Valuing Smallholder Food Production - A Call for New Theories

  • Carol B. Thompson (Northern Arizona University and AGRA-Watch)


The idea that industrial agriculture is successful in providing food security during this time of climate change and increasing world hunger is grounded in the ontology and episteme of neoliberal economics. Therefore, the goal of this article is to extend the debates about the transformation of economic theories—from assumptions to concepts to measures—in order to recognize smallholder, food-producing techniques, ones that acknowledge the bio-physical limits of planet earth and demonstrate “evidence-based” resilience. The first proposed alternative set of theories, ecological economics, challenges neoliberal economics by redefining the planet as a closed system in which externalities cannot exist and by recognizing natural capital as an important factor of production. A second alternative, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), values smallholder food production by emphasizing its defining roots in community and also by offering alternative concepts and measures. The article concludes by discussing ways in which these transformative theories can change the international discourse and policies to re-evaluate and value smallholder food production.

Keywords: smallholder, neoliberal economics, ecological economics, TEK, agriculture, social justice, indigenous knowledge, food

How to Cite:

Thompson, C. B., (2014) “Valuing Smallholder Food Production - A Call for New Theories”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 3(1).

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Published on
28 Feb 2014
Peer Reviewed