Pathogens are repeatedly emerging out of a global agrifood system rooted in inequality, labour exploitation, and unfettered extractivism by which communities are robbed of their natural and social resources. In response, some propose agricultural intensification under the guise of sparing ‘wilderness’ – an approach that actually leads to greater deforestation and disease spillover. The false solution to divide people from nature would omit many forms of peasant, Indigenous, and smallholder agriculture methods that are integrated within forest ecosystems and produce food and fibre for local and regional uses while preserving high levels of agrobiodiversity and wildlife diversity.
Pandemic Research for the People (PReP) is focusing on how agriculture might be reimagined as the kind of community-wide intervention that could stop coronaviruses and other pathogens from emerging in the first place. We advocate for agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and Indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. A diverse agroecological matrix of farm plots, agroforestry, and grazing lands all embedded within a forest can conserve biocultural diversity, making it more difficult for zoonotic diseases to easily string together a bunch of infections and prevail, while accounting for the economic and social conditions of people currently tending the land.
Peasant agroecologies are more than matters of soil and food, as important as those are. Agroecologies are founded upon practical politics that place agency and power in the hands of poor and working class, Indigenous, and Black and Brown people. They replace the dynamics of ecologically harmful forms of urbanization and agricultural industrialization operating in favour of a racial and patriarchal capitalism. They place planet and people before profits none but a few reap.