Lume: New publication on method of economic-ecological analysis to support Agroecology

In spite of the growing recognition of agroecology around the world, there is still a significant lack of adequate tools for the study of the economic basis of agroecosystems that are appropriate for the modes of production and livelihoods of family farmers and indigenous people. The Lume method for economic-ecological analysis of agroecosystems presented in this new publication [Click here to download] of the Reclaiming Diversity and Citizenship Series(open access, free to download) is a contribution to bridge this gap.

Community joint effort: labour mobilized by social reciprocity for silage production. Author: Túlio Martins/AS-PTA

The method was developed under coordination of the Brazilian NGO AS-PTA ( with the objective of giving visibility to economic, ecological and political relations that reinforce the uniqueness of peasant technical-economic rationalities – that are, at most times, hidden or disfigured by conventional economic theory. The method has been progressively improved through critical reflection on the results of its application by AS-PTA itself and by other partner organizations in the agroecological field in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

The Lume method understands agroecosystems as manifestations of socialand economic reproduction strategies of farming families and communities. It sheds light (hence its name) on socio-political relations that determine the labour processes in the production and distribution of wealth in agri-food systems. Based on participatory approaches to the construction of knowledge, the method classifies and analyzes information about the structure and functioning of agroecosystems. It takes a critical perspective on economics to reveal dimensions of social life and work hidden by the current hegemonic economic theory. These are:

  • Ecological Economics, as the study of cyclical processes between ecological and economic assets and as a basis for the analysis of sustainability from the local scale to the global scale.

    Self-controlled resources: a condition for building autonomous economies. Author: Adriana Galvão Freire/AS-PTA

  • Political Economy, as the study of social and power relations involved in the spheres of production, transformation and circulation of values, as well as the distribution of social wealth generated by labour.
  • Feminist Economics which, based on criticism of the fundamentals of conventional economics, proposes new concepts and analytical instruments to recognize and give visibility to the work of women, as well as how they participate in the generation and appropriation of social wealth.

Lume expresses a critical point of view against the gendered division of labour and how patriarchy and other dominant cultural and ideological structures shape mainstream economic relations in the domestic and public spheres of social life, undermining social justice and sustainability.

The publication highlights how the systematic use of the Lume method by different institutions, in different socio-environmental contexts and for different purposes, has revealed its versatility as an instrument for promoting agroecology. As a reference for the production of contextualized knowledge in specific agrarian settings, it has been used to provide technical advice programs to local farmers’ organizations and academic research projects.

Semi structured interview Author: Gustavo Ohara/ANA

In the institutional sphere, it has been used in processes of monitoring and evaluating of public programs for rural and agricultural development. Lume has been a powerful theoretical-methodological framework for the design of public policies consistent with the agroecological paradigm.

This publication presents the theoretical-conceptual foundations and methodological instruments used for the economic-ecological analysis of agroecosystems. We illustrate the application of the Lume method by presenting the results of a study to monitor the impacts of a public program aimed at promoting water security in rural communities in the Brazilian semiarid region.

The Lume method is intended to be continually developed, adapted and evolved as it is applied in different contexts. Its current configuration expresses the result of a collective construction, shaped step by step, through the inputs and critical feedback of companions on our agroecological journey. AS-PTA remains committed to improving the method and we invite feedback and further contributions from anyone committed to a project of democratization and sustainability for the rural world and agri-food systems.

Contact Paulo Petersen to learn more or with comments and questions.

Book available here.