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Farmer Suicides and Food Sovereignty: Synthesizing Insights from the Political Ecologies of Health and Education - David Meek, University of Oregon

Friday, September 14, 2018 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Warren Hall, B73

SpeakerDavid Meek, Department of International Studies, University of Oregon

Abstract: Skyrocketing rates of farmer suicides throughout the world highlight that agrarian communities are in a state of crisis. Factors driving these suicides are rooted in the volatile commodity markets, indebtedness, and high input technologies associated with the corporate food regime. While scholars have shed light on the processes driving the farmer suicide crisis, there has been little attention to grassroots movements’ own intervention strategies. In this presentation, I explore the role of Zero-Budget Natural Farming within an Indian agrarian social movement known as the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS). KRRS leaders argue that educating farmers about Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) has the potential to improve farmers’ financial autonomy, mitigate the farmer suicide problem, and ultimately contribute to food sovereignty. I present findings from qualitative research, which suggest that farmers’ livelihoods are more resilient following their transition to ZBNF, and that their overall levels of anxiety and depression are reduced. I analyze these data using a novel theoretical framework that synthesizes previously disparate areas of political ecology, surrounding health and education, with critical agrarian studies. Bringing these perspectives into dialogue has the potential to illuminate how social movements mobilize new forms of agricultural education to shape the health landscape, resist the agroindustrial system, and advance food sovereignty. The case of KRRS has broad potential to speak to the experiences of disparate agrarian communities beyond India who are experiencing mental health crises, which they explain as a consequence of the consolidation of the agricultural system.

Presented by the Department of Development Sociology Seminar Series

Co-sponsored by South Asia Program and MPH Program

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Event Type

Lecture, Seminar


Development Sociology, South Asia Program, CVM - MPH, Sustainability


dsoc, devsoc




Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Sarah Day


David Meek

Speaker Affiliation

Department of International Studies, University of Oregon

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