Sustainability in agri-food systems can be defined a variety of ways. To summarise a few common notions: a sustainable food system should minimise the use of non-renewable inputs; should not take more from the environment than is put back in; should act fairly with regard for all other human beings both now and in the future; should care for the Earth and our environments, including other living beings; and should create healthy, nourishing foods to be consumed mindfully. Furthermore, sustainable agriculture works with local farmers’ knowledge, improving self-reliance and building on human and social capital.

This blog explores these ideas and reports on examples of sustainable or ‘alternative’ agri-food projects from around Zimbabwe that are working towards these goals: see ‘Sustainability Initiatives‘ postings.  I also offer some discussion and more in depth commentaries on what I have learnt in the process of visiting these different projects, making videos and conducting research.

Between October 2011 and August 2012, I visited 18 different projects or organisations across Zimbabwe, conducting semi-structured interviews with 32 people involved in alternative/sustainable agri-food initiatives. Some of the projects were visited repeatedly or for several days. The project sites were toured and documented with video, photography and/or in textual form. Framed by the motivations of public geographies (Fuller 2008; Hawkins et al. 2011) and hopeful geographies (Lawson 2005), this multimedia methodology was intended to create an informative (inspiring) resource for the organisations involved and for interested publics.

It is hoped that this information and discussion will ‘invigorate alternative imaginations and strategic action’ (Weis 2007, 8) for agrofood futures in Zimbabwe and will contribute to the significant body of ideas already circulating at these diverse project sites.

Dr Pamela Ngwenya is a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.


Fuller, D. 2008. Public geographies: taking stock.  Progress in Human Geography 32: 834-44.

Hawkins, H., S. Sacks, I. Cook,  E. Rawling, H. Griffiths, D. Swift, J. Evans, G. Rothnie, J. Wilson, A. Williams, K. Feenay, L. Gordon, H. Prescott, C. Murphy, D. Allen, T. Mitchell, R. Wheeldon, M. Roberts, G. Robinson, P. Flaxman, D. Fuller, T. Lovell, and K. Askins. 2011. Organic Public Geographies: “Making the connection”. Antipode 43: 909–26.

Lawson, V. 2005. Hopeful geographies: imagining ethical alternatives. A commentary on J.K. Gibson-Graham’s “Surplus Possibilities: Postdevelopment and Community Economies.”  Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 26 (1): 36–8.

Weis, T. 2007. The Global food economy: The battle for the future of farming.  London: Zed Books.