Reluctant pioneers in the European periphery? Environmental activism, food consumption and “growing your own”

De Hoop, Evelien and Jehlička, Petr (2017). Reluctant pioneers in the European periphery? Environmental activism, food consumption and “growing your own”. Local Environment, 22(7) pp. 809–824.



East European food self-provisioning (FSP) has fascinated scholars of post-socialism ever since the early 1990s. In keeping with its predominantly economic and cultural conceptualisations, much of this research has been concerned with FSP’s role in household economy and with the social profile of its practitioners. In contrast to western conceptualisations of FSP as an opportunity to expand food activism and foster social justice and environmental sustainability, post-socialist FSP has rarely been considered as such. In Czechia, FSP is practised by 43% of citizens and many of them do so in a relatively environmentally friendly way. Yet, most food-related campaigns run by environmental NGOs (ENGOs) pay little attention to FSP and focus on market-based ethical consumerism and alternative food networks instead. Using insights from actor-network theory, this paper discusses how Czech ENGO activists engage with FSP through discourse and in practice. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with leading activists, we show that FSP does figure in non-food-related campaigns and that the FSP practised by activists themselves or the FSP carried out by relatives and relatives’ friends are not the same as the FSP on which they are reluctant to campaign. These differences, which include controllability and the time-consuming nature of practising FSP according to some of the activists’ ideals, help this paper to come to an initial understanding of why Czech ENGOs do not run campaigns explicitly focused on FSP at the moment and shed some light on how this could change in the future.

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