Inderscience Publishers

Coevolution, agricultural practices and sustainability: some major social and ecological issues

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This paper outlines the major social and ecological issues involved in the coevolution of social and ecological systems by initially reviewing relevant aspects of the recent literature relating to economic development and their implications for agricultural development. Coevolutionary qualitative-type models are presented. There has been a failure among advocates of structural adjustment policies (involving the extension of markets and economic globalisation) to take account of coevolutionary principles and to allow for historical differences in the evolution of communities and their varied circumstances. This lack of sensitivity has had unfortunate social and ecological consequences for some communities in, for example, the Russian Federation and for subsistence agriculturalists in some less developed countries. The evolution of globalised market systems involving industrial/commercial agriculture (largely dependent on inputs external to the farm) under the 'patronage' of oligopolistic suppliers is seen to increasingly threaten the balance between social and ecological systems and as undermining the sustainability of both. Capitalistic processes of technological change, such as advances in biotechnology, play a major role in this evolution.

Keywords: coevolution, ecological systems, globalisation, industrial/commercial agriculture, property rights, social systems

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