Agroecological transitions, between determinist and open-ended visions

by Claire Lamine (Volume editor) Danièle Magda (Volume editor) Marta Rivera-Ferre (Volume editor) Terry Marsden (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 318 Pages
Open Access
Series: EcoPolis, Volume 37


Debates around agroecology most often focus on the depth and radicality of the change and relate to different visions of agroecology, which tends to eclipse the ontological relationships of actors (or researchers) to the very ‘change process’ itself.
This book is an endeavor to explicate relationships to change in agroecological transitions, referring to two contrasting and ideal-typical ontological relationships to change, the determinist perspective and the open-ended perspective. These conceptions or interpretations of the change process are based respectively on whether objectives and means are predetermined, or defi ned during the change process and while accounting for the uncertainty and complexity of mechanisms of change as well as for the diversity of actors’visions.
Many diverse cases of agroecological transitions are discussed in this book, in order to highlight the fact that these perspectives are not always exclusive in transition process but that they can be articulated successively or combined complementarily, in different ways – thus reinforcing the potential diversity of transition pathways.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Contributors
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Preface: Branching pathways in agroecological transformations (Andy Stirling)
  • Taking into account the ontological relationship to change in agroecological transitions (Danièle Magda, Claire Lamine, Terry Marsden, Marta Rivera-Ferre)
  • Intertwining deterministic and open-ended perspectives in the experimentation of agroecological production systems: A challenge for agronomy researchers (Mireille Navarrete, Hélène Brives, Maxime Catalogna, Amélie Lefèvre, Sylvaine Simon)
  • Plant breeding for agroecology: A sociological analysis of the co-creation of varieties and the collectives involved (Sophie Tabouret, Claire Lamine, François Hochereau)
  • Agroecological transitions at the scale of territorial agri-food systems (Marianne Hubeau, Martina Tuscano, Fabienne Barataud, Patrizia Pugliese)
  • How policy instruments may favour an articulation between open ended and deterministic perspectives to support agroecological transitions? Insights from a franco-brazilian comparison (Claire Lamine, Claudia Schmitt, Juliano Palm, Floriane Derbez, Paulo Petersen)
  • Teaching, training and learning for the agroecological transition: A French-Brazilian perspective (Moacir Darolt, Juliette Anglade, Pascale Moity-Maïzi, Claire Lamine, Florette Rengard, Vanessa Iceri, Amélie Genay, Cristian Celis)
  • The manufacture of futures and the agroecological transition. Deciphering pathways for sustainability transition in France (Marc Barbier, Sarah Lumbroso, Jessica Thomas, Sébastien Treyer)
  • How access and dynamics in the use of territorial resources shape agroecological transitions in crop-livestock systems: Learnings and perspectives (Vincent Thénard, Gilles Martel, Jean-Philippe Choisis, Timothée Petit, Sébastien Couvreur, Olivia Fontaine, Marc Moraine)
  • The dynamics of agropastoral activities with regard to the agroecological transition (Charles-Henri Moulin, Laura Etienne, Magali Jouven, Jacques Lasseur, Martine Napoléone, Marie-Odile Nozières-Petit, Eric Vall, Arielle Vidal)
  • What models of justice for the agroecological transition? The normative backdrops of the transition (Pierre M. Stassart, Antoinette M. Dumont, Corentin Hecquet, Stephanie Klaedtke, Camille Lacombe, Matthieu de Nanteuil)
  • Thinking through the lens of the other: Translocal agroecology conversations (Divya Sharma and Barbara Van Dyck)
  • The rhetorics of agroecology: Positions, trajectories, strategies (Michael Bell and Stéphane Bellon)
  • Postface
  • Series index

List of contributors

Juliette Anglade

Environmental scientist, INRAE, Aster, F-88500, Mirecourt, France

Fabienne Barataud

Geographer, INRAE, Aster, F-88500, Mirecourt, France

Marc Barbier

Sociologist, LISIS, Univ Gustave Eiffel, ESIEE Paris, CNRS, INRAE, F-77454 Marne-la-Vallée, France

Michael Bell

Sociologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Stéphane Bellon

Agronomist, INRAE, Ecodéveloppement, F-84140, Avignon, France

Hélène Brives

Sociologist, ISARA, F-69007, Lyon, France

Maxime Catalogna

Agronomist, INRAE, Ecodéveloppement, F-84140, Avignon, and Department of Drôme, F-26000, Valence, France

Cristian Celis

Sociologist, INRAE, Ecodeveloppement, F-84140, Avignon, France

Jean-Philippe Choisis

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR SELMET, F-97410, St Pierre, France

Sébastien Couvreur

Livestock scientist, ESA, URSE, F-49007, Angers, France

←11 | 12→Moacir Darolt

Agronomist, IDR-Paraná, Institute of Rural Development of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil

Matthieu de Nanteuil

Sociologist, Université de Louvain CriDIS, IACCHOS, Belgique

Floriane Derbez

Sociologist, INRAE, Ecodeveloppement, Avignon, France

Antoinette M. Dumont

Agro-economist, SAW-B (Solidarité des Alternatives Wallonnes et Bruxelloises), Belgique

Laura Etienne

Pastoralist, Idele, UMT Pasto, Montpellier, France

Olivia Fontaine

Livestock scientist, CIRAD, UMR SELMET, F-97410, St Pierre, France

Amélie Genay

Agronomist, DRAAF Occitanie, Toulouse, France

Corentin Hecquet

Sociologist, Université de Liège, SEED, Belgique

François Hochereau

Sociologist, INRAE, SAD-APT, Paris, France

Marianne Hubeau

Bioscience engineering / agricultural economics, ILVO, Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research, Merelbeke, Belgium

Vanessa Iceri

Geographer, AgroParisTech, Clermont-Ferrand, France

Magali Jouven

Livestock scientist, Montpellier SupAgro, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

←12 | 13→Stephanie Klaedtke

Agronomist, Université de Liège, SEED, Belgique

Camille Lacombe

Agronomist, INRAE, UMR AGIR, F- 31326 Castanet- Tolosan, France

Claire Lamine

Sociologist, INRAE, Ecodéveloppement, F-84000 Avignon, France

Jacques Lasseur

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

Amélie Lefèvre

INRAE, Agroecological vegetable systems Experimental Facility, F-6600, Alénya, France

Sarah Lumbroso

Agronomist, AScA, F-75010 Paris, France

Danièle Magda

Ecologist, INRAE, UMR AGIR, F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France

Terry Marsden

Geographer, Cardiff University, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff, CF10 38A, Wales, UK

Gilles Martel

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR BAGAP, F-49000, Angers, France

Pascale Moity-Maïzi

Anthropologist, UMR SENS, Institut Agro, Montpellier, France

Marc Moraine

Agronomist, INRAE, UMR INNOVATION, F-34060, Montpellier, France

Charles-Henri Moulin

Livestock scientist, Montpellier SupAgro, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

←13 | 14→Martine Napoléone

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

Mireille Navarrete

Agronomist, INRAE, Ecodéveloppement, F-84140, Avignon, France

Marie-Odile Nozières-Petit

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

Juliano Palm

Sociologist, CPDA, UFRRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Paulo Petersen

ASPTA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Timothée Petit

Livestock scientist, ESA, URSE, F-49007, Angers, France

Patrizia Pugliese

Economist, CIHEAM Bari, Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, Italy

Florette Rengard

FAR, International Network for Agricultural and Rural Training, Montpellier, France

Marta Rivera-Ferre

Livestock scientist and sociologist, INGENIO (CSIC-Universitat Politècnica de València), Valencia, Spain

Claudia Schmitt

Sociologist, CPDA, UFRRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Divya Sharma

Sociologist, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

Sylvaine Simon

Agronomist, INRAE, UERI Gotheron, F-26320, Saint-Marcel-lès-Valence, France

←14 | 15→Pierre M. Stassart

Sociologist, Université de Liège, SEED, Belgique

Andy Stirling

Science and Technology Studies, Centre on Social Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS), Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

Sophie Tabouret

Sociologist, CSI, i3, Mines ParisTech, PSL University, CNRS, Paris, France, INRAE, SAD-APT, Paris, France

Vincent Thénard

Livestock scientist, INRAE, UMR AGIR, F-31320, Castanet-Tolosan, France

Jessica Thomas

Sociologist, LISIS, Univ Gustave Eiffel, ESIEE Paris, CNRS, INRAE, F-77454 Marne-la-Vallée, France

Sébastien Treyer

Agronomist, IDDRI (Institut du Développement Durable et des Relations Internationales), F-75006 Paris, France

Martina Tuscano

Sociologist, INRAE, Ecodeveloppement, F-84140, Avignon, France

Eric Vall

Livestock scientist, CIRAD, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France

Barbara Van Dyck

Political Agroecologist, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University

Arielle Vidal

Livestock scientist, CIRAD, UMR SELMET, Montpellier, France


Thank you to all the participants in the founding seminar of this book, held in October 2018 at Le Pradel, France, to Laurent Hazard who helped us to convene it and Pedro Lopez Merino to conceive it, and to all the 51 contributors who built it up with the contributions of their chapters or through their introductory writings. We particularly thank Andy Stirling for the very inspiring preface he provided to this book.

Thanks to all the reviewers who provided critical and constructive comments to the different chapters: Colin Anderson, Marc Barbier, Philippe Baret, Gianluca Brunori, Jenny Calabrese, Benoit Dedieu, Les Levidow, Feliu Lopez Gelats, David Meek, Jean-Marc Meynard, Ana Moragues, Manuel Gonzalez de Molina Navarro, Erin Silva, and to the anonymous reviewers of Peter Lang’s editorial committee.

Thanks to Xavier Arnauld de Sartre and Olivier Petit who hosted and followed this project in their Ecopolis collection.

Thanks to the INRAE SAD department (now ACT) that financed this publishing project.←17 | 18→


by Philippe Mauguin

President and chief executive officer of INRAE

By the end of 2020, the idea that the Covid-19 crisis was a mere parenthesis had dissipated. By measuring the impacts on our personal, social, cultural and economic lives, we all began to perceive that there was a before and an after, in other words that we had found ourselves in a deeper sort of transition.

It is as if the entire notion of “transition” has moved beyond the scientific sphere to apply to society as a whole. This new health situation thus makes this book all the more relevant. Of course, the aim here is to study the processes of a particular transition – the agroecological transition – but the questions raised by the group of 51 researchers from eight different countries will certainly find echoes in the debates within the political world and civil society: How can we understand and describe the processes of change? Must we have a specific goal for the transition – the “after” – already in mind, or can it be developed throughout the transition process itself with some room left for indetermination?

This research and work on the agroecological transition are especially necessary as it is a complex phenomenon. It is complex first of all because it is multidimensional: the changes are technical, social, ecological and political all at the same time. But it is also complex because it takes place at several scales, from the farm (or even the farm plot) to the food systems.

Given such complexity, it is useful to delve into the “hows” of the agroecological transition. Debates are thus open among scientists regarding the processes of change and their different visions of change. Should a global and systemic approach be favoured – one that involves more ←19 | 20→than a particular profession or economic sector – since the transition is not strictly limited to farmers but requires the mobilization of the entire chain, from production to consumption? Or would it be better to take an approach based primarily on the drivers of technical innovation? Is it necessary to adopt a “deterministic” perspective based on the predetermination of the end goal or an “open-ended” perspective that views indetermination as an asset?

By informing this debate and taking account of the many ways the agroecological transition can be addressed, this book aims to make visible the “state of the art,” to give tools to those implied in agroecology and to contribute to the expanding field of research on transitions.

At INRA, this subject was handled by the Science for Action and Development (SAD) Division, which became since 1 January 2020 within INRAE the Sciences for Action, Transitions and Territoiries (ACT) Division. This division supports an approach to agroecology that takes actors’ visions and practices into consideration. In this way, it has helped to formulate research questions about the transition, focusing on processes of change and not just the application of agroecological principles. This book is a product of the division’s scientific priority “agroecology for action.” This is why it includes contributions from not only INRAE researchers but also scientists from french and foreign universities. This is also why it adopts a resolutely interdisciplinary approach by drawing from the life sciences, technical sciences and social sciences.

Each disciplinary field represented in the book sheds light on the connections between the “deterministic” and “open-ended” perspectives and analyzes how “deterministic” phases and “open-ended” phases can alternate. In the end, it is indeed the combination of these trajectories that should enable the large-scale deployment of agroecology.

Without concluding or settling the debate, this book provides arguments in favour of transition paths where actors are stakeholders who are involved in governance arrangements, and where scientific knowledge and practical knowledge are hybridized within new modes of collaboration with all public and private actors, within spaces such as living labs, transformative labs and multi-actor observatories.


ISBN (Softcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2021 (October)
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 318 p., 17 ill. en couleurs, 8 ill. n/b, 11 tabl.

Biographical notes

Claire Lamine (Volume editor) Danièle Magda (Volume editor) Marta Rivera-Ferre (Volume editor) Terry Marsden (Volume editor)

Claire Lamine is sociologist and research director at INRAE. She develops interdisciplinary approaches to agroecological transitions at the scale of agri-food systems and studies the processes of institutionalisation of agroecology in France and Brazil. Danièle Magda is an ecologist and research director at INRAE. She worked on agroecological practices learning in farming systems and now develops interdisciplinary research on the diversity of visions on ecologisation and of relationships to nature in the transition of agrifood systems. Marta Rivera-Ferre is Research Professor at INGENIO (the Spanish National Research Council) and UPV. She focuses her research on agroecology and food sovereignty as strategies to increase the sustainability of food systems, as well as in the place of feminists and commons theories in agri-food research. Terry Marsden is Emeritus Professor at the School of Geography and Planning and the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. He has worked extensively in the fields of rural development, agri-food studies and sustainability.


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