Growing Food Where People Live Applying Lessons and Methodologies from Endogenous Development and Agroecology Efforts to Low-Income Communities in the Southeast U.S.

Dylan Ryals-Hamilton


Despite a long and colorful agrarian heritage, many communities in the Southeastern United States currently suffer from poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition.  Seven out of ten southeastern states experience food insecurity above the average national rates.1 Predictions indicate high risk factors that are likely to exacerbate malnutrition and food insecurity, particularly for vulnerable communities with high poverty and unemployment rates.  Risk factors include fluctuations and instability in global food markets and food prices.  Another risk multiplier is climate change which is increasing the frequency of weather-related disasters, as well as diminishing agricultural yields due to increasing pest pressure and unpredictability of temperature and precipitation patterns.2

There is a large body of existing research, experience, and knowledge regarding methodologies for creating resilient food systems in developing countries around the globe.  Many of these systems operate in places with limited resources and where economic, climatic, and social conditions are more volatile than they are currently in the Southeast US.  Despite these challenges, some still succeed in catalyzing community-driven, people-centered, sustainable agricultural development projects.3 Additionally, the knowledge and experience of US domestic initiatives addressing hunger and malnutrition may contribute to this field of study.

Information was gathered from publications and personal interviews with agricultural development professionals and community leaders in several countries, including the US.  Critical keys to success as well as common barriers to establishing endogenous and people-centered agroecology development in general were revealed.  Some of the lessons learned in the developing world and domestically may be applicable to facilitating endogenous development in the US.  In particular, these lessons may be applicable to developing sustained and sustainable food production systems within the low-income communities that are currently experiencing food insecurity in the Southeast region.3,4


Community Development, Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security

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