Agriculture and Human Values 29 (2):231-246 (2012)

Dominant development discourse and policy are based on crucial misconceptions about peasants and their livelihoods. Peasants are viewed as inherently poor and hungry and their farming systems are considered inefficient, of low productivity, and sometimes even environmentally degrading. Consequently, dominant development policies have tried to transform peasants into something else: industrialised commercial farmers, wage labourers, urban workers, etc. This article seeks to deconstruct three key misconceptions about peasants by explaining how and why marginalised peasants around the world face poverty and hunger. An explanation of the process of marginalisation of peasants through the influence of five “mediating factors” is put forward. It is contended that by addressing the mediating factors through policies devised with the active participation of peasants, the marginalisation of peasants would be reduced or eliminated. This would allow peasants to forge an adequate livelihood in rural areas based on their independent farming, and thereby contribute to the achievement of food sovereignty
Keywords Food sovereignty  Rural poverty  Peasant  Brazil
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DOI 10.1007/s10460-011-9345-7
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