The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Talking about agriculture, calmly

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A few months ago, I was talking to my colleague Kimberly, about how difficult it is to talk about the future of agriculture in public without things spinning out of control. Most people don’t much care. But those who do, REALLY CARE. It doesn’t take long in any conversation, for example, before someone in the conversation begins accusing someone else of being part of a corporate conspiracy, or someone accuses a whole community of being “peasant romanticists”. The energy and anger of the interchanges sometimes seems out of proportion and quite unconstructive.

Oxfam has been engaged in agriculture policy and programming since our early beginnings—so we brush against these partisans all the time. Indeed, there are many partisans among us. Often, our favored course is to keep our heads low and avoid the rough and tumble.

But, that’s not really possible in the current era. With the launch of our GROW Campaign, we have put the issues of food, hunger, and sustainable, inclusive agriculture at the center of Oxfam’s public engagement and the heart of our policy agenda. So, how do we broach these subjects without instigating mortal combat and without making Oxfam a target of every possible interest and ideology?

Well, the best idea we came up with was to host a conversation and hope that good ideas and some elements of a consensus emerge. So that’s what we’re doing.

Starting Monday, we’re hosting a ten-day Future of Agriculture online discussion and debate. We’ve invited experts and leaders in the field to contribute provocative essays, and we’ll invite everyone else to weigh in. That means you.

Set your browsers and ready your keyboards. And jump right in!


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  1.  avatarBart Doorneweert

    This is a great initiative, and I really look forward to it.
    I’ve been asked to facilitate a discussion for government on this same topic, with the same tension.
    Here’s an insight into how we did it, and what went down:

    In short, we have lost sight of the basic premise for achieve innovation with farmers: do we know our ‘user’? I don’t think we do, and it’s time to reconnect.
    Hope to hear thoughts on my site as well!




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