Social Self-Organization and Social-Ecological Resilience in Food Systems

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Food systems face pressures related to global environmental change and agricultural intensification that make access to productive resources difficult for many actors. Social self-organization is one of the measures taken by actors to enable them to increase their capacity to mitigate challenges and increase their influence as well as build resilience against risks. The objectives of this study were to assess the level of social self-organization in food systems, to identify forms of social self-organization and the motivations behind them, and to analyze the benefits to food systems social-ecological resilience. We collected data from various actor groups at different levels of food systems using mixed methods. Analysis involved six indicators that were scored on a Likert scale. The study observed that smallholders in Kenya organized in women’s self-help groups, agro-ecological movements, and cooperatives, while in Bolivia the Guaraní indigenous people organized in movements addressing territorial integrity. Social self-organization was found to be important in resilience building at a community level and has potential to contribute to more sustainable food systems. However, more research on the link between social self-organization and policy change across scales would provide additional interesting insights.