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Accepted Paper:

An orphan plant's eye view of a food future: integrated farming systems and mono-cultural chimera in Southern Ethiopia  
Valentina Peveri (The American University of Rome (AUR))

Paper short abstract:

This exercise in multi-species ethnography aims at unfolding the idea of what a 'beautiful enset garden' is to Ethiopian farmers. Such a notion of beauty consists of a variety of phenotypes, ages, and sexes, unlike the ideals of breed consistency and purity upon which modern crop science depends.

Paper long abstract:

This paper shines the spotlight on two botanical characters competing for agricultural supremacy, and for shaping food futures, throughout Southern Ethiopia.

Enset provides an entry point into the category of orphan crops. [Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman] represents a long established example of agroecological systems characterized by a wide diversity of domesticated crop and animal species. It thrives by ingenious soil, water, and biodiversity management regimes, and it is nourished by complex traditional knowledge. Such systems - wherein synergy, recycling, and integration are emphasized - have fed much of the region's population for centuries.

Maize, an immigrant crop, is today the most widely-grown staple food of Sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia it represents the bridge-head of 'Green Revolution-style' intensification. Improved varieties have been increasingly tested and disseminated. The pursuit of high yields has been fuelled by a peculiar rhetoric according to which maize appears as a marker of progress. Its success has been influenced by a mixture of national policies and the flow of resources from the international community.

This paper recounts the fascinating story of an alternative (agri)cultural paradigm, of the creativity of humans to adjust to the vagaries of a changing environment from generation to generation, and of their way of organizing nature in a non-arithmetical way. In places where humans and plants are mutually constituted, and form part of an animate landscape, the loss of biodiversity may also represent a loss of potential adaptations for the future as well as social suffering and disruption.

Panel P082
Food futures and agroecologies in damaged environments: entangled species, sustainable livelihoods, contested knowledge
  Session 1