Seed Literature Team

Project Team

Laura is a Lecturer in the Sustainable Futures department, at the University of Exeter, Business School. She is a graduate in Political Science from the University of Milan, holds an MSc in Social Economics from the University of Bologna and a PhD in Management Studies from the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on social agriculture and the scaling strategies of alternative food networks.

Chloe is a Cropping Systems Ecologist at Rothamsted Research. She is a graduate in Biological Sciences from the University of Auckland, holds an MSc in International Nature Conversation from Lincoln University, and a PhD in Agroecology from Coventry University. Her research explores how we can use ecological interactions between plants and their environments to design more sustainable agricultural systems.

Maya is an interdisciplinary social scientist, artist, and recent farmer. Her interests lie in sustainable food systems and regenerative agriculture, specifically the interspecies relationships within them. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Cape Town. Her research-related and artistic work is driven by an interest in nature-culture relationships and exploring ways to move beyond dualistic engagements with nature.

Project Overview:

The aims of this project were to:

  1. Interrogate the academic literature on crop seeds and climate resilience in South Africa and the UK, to explore different discourses. 
  2. Critically evaluate the above literature to assess whether the discourses embodied in the research have different origins.
  3. Engage with key actors (community leaders and engaged researchers) in local seed-saving networks to identify whether dominant themes in the literature result in research that supports the concerns and interests of local seed savers and their ability to achieve climate resilience. 

We conducted a systematic literature review analysing discourses of seed climate resilience in South Africa and the UK. Papers in Web of Science and Scopus databases were selected following a set of primary and secondary keywords and in accordance with inclusion/exclusion criteria. Out of the 280 papers initially identified as potentially suitable, 59 were selected for review, of which 38 focused on SA and 21 on the UK (or, more often, on Europe including the UK). Data were analysed following Gioia’s methodology, an approach extensively used for inductive theory building in the context of qualitative grounded theory, but novel in the context of systematic literature review analysis. Results from this analysis were reported and discussed in a working paper.

The review process exposed two main different discourses, which we named ‘productivism’ and ‘seed systems’, which relate to different strategies to achieve climate resilience. The former is related to a dualistic and mechanistic view of reality, the latter to relational and holistic ontologies. Productivist approaches promote incremental adjustments to existing industrial agricultural systems (e.g. supplying farmers with ‘improved’ seeds to better cope with climate variability), without questioning the value system and power relations underpinning them. System approaches require transforming food and seed production towards achieving long-term ecological and human flourishing, including considering the impact that agricultural systems have on local communities and on the natural environment they rely upon.

Project Outputs:

Our project team has produced a working paper that is currently being prepared for publication. We look forward to sharing this with you soon.