Environmental Justice through Resourceful Engagement

Promoting environmental justice: enhancing the resilience of local food systems through resourceful engagement of communities.

Course objectives


Local Food Systems (LFS) are seen as an appropriate way of taking climate into account while striving for more resilient and resourceful communities, in urban as well as periurban and rural areas. Issues such as participation in decision making and power relations are contextual and experienced unevenly across different groups in society. Therefore, the governance of resilient local food systems raises questions about democracy and fairness, about inclusion and exclusion, and hence, about procedural as well as distributive justice. This project will explore how attention to ‘environmental justice’ and ‘just sustainabilities’ can enhance the resilience of LFS, and can contribute to improved governance mechanisms.

The research will address questions such as:

  • What is the (cor)relation between resourcefulness and resilience of communities on the one hand, and processes of participation, inclusion and justice on the other hand?
  • How do unconnected and scattered stakeholders become ‘a community’ and does this contribute to more effective participation?
  • How can mechanism of community-based decision making (that enhance participation, inclusion and justice) contribute to more resilient communities?
  • What is the shape of such ‘mechanisms of community-based decision making’? Who has decisive power? Who is included/excluded? Which voices, frames, discourses are included/excluded and what are the consequences?

‘Communities’ can be conceived of in multiple ways. It might be spatially located units (people belonging to a particular village, city or region), such as city council or farmers on a farmers’ market. Or it might be virtual, networked units with a shared interest (people belonging to the same network, professional, advocacy, stakeholders, …). Obviously, it might be a mixture of both.

Employing a transdisciplinary, participatory approach, the research will study, co-design and test traditional and innovative mechanisms of community-based decision making, involving an intentionally broad range of social groupings, in the context of local food systems in Belgium as well as in other European countries. Mechanisms of communitybased decision making will be developed, tested and evaluated, using existing/starting processes as test-cases.

This might involve methods of action-research. Possible cases include:

  • Local Food Strategies of municipalities and cities
  • Ownership and transparency when shortening the value chain of food chains
  • Access to farm land
  • Etc.

Expected Results

  1. Transdisciplinary understanding of mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in Local Food Systems context;
  2. Participatory creation and testing of mechanisms of community-based decision making
  3. Stakeholder guidelines on processes of environmentally just decision making.

Current member