The Political Ecology of Sustainable Agriculture in China: National Goals and Farmer Realities

EPA Grant Number: U915611
Title: The Political Ecology of Sustainable Agriculture in China: National Goals and Farmer Realities
Investigators: Thomas, Brian J.
Institution: University of Oregon
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 1999 through June 1, 2001
Project Amount: $67,905
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Environmental


The objectives of this research project are to: (1) ascertain whether Chinese Ecological Agriculture (CEA) provides a meaningful, theoretical basis for sustainable agriculture; and (2) determine the potential of CEA to facilitate the construction of a sustainable agricultural system in rural China. A comprehensive evaluation of the social, economic, and environmental forces influencing development in rural China is necessary not only to understand whether CEA is a system worth implementing, but also if CEA can be implemented on a widespread basis.


CEA is not simply a set of agricultural practices or a single system of production; it is a system that can be adapted to diverse regional conditions. It is important to quantify the environmental, economic, and social impacts of individual CEA systems; however, to determine the potential of CEA as a model for sustainability, it is essential to first evaluate the theoretical basis on which individual systems are constructed. My evaluation of the theoretical basis of CEA is based on a review of the literature. Criteria for the evaluation of sustainability are based on a systems perspective of the material and energy requirements of CEA compared to conventional agricultural systems. During the summer of 2000, I visited the Soil Science Research Institute in Nanjing and the Red Soil Ecological Research Station in Yingtan, Jiangxi, both located in eastern China. I collected information regarding the theoretical basis and the practical application of CEA through semistructured interviews with government officials and researchers. As a participant in the training course Biotechnologies for Sustainable Agricultural Development, I collected information on the construction of CEA systems in the Zhejiang Province. This course was conducted by the Ecoagriculture Institute at Zhejiang University, and focused on the use of Chinese ecological agriculture and intensive farming systems. This training course involved lectures, field visits to CEA sites, and visits with government personnel involved in CEA system management.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, China, agriculture, sustainable development, rural development, socioeconomic, ecological agriculture, Zhejiang, organic agriculture., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Geographic Area, Economics, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, International, Country & Regional Programs, Economics & Decision Making, Social Science, China, sustainable development, assessing ecosystem vulnerability, environmental decision making, socioeconomics, agriculture, political ecology, sustainable agriculture

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • Final