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Investigating resilience of agriculture and food systems: insights from two theories and two case studies

Angga Dwiartama


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Brief abstract

The thesis investigates the concept of resilience, a word commonly used to define the ability of a system or society to recover from crisis while maintaining its function and identity. The concept is then applied in a complex agriculture and food (agrifood) system, which comprises of a set of relationships connecting food-related activities from production to consumption. The theoretical question that this thesis poses is what does 'resilience' mean for agrifood systems in the context of local and global changes?

In addressing the research question, the thesis offers a novel theoretical framework in which resilience thinking is in dialogue with two social theoretical approaches in agrifood studies: food regime theory and actor-network theory (ANT). The theoretical framework is examined empirically through case studies of two agrifood systems: Indonesia's rice agriculture and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

The findings of this thesis illustrate that both agrifood systems have demonstrated resilience towards various shocks, but in different ways in response to differing variables. This thesis finds that, firstly, resilience is a dynamic, multi-dimensional, context-dependent process; secondly, different contemporary theoretical models focus on different aspects while over-looking others; and thirdly, therefore, resilience cannot be accurately gauged through generic models and measures.

It concludes that resilience needs to be assessed using multiple tools that take account of and accommodate the uniqueness of each agriculture and food system.

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