Alternative Agri-Food Networks in the Colchester area

Biodiverse meadows used to graze cattle for local markets near Maldon, Essex

Alternative Agri-Food Networks in the Colchester area and their contribution to  resilient communities

Ambra Sedlmayr [ambracsedl [at] gmail [dot] com] 

Background: Local and sustainable food sourcing initiatives in the Colchester area were surveyed to gain an understanding of the main opportunities and challenges to the development of alternative food sourcing strategies to build local resilience. A diversity of initiatives were identified and key informants were interviewed for each type of initiative. It was found that Alternative Agri-Food Network (AAFN) organisers perceive that lack of time and financial resources are the main factors limiting the promotion of AAFNs. They also believe that insufficient consumer awareness is a constraint to the spreading and deepening of AAFNs. Nevertheless, the recent development of a number of initiatives and the growing interest in local and sustainable food is promising for the future development of alternative food sourcing in the area, which is essential for developing more sustainable and resilient communities.

Ambra Sedlmayr

About the author: 

Ambra studied Biology at the University of Coimbra (Portugal). From there she moved on to conduct her postgraduate studies at the University of Essex (UK). At Essex she first completed the Masters degree in Environment, Science and Society, followed by a doctorate in Environmental Studies, focussing on the subject of agricultural marginalisation in Portugal.

Ambra’s research interests focus on the political, economic, social and psychological frontiers of conflict and tension, emerging between different ways of conceptualizing and realizing development. Her main research interest is on the maintenance and development of sustainable forms of agriculture and sustainable agricultural livelihoods in the context of  long standing and continuing pressures that drive agricultural industrialisation. Her research is intrinsically transdisciplinary and solution-orientated. Ambra is currently working for an international charity in the promotion of sustainable agriculture. She is still connected with the Centre of Functional Ecology at the University of Coimbra and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex.

Further publications: 

  • Sedlmayr, A. (2011). Agricultural marginalisation in Portugal: Threats and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex, Colchester. PhD Thesis.
  • Sedlmayr, A. (2009). How does agricultural marginalisation come about? Presentation of a research paper at the Essex & Writtle “Sustainability and the Environment” Conference, Colchester.
  • Sedlmayr. A. (2008). The flooding of the foodshed. How cheap imports undermine local food systems in rural Portugal. Proceedings of the VII Iberic Conference of Rural Studies, Coimbra.
  • Sedlmayr, A. (2005). Factors affecting the Ecological and Economic viability of organic farming in central Portugal. Implications for the development of sustainable agriculture. Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex, Colchester. Master’s Dissertation.

Social-ecological resilience at Céu do Patriarca ecovillage, Brazil

Landscape around Céu do Patriarca. Photo: Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger

Background: This case study describes research undertaken at Céu do Patriarca, an ecovillage in Santa Catarina, south Brazil. It describes the motivation and main events guiding the intentional self-organization of the community over the past 23 years.It then provides a descriptive analysis of the main attributes – technological, knowledge and skills, social structures and relations, behavioural, psychological and belief systems, adaptive policies and management – related to its capacity to manage social and ecological disturbance in the present, past and future. The study analyses the response measures demonstrated by the ecovillage to 8 of the main local socio-ecological disturbances.33 resilience-enhancing traits are identified and described. The findings also illustrate the presence of adaptive co-management features, and the authors argue that they have shown a high level of transformability across their 23-year trajectory.

Overall, the study shows how Céu do Patriarca ecovillage offers an outstanding and insightful case study on the various facets of social-ecological resilience and may well serve as a reference to other communities and people in search of concrete social-ecological systems trajectories that have shown significant progress in pursuing sustainable development.

Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger

About the authors: 

Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger is a Phd student in Environment and Society at the Centre for Environmental Studies (Nepam), University of Campinas (Unicamp) in Brazil. He hold a Bsc in Oceanography (Universidade do Vale do Itajaí, Santa Catarina, Brazil,  2004) and a Msc in Conservation (University College London, 2008). He is also also affiliated to the marine conservation NGO, ECOMAR, with whom he engages with various facets of coastal and marine governance in Brazil either through research or environmental activism in designing and delivering marine conservation projects at various levels (Goliath Grouper Marine Conservation Network – His general research interests ranges from marine fish ecology and ethnoecology to the theory and practice of governance. His PhD tackles multi-level coastal-marine governance with a focus on the communicative processes in marine protected areas.

Gustavo C. M. Martins

Gustavo Martins has a Bsc. in Environmental Engineering and is an associate of the Ecovillage for the past 6 years, where he is working with several aspects of permaculture. He also works in the offshore oil and gas sector, inspecting submarine structures to ensure operational quality and environmental safety.

Further publications: 

  • Gerhardinger, L.C.; Godoy, E.A.S.; Jones, P.J.S.; Sales, G.; Ferreira, B.P. 2011. Marine Protected Dramas: The Flaws of the Brazilian National System of Marine Protected Areas. Environmental Management, 47:630–643.
  • Gerhardinger, L.C.; Godoy, E.A.S.; Jones, P.J.S. 2009. Local ecological knowledge and the management of marine protected areas in Brazil. Ocean & Coastal Management, v. 52, p. 154-16

Resilience and Returning to Country: Rainforest Aboriginal People of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia

Australian humid tropical forest. Photo: Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Background: Australian humid tropical forests have been recognised as globally significant natural landscapes through world heritage listing since 1988.  Aboriginal people have occupied these forests and shaped the biodiversity for at least 8000 years. The forests represent an integral part of Indigenous Australian cultural, social, religious and spiritual values. Aboriginal involvement in land management is essential to maintaining contemporary and traditional concepts of culture, and for improving the chances of resilient ‘country’. Kuku Nyungkal is one of eighteen traditional owner groups with land rights in the Wet Tropics region. Nyungkal people remain active users and managers of their lands and have recently been employed as environmental stewards to maintain essential ecosystem services. Our case study is a cooperative research example from the WTWHA where the impetus was knowledge evolution and creation to support cross-cultural natural resource management, governance whilst interrogating the concept of and enabling factors for resilience on Nyungkal country. Work was conducted in partnership with the Kuku Nyungkal Indigenous Ranger group. Our case study provides insight into the adaptive capacity of a rainforest Aboriginal tribe who have maintained or retraced their traditional connection to country and for whom culture, traditional and contemporary, remains strong. Some conditions that enable country resilience include: Rainforest Aboriginal peoples’ governance of country; their shaping of the heritage discourse to incorporate and manage biocultural diversity; active Aboriginal environmental stewardship on traditional lands; and returning to or reconnecting with country. Culture needs to be supported and strengthened and Aboriginal cultural heritage must be protected by the traditional stewards of the land utilising both privileged traditional and contemporary knowledge and methods. By building social capital and maintaining natural capital, the Kuku Nyungkal rangers are creating for themselves improved chances of resilience to current and future global challenges.

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

About the author: Leanne has a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from Newcastle University, a M.Sc. in Marine Environmental Protection from Bangor University and a Ph.D. from Essex University. After completing a CSIRO postdoctoral fellowship in Australia, Leanne returned to the UK to take up a Research Fellowship within the newly formed Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) at Cardiff University. Her role involves the development of a research package around mobilities, flows and migration – of people, knowledge, resources, and more –in order to understand the impacts of such flows and implications for sustainability. Leanne’s research focuses on linked social-ecological systems, recently within a terrestrial context (the Wet Tropical Rainforest of Queensland); but her background is within the marine sciences. Leanne is interested in the threats posed to livelihoods and the economy, food security and lifestyles from a changing global environment. She is also interested in mitigation, adaptation and human behavioural changes within linked physical, social and ecological systems and in the development of socio-economically appropriate conservation and sustainable use policy. She is skilled in community engagement and cooperative research and has experience in place-based research/learning approaches. Co-development of solutions to resource problems using a variety of mixed methodological approaches is also a strong interest of hers. Leanne has had extensive experience working with Indigenous peoples in remote areas of Indonesia and Australia particularly around joint management and governance of natural resources. Other research interests include: economic valuation of natural resources; resource use patterns; alternative livelihoods; sustainable development; biocultural resilience.

Further Publications:

  • LC Cullen-Unsworth, J Pretty & DJ Smith (2011). Developing Community-Derived Indicators of the Economic Impact of Conservation Management in the Coral Triangle. Ocean and Coastal Management doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2011.03.004
  • R Hill, LC Cullen-Unsworth, LD Talbot & S McIntyre (Accepted 2010). Empowering Indigenous     peoples’ biocultural diversity through world heritage cultural landscapes: A case study from the Australian tropical forests. International Journal of Heritage Studies
  • LC Cullen-Unsworth, JRA Butler, R Hill & Wallace M (2010). Cooperative Research: An Example from Far North Queensland. International Journal of Integrated Social Sciences 5 (6): 139-154.
  • RKF Unsworth, LC Cullen, JN Pretty, DJ Smith & JJ Bell (2010) Economic and subsistence values of the standing stocks of seagrass fisheries: potential benefits of no-fishing marine protected area management. Ocean and Coastal Management 53 (5-6): 218-224.
  • RKF Unsworth & LC Cullen (2010) Recognising the Necessity for Seagrass Conservation. Conservation Letters 3 (2): 63-73.
  • K Maclean & LC Cullen (2009) Research methodologies for the co-production of knowledge for environmental management in Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 39 (4): 205-208.
  • LC Cullen, JRA Butler, R Hill & C Margules (2008) Framework for the identification of linked socio-cultural and biophysical indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability 4 (2): 37-46.
  • SE Pilgrim, LC Cullen, DJ Smith & J Pretty (2008) Ecological Knowledge is Lost in Wealthier Communities and Countries. Environmental Science and Technology 42 (4): 1004-1009.
  • LC Cullen, SE Pilgrim, DJ Smith & J Pretty (2007) The Loss of Local Ecological Knowledge as it relates to Changes in Economic Status: consequences for sustainable self-management of marine natural resources. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 2 (1): 289-299.
  • SE Pilgrim, LC Cullen, DJ Smith and J Pretty (2007) Hidden Harvest or Hidden Revenue? The effect of economic development pressures on local resource use in a remote region of southeast   Sulawesi, Indonesia. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 6 (1): 150-159.

Adaptability amongst the Bajau, Indonesia

Bajau village, Sampela, Kaledupa Island, Indonesia. Photo: Julian Clifton

Background: This case study is centered on the Bajau, the most widely dispersed maritime ethnic group within south-east Asia. The Bajau are found across Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia and, whilst linguistic and other differences are present, certain common characteristics are usually found. One of these is the high dependence on marine resources for food, fuel and building materials, as the Bajau commonly live in ‘stilt villages’ erected on wood, stone or dead coral foundations extending across the reef flat. Furthermore, fish and other marine products represent an essential component of Bajau diets and trading systems, whilst the collection of marine resources influences daily social practices and religious observances. There is, therefore, a uniquely close affinity with the sea in everyday life which permeates every Bajau community. This has been showcased in high profile media events including the BBC’s recent ‘Human Planet’ documentary. It is this affinity which led me to address aspects of Bajau life from the ‘Ecocultures’ perspective and underline the increasing scale and complexity of political, economic and environmental issues facing this society which has hitherto insulated and marginalised itself from mainstream cultures. However, change is an integral part of daily life in maritime communities such as the Bajau and they have proved remarkably resilient to past stresses, thus we should not make the error of believing that change in itself is detrimental to Bajau society. In fact, adaptability may yet prove to be the strongest asset possessed by this unique and fascinating group of people.

Julian Clifton

About the author: 

Julian Clifton gained his PhD in Geography in 1997 from the University of Liverpool and spent ten years teaching at the University of Portsmouth. In 2007, he moved to Perth and is Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. Dr. Clifton’s academic research has always focused upon south-east Asia, with specific reference to marine resource management, conservation and planning. These reflect his interests in understanding the role played by local communities in marine resource management and the implications of wider conservation policies on communities’ ability to develop sustainable livelihoods. It is often the case that the broader conservation agenda experiences many points of conflict when set against the needs and requirements of local resource users, and his interests focus upon the processes and outcomes of these conflicts.

Further Publications: 


  • Clifton, J., Majors, C. (2012). Culture, conservation and conflict: perspectives on marine protection amongst the Bajau of south-east Asia. Society and Natural Resources 25(7), 716-725.
  • Clifton, J., Etienne, M., Barnes, D.K.A., Barnes, R.S.K., Suggett, D.J., Smith, D.J. (2012). Marine conservation policy in the Seychelles: current constraints and prospects for improvement. Marine Policy 36, 823-831.
  • Clifton, J. (2011). The Wakatobi National Park – governance analysis. In: Governing Marine Protected Areas: getting the balance right – Volume 2, eds. P.J.S. Jones, W. Qiu and E.M. De Santo. Technical Report to Marine & Coastal Ecosystems Branch, UNEP, Nairobi. Published online at
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Achieving congruence between conservation and community: the Bajau ethnic group and marine management within the Wakatobi and south-east Asia. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.171-192. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Marine protected area networks in the Coral Triangle: implications for conservation and communities. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.237-250. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J., Unsworth R. and Smith, D.J., eds. (2010) Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park. Nova Science Publishers, New York. ISBN: 978-1616684730.
  • Clifton, J. (2009). Science, funding and participation: key issues for marine protected area networks and the Coral Triangle Initiative. Environmental Conservation 36, 91-96.
  • Clifton, J. (2003). Prospects for co-management in Indonesia’s marine protected areas.Marine Policy 27, 389-395.


Environmental Knowledge in Motion: Ingenuity and Perseverance of Hunters among North Greenland

Dog sleds, North Greenland. Photo: Hayashi Naotaka

Background: This case study examines responses to climate change amongst hunters in Avanersuaq, North Greenland. It highlights how climate change impacts and adaptations interact with social, cultural and economic dimensions. Accordingly, the impact of climate change differs from place to place.  In addition, the perception of climate change varies from the local to the national levels. Just one example of this is that there is a growing expectation that climate change may bring an opportunity to the inhabitants of South Greenland, which makes South Greenland an interesting place to analyze.  This is very different from other places in the Circumpolar North, for example, Nunavut, Canada, where climate change is always thought to bring about a negative impact to the local people.  The study of Greenland always teaches me how the perception of environmental change influences and shapes the future vision of community.

Hayashi Naotaka

About the author: Having earned a B.Agri/Forestry (1995) at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo (ca. 36˚N), Hayashi Naotaka worked for the Government of Hokkaido (ca. 43˚N), the northernmost prefecture in Japan.  As a Forestry and Biological Technologist, he was involved mainly in forest protection, from entomological research to pest control, during 1995-2002.  This professional experience led him to study the social dimension of forest management in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton (ca. 53˚N), Canada.  His MA thesis is about the forest management cooperatively undertaken by a First Nation in northern Alberta (ca. 58˚N), the provincial government, and forest companies.  The study of the Cree people led to a general interest in the Circumpolar North.  Soon after, he moved on to the PhD program and chose to study the communities of North Greenland.

Breaking monoculture: The path towards sustainable agriculture in Cuba

Studying the effects of polycropping on productivity. Photo: Fernando Funes-Monzote

Background: From its beginnings in 1990, the Cuban organic agriculture movement has been of particular interest for the international community looking for sustainable approaches in agriculture. Both, due to its transition towards sustainable agriculture at national scale, and its special characteristics based on wide popular participation and innovative ways of organization, the Cuban model attracted attention. During 20 years there were achieved remarkable successes in terms of massive application of organic agriculture and agroecology principles and practices.

Several agriculture programs pursued soil fertility organic management alternatives, agroecological pest control, the rational use of locally available resources, participatory plant breeding, local innovation, farmer to farmer and farmer to researcher knowledge dissemination and methodologies application, among others. Urban agriculture has been an outstanding way to promote organic farming and today the program continue growing towards sub-urban areas. There is much to discuss on successes and failures around these examples but, above all, it would be interesting at this point to discuss what we have learned so far from the Cuban experience after 20 years. Our study case intends to show some of what we have leaned so far in this transition process.

Fernando Funes-Monzote

About the Author: Fernando Funes-Monzote is researcher at the Experimental Station “Indio Hatuey” of the University of Matanzas, Cuba. He earned a PhD in Production Ecology and Resource Conservation from Wageningen University in 2008 and has an MSc. in Agroecology and Rrural Development from the International University of Andalucia (1998) and a degree in Agronomy from the Agrarian University of Havanna (1995).

Dr. Funes-Monzote is founder-member of the Cuban Organic Agriculture Movement (ACAO) that deserved the Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Price (1999). He has participated during the last 20 years in different agroecological projects in Cuba and is author or coauthor of several books and journal articles. He is member of the executive committee of the Sociedad Científica Latinoamericana de Agroecología (SOCLA) and professor on its doctoral course on agroecology. He has also been invited to lecture at several universities in Cuba and internationally.

Urban agriculture in Havana. Photo: Fernando Funes-Monzote

Further Publications: 

  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., 2008. Farming like we’re here to stay: The mixed farming alternative for Cuba. PhD thesis. Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., López-Ridaura, S., Tittonell, P., 2009. Diversity and efficiency: The elements of ecologically intensive agriculture. LEISA Magazine 25 (1), 9-10.
  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., Monzote, M., Lantinga, E.A., Ter Braak, C.J.F., Sánchez, J.E., Van Keulen, H., 2009. Agro-Ecological Indicators (AEIs) for dairy and mixed farming systems classification: Identifying alternatives for the Cuban livestock sector. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 33 (4), 435-460. DOI: 10.1080/10440040902835118
  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., Monzote, M., Lantinga, E.A. Van Keulen, H. 2009. Conversion of specialised Dairy Farming Systems into sustainable Mixed Farming Systems in Cuba. Environment, Development and Sustainability 11, 765-783. DOI: 10.1007/s10668-008-9142-7
  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., 2009. Divergencia de enfoques entre agroecología y transgénicos. En: Funes-Monzote, F.R., Freyre-Roach, E.F. (eds.). Transgénicos: ¿Qué se gana? ¿Qué se pierde? Textos para un debate en Cuba. Ediciones Acuario, La Habana, pp. 99-121.  ISBN: 978-959-7071-64-8.
  • Funes-Monzote, F.R., 2010. The conversion towards sustainable agriculture in Cuba: A national scale experiment, En: Gliessman, S.R., M. Rosemeyer (eds.) Conversion to sustainable agriculture: principles, processes, and practices. CRC Press: Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 205-237. ISBN: 978-0-8493-1917-4.