Skip to main content Accessibility help

Transforming Food Systems Through Food Sovereignty: An Australian Urban Context

  • Federico Davila (a1) and Robert Dyball (a1)


This article draws on La Via Campesina's definition of food sovereignty and its potential for reconceptualising food as a basic human right within the dominant Australian food discourse. We argue that the educative value that emerges from urban food production in Australia stems from the action of growing food and its capacity to transform individuals’ social and environmental concerns over food systems. Community participation in urban food production can promote a learning process that generates political understanding and concerns over food systems. We use the education theories of transformative learning and critical consciousness to discuss how Australian urban food production systems can create this social and environmental support for alternative food systems. By having control over food production practices and building collective understandings of how food choices impact global food systems, elements of food sovereignty can develop in an Australian urban context.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Federico Davila, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Building 141, Linnaeus Way, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia. Email:


Hide All
Altieri, M.A. (2009). Agroecology, small farms and food sovereignty. Monthly Review, 61, 102113.
Altieri, M., Nicholls, C., & Funes, F. (Eds.). (2012). The scaling up of agroecology: Spreading the hope for food sovereignty and resiliency. Sociedad Cientifica de Agricultura Latino (SOCLA). Retrieved May 15, 2012, from
Altieri, M., & Toledo, V. M. (2011). The agroecological revolution in Latin America: Rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38, 587612.
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance. (2013). The people's food plan. Canberra, Australia: Author.
Barosh, L., Friel, S., Engelhardt, K., & Chan, L. (2014). The cost of a healthy and sustainable diet: Who can afford it? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 38, 712.
Block, K., Gibbs, L., Staiger, P. K., Gold, L., Johnson, B., Macfarlane, S., . . . Townsend, M. (2012). Growing community: The impact of the Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden program on the social and learning environment in primary schools. Health Education & Behavior, 39, 419432. doi:10.1177/1090198111422937
Burton, P., Lyons, K., Richards, C., Amati, M., Rose, N., Desfours, L., . . . Barclay, R. (2013). Urban food security, urban resilience and climate change. Southport, Australia: National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.
Carney, M. (2011). ‘Food security’ and ‘food sovereignty’: What frameworks are best suited fo social quity in food systems? Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2, 7187.
Commonwealth of Australia. (2014). Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper. Canberra, Australia: Author. Retrieved from
Deutsh, L., Dyball, R., & Steffen, W. (2013). Feeding cities: Food security and ecosystem support in an urbanizing world. Dordrecht: Springer.
Dibden, J., Potter, C., & Cocklin, C. (2009). Contesting the neoliberal project for agriculture: Productivist and multifunctional trajectories in the European Union and Australia. Journal of Rural Studies, 25, 299308.
Dixon, J. (2011). Diverse food economies or multi-variant capitalism: The community dynamic shaping contemporary food systems. Community Development Journal, 46, 120135.
Dixon, J., Omwega, A., Friel, S., Burns, C., Donati, K., & Carlisle, R. (2007). The health equity dimensions of urban food systems. Journal of Urban Health, 84, 118129.
Dobson, A. (2003). Ctizenship and the environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Edwards, F., & Mercer, D. (2010). Meals in Metropolis: Mapping the urban foodscape in Melbourne, Australia. Local Environment, 15, 153168.
Ericksen, P. (2008). Conceptualizing food systems for global environmental change research. Global Environmental Change, 18, 234245.
Falvey, L. (2010). Small farmers secure food: Survival food security, the world's kitchen and the critical role of small farmers. Songkhla, Thailand: Thaksin University Book Center in association with the Institute for International Development Australia.
Fischer, J., Dyball, R., Fazey, I., Gross, C., Dovers, S., Ehrlich, P., . . . Borden, R. (2012). Human behavior and sustainability. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10, 153160.
Freire, P. (2013). Education for critical consciousness. London: Bloomsbury.
Gliessman, S. (2007). Agroecology: The ecology of sustainable food systems. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2012). The state of food insecurity in the world 2012. Rome: Author.
Gliessman, S., & Rosemeyer, M. (Eds.). (2010). The converstions to sustainable agriculture: Principles, processes and practices. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group.
Hansen, Y. (2012). Growing community: Community gardens as a local practice of food sovereignty. In Wittman, H., Desmarais, A. A., & Wiebe, N. (Eds.), Food sovereignty in Canada: Creating just and sustainable food systems. Winnipeg, Canada: Fernwood.
Ingram, J., Ericksen, P., & Liverman, D. (2010). Food security and global environmental change. London: Earthscan.
Jarosz, L. (2011). Defining world hunger: Scale and neoliberal ideology in international food security policy discourse. Food, Culture and Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 14, 117139.
Kelly, J. (2010). Food Connect: Thinking inside the box for just and sustainable food. Chain Reaction, 109 (20).
Kirwan, J., & Maye, D. (2013). Food security framings within the UK and the integration of local food systems. Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 91100.
Kneafsey, M., Dowler, E., Lambie-Mumford, H., Inman, A., & Collier, R. (2013). Consumers and food security: Uncertain or empowered? Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 101112.
Lang, T. (2010). Crisis? What crisis? The normality of the current food crisis. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10, 8797.
Lang, T., & Heasman, M. (2004). Food wars: The global battle for mouths, minds and markets. London: Earthscan.
Larder, N., Lyons, K., & Woolcock, G. (2014). Enacting food sovereignty: Values and meanings in the act of domestic food production in urban Australia. Local Environment, 19, 5676.
Lawrence, G., Richards, C., & Lyons, K. (2013). Food security in Australia in an era of neoliberalism, productivism and climate change. Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 3039.
Lee, R. (2007). Food security and food sovereignty (Discussion Paper Series 11). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Center for Rural Economy, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Lee, R. (2012). The politics of international agri-food policy: Discourses of trade-oriented food security and food sovereignty. Environmental Politics, 1–19.
Lyons, K., Richards, C., Desfours, L., & Amati, M. (2013). Food in the city: Urban food movements and the (re)-imagining of urban spaces. Australian Planner, 50, 157163.
McIntyre, B.D., Herren, H.R., Wakhungu, J., & Watson, R.T. (Eds.). (2009). Agriculture at a crossroads. Washington DC: International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).
Martinez-Torres, M. E., & Rosset, P. M. (2010). La Via Campesina: The birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 37, 149175.
Mason, D., & Knowd, I. (2010). The emergence of urban agriculture: Sydney, Australia. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 8, 6271.
Mezirow, J. (1995). Transformation theory of adult learning. In Welton, M.R. (Ed.), In defense of the lifeworld: Critical perspectives on adult learning. New York: State University of New York Press.
Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for adult and continuing education, 74, 511.
Patel, R. (2009). Food Sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies, 36, 663706.
Pearson, C., & Dyball, R. (2014). City food security. In Pearson, L., Newton, P., & Roberts, P. (Eds.), Resilient sustainable cities: A future. New York: Routledge.
Pialligo Garden Plots. (2013). Why Pialligo garden plots? Retrieved from
Pimbert, M. (2009). Towards food sovereignty. Gatekeeper: IIED.
Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC). (2010). Australia and food security in a changing world. Canberra, Australia: Author.
Porter, J., Dyball, R., Dumaresq, D., Deutsch, L., & Matsuda, H. (2013). Feeding capitals: Urban food security and self-provisioning in Canberra, Copenhagen and Tokyo. Global Food Security.
Pudup, M.B. (2008). It takes a garden: Cultivating citizen-subjects in organized garden projects. Geoforum, 39, 12281240.
Rose, N. (2012). The draft National Food Plan: Putting corporate hunger first. The Conversation. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from
Rose, N. (2013). Food sovereignty. Arena Magazine, 123, 1415.
Rose, N., & Davila, F. (2013). Feeding the world with a mix of science and tradition. The Conversation. Retrieved July 12, 2013, from
Soils for Life. (2012). Innovations for regenerative landscape management: Case studies of regenerative land management in practice. Canberra, Australia: Author. Retrieved January 20, 2014, from
Taylor, E. (2007). An update of transformative learning theory: A critical review of the empirical research (1999–2005). International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26, 173191. doi:10.1080/02601370701219475
Via Campesina. (1996). Food sovereignty: A future without hunger. Retrieved from
Walter, P. (2012). Theorising community gardens as pedagogical sites in the food movement. Environmental Education Research, 1–19.
Wittman, H., Desmarais, A. A., & Wiebe, N. (2010). The origins and potential of food sovereignty. In Wittman, H., Aurélie, D.A., & Wiebe, N. (Eds.), Food sovereignty: Reconnecting food, nature and community. Winnipeg, Canada: Fernwood.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Transforming Food Systems Through Food Sovereignty: An Australian Urban Context

  • Federico Davila (a1) and Robert Dyball (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.