantage of agroecological practice to cope with major disasters caused by pandemics, earthquakes and climate change. In particular, project members suggest that the COVID-19 crisis has created a moment where existing calls for agroecology acquire new relevance. See for example, a recent article by Altieri and Nicholls (2020): Agroecology and the reconstruction of a post-COVID-19 agriculture published in the Journal of Peasant Studies.



Traditional Food in the Mountainous Area : Warabi Bracken (Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, Japan)