Academic publications

Our peer reviewed articles in academic journals include the following:

Sherwood, S., S. van Bommel, M. Paredes. 2016. Self-organization and the bypass: Re-imagining institutions for more sustainable development in agriculture and food. Agriculture, 6(66): 1-19. doi:10.3390/agriculture6040066

Summary: In exploring the social dynamics of agrofood movements in Ecuador as examples of self-organization (i.e., locally distributed and resolved development), this article departs from a preoccupation with innovation by means of design and the use of scaling as a metaphor for describing research contributions in agriculture and food. The case material highlights that much development is contingent, unpredictable, and unmanageable as well as unbound to fixed spaces or places. In their study of people’s daily practice, the authors do not find clear boundaries between dichotomies of internal–external, lay–expert, traditional–modern, or local–global organization, but heterogeneous blends of each. For the purposes of sustainable development, this highlights the need for attention to be paid to relationships (social, material, and biological), adaptation (the capacity to innovate), and responsibility (adherence to norms of sustainability). Far from romanticizing self-organization, the authors acknowledge that people and their institutions share varying degrees of complicity for the goods as well as the bads of their economic activity, such as mass soil degradation, agrobiodiversity loss, and poisoning by pesticides. Nevertheless, even under highly difficult conditions, certain actors effectively bypass the limitations of formal institutions in forging a socio-technical course of action (i.e., policy) for relatively healthy living and being. As such, the authors have come to appreciate self-organization as a neglected, if paradoxical, resource for policy transition towards more sustainable agriculture and food.

Paredes, M. S. Sherwood, A. Arce. 2016. La contingencia del cambio social en la agricultura y la alimentación en América Latina, Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales, 54(enero): 11-25.  doi:

Resumen: En su conjunto, la perspectiva social crítica pretende arrojar luz sobre las realida- des ocultas de desarrollo en la agricultura y la alimentación con el n de entender la alimentación como es y no como uno quisiera que sea. Asentar el análisis en un contexto o situación es útil para evaluar de manera más crítica la pertinencia y la utilidad de las políticas públicas, así como para la identi cación de nuevas líneas de investigación y la superación de las actuales barreras institucionales para una vida y forma de ser más sanas y saludables a través de los alimentos. Esto es lo novedoso y a la vez interesante de las diferentes contribuciones. Esperamos que ellas ayuden a abrir un debate sobre qué es lo que hoy en día constituye una perspectiva crítica entre los estudios de agricultura y alimentación de América Latina.

Sherwood, S., M. Paredes, J. Gross, and M. Hammer. 2015. The Future of Sustainability as a Product of the Present: Lessons from Modern Food in Ecuador (Il futuro della sostenibilità come prodotto del presente: lezioni dal cibo moderno in Ecuador), Rivisita de Studi sulla Sostenibilita, 21: 83-103. doi: 10.3280/RISS2014-002006. 

Summary: The socio-technical developments in agriculture and food in Carchi have not been the simple outcome of a series of cost-benefit analyses (Sherwood and Paredes, 2010). Likewise, families have not acted alone, independently or in isolation (Paredes, 2010). Instead, the institu- tionalization of modern food arguably has been the product of the activity of people operating as individuals and in groups in response to unfolding preferences, creativities and contingencies. Admittedly, this largely self- organizing activity can lead to divergent and even contradictory human health, economic and environmental outcomes, such as the degradation of resources, self-poisoning by pesticides or overweight/obesity, and financial ruin. Nevertheless, in some cases families have managed to utilize modernization in positive ways, thereby “surviving to farm another day” (Paredes, 2010). Here, we strategically mine the diverse experiences of families for ‘endogenous potential’ – those experiences where people manage to advance their livelihood objectives to their immediate and long- term advantage. We argue that unique agrifood styles represent an existent, yet neglected resource for addressing pressing concerns in sustainable food production and health.

Parsa, S., S. Mores, A. Bonifacio, T. Chancellor, B. Condori, V. Crespo-Pérez, S. Hobbs, J. Kroshel, M. Ba, F. Rebaudo, S.G. Sherwood, S.J. Vanek, E. Faye, M. Herrera, O.Dangles. 2014. Obstacles to IPM adoption in development countries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 111(10): 3889-3894. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312693111

Summary: Despite its theoretical prominence and sound principles, integrated pest management (IPM) continues to suffer from anemic adoption rates in developing countries. To shed light on the reasons, we surveyed the opinions of a large and diverse pool of IPM profes- sionals and practitioners from 96 countries by using structured con- cept mapping. The first phase of this method elicited 413 open-ended responses on perceived obstacles to IPM. Analysis of responses re- vealed 51 unique statements on obstacles, the most frequent of which was “insufficient training and technical support to farmers.” Cluster analyses, based on participant opinions, grouped these unique statements into six themes: research weaknesses, outreach weaknesses, IPM weaknesses, farmer weaknesses, pesticide industry interference, and weak adoption incentives. Subsequently, 163 par- ticipants rated the obstacles expressed in the 51 unique statements according to importance and remediation difficulty. Respondents from developing countries and high-income countries rated the obstacles differently. As a group, developing-country respondents rated “IPM requires collective action within a farming community” as their top obstacle to IPM adoption. Respondents from high-income countries prioritized instead the “shortage of well-qualified IPM experts and extensionists.” Differential prioritization was also evi- dent among developing-country regions, and when obstacle state- ments were grouped into themes. Results highlighted the need to improve the participation of stakeholders from developing countries in the IPM adoption debate, and also to situate the debate within specific regional contexts.

Sherwood, S. and M. Paredes. 2014. The Dynamics of Perpetuation: The Politics of Keeping Harmful Pesticide Technology on the Market in Ecuador, Nature and Culture, 14(1): 21-44. doi:10.3167/nc.2014.090102

Summary: Based on reflective practice over 15 years in Ecuador, the authors examine the perpetuation of knowingly harmful public policy in highly toxic pesti- cides. They study how actors cooperate, collude, and collide in advancing certain technological agenda, even when against public interests. Ultimately, entrenchment of perspective opened up space for arrival of new social actors and competing activity and transition. In light of struggles for sustainability, the authors find neglected policy opportunities in the heterogeneity of peo- ples’ daily practices and countermovements, leading to a call for further at- tention to the inherently incoherent, complex, and irresolvable human face of sociotechnical change.

Sherwood, S., A. Arce, P. Berti, R. Borja, P. Oyarzun and E. Bekkering. 2013. Tackling the New Modernities: Modern Food and Counter-movements in Ecuador. Food Policy 41:1-10. Tackling the new materialities: Modern food and counter-movements in Ecuador

Summary: Faced with rising non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Ecuadorian Government has proposed a model health program targeting individual and environmental level determinants. Drawing on cosmopolitan social theory, the experiences of counter-movements and concerns over food policy, the authors explore how mass pesticide poisoning and obesity can be viewed as the product of the ‘success’ of the modernization policy as well as a specific range of global phenomena configuring civic activity and policy situations. Through the study of NCDs as an emergent social field, the authors examine historical developments and heterogeneity in peoples’ practices for insights on more practical and effective public policy responses. The rise of the consumer–citizen in counter-movements represents a paradoxical, but promising dynamic capable of reconstituting economies, culture, and society. In Ecuador, social action appears to be a largely neglected and under-utilized resource for tackling NCDs and perhaps other highly pressing and seemingly intractable food policy concerns.

Oyarzun, P. R. Borja, S. Sherwood and V. Parra. 2013. Making sense of agribiodiversity, diet and intensification of smallholder family farming in the Highland Andes of Ecuador, Ecology of Food and Nutriton, 52(6): 515-541.

Summary: Methods are needed for helping researchers and farmers to interactively describe and analyze local practices in search of opportunities for improving health, environment, and economy. The authors worked with smallholder family farmers in five Andean villages in Ecuador to apply participatory four-cell analysis (PFCA) in characterizing agrobiodiversity. Margelef and Shannon indices examined ecological richness and evenness, and a sim- plified 24-hour dietary recall characterized food consumption. Cross-analysis tested interactions among agrobiodiversity, farm size, and diet. Overall trends appeared to work against sustainable intensification, with notable heterogeneity and positive deviance found in the practices of relatively smaller enterprises, represent- ing a potential resource for sustainable intensification. The suite of methods was determined useful for initiating researcher-farmer explorations of promising innovation pathways.

Berti, P.R., A.D. Jones, Y. Cruz Agudo, S. Larrea Macías, R. Borja, and S.G. Sherwood. 2010. Assessment in an isolated Andean population: Current inadequacies and scope for improvement using locally available resources. American Journal of Human Biology, 22: 741-749.

Summary: The goal of this research is to characterize the composition and nutrient adequacy of the diets in the northern region of the Department of Potos ́ı, Bolivia. Communities in this semiarid, mountainous region are isolated and impoverished having the highest rates of child malnutrition and under-five mortality in the Americas. A total of 2,222 twenty-four-hour dietary recalls were conducted in 30 communities during May and November 2006 and May and November 2007. Food composition data were compiled from diverse published sources and integrated with the recall data to estimate intakes of energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and seven micronutrients. Diets were characterized in terms of food sources, seasonality, and nutrient adequacy. The diet relies heavily on the potato and other tubers (54% of dietary energy) and grains (30% of dietary energy). Although crop production is seasonal, off-season consumption of chun ̃ o helps to minimize seasonal fluctuations in dietary energy intake. Despite relative monotony, intakes of iron, vitamin C, most B vitamins, and vitamin A in adults are probably adequate; riboflavin, calcium, and vitamin A intakes in children are low. Nevertheless, extremely low dietary fat intakes (approximately 3–9% of dietary energy from fat) likely prevent adequate absorption of fat-solu- ble vitamins as well as lead to deficiencies of essential fatty acids. Dietary inadequacies, especially of fats, may explain much of the poor health observed in northern Potos ́ı. An improved diet may be possible through increasing production and intake of local fat-rich food sources such as small animals.

Perez, C., Nicklin, C., Dangles, O., Vanek, S., Sherwood, S., Halloy, S., Garrett, K., Forbes, G., 2010.  Climate change in the High Andes: Implications and adaptation strategies for small scale farmersThe International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, And Social Sustainability 6(5).  En Español: Cambio climático en la zona alto-andina: implicaciones y estrategias de adaptación para pequeños agricultores

Summary: Global climate change represents a major threat to sustainable farming in the Andes. Farmers have used local ecological knowledge and intricate production systems to cope, adapt and reorganize to meet climate uncertainty and risk, which have always been a fact of life. Those traditional systems are generally highly resilient, but the predicted effects, rates and variability of climate change may push them beyond their range of adaptability. This article examines the extent of actual and potential impacts of climate variability and change on small-scale farmers in the highland Andes of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. It describes how climate change impacts agriculture through deglaciation, changes in hydrology, soil and pest and disease populations. The article highlights some promising adaptive strategies currently in use by or possible for producers, rural communities and local institutions to mitigate climate change effects while preserving the livelihoods and environmental and social sustainability of the region.