Faith in international agricultural development: Conservation Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa

Corné J. Rademaker*, Henk Jochemsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The role of faith and religion in international development cooperation is hotly debated today. The legitimacy of this role remains, however, often confided to instrumental reasons. Yet, thinking about faith and religion only in instrumental terms leaves unquestioned the possibility of a religious background of development cooperation as a practice itself and the potential role of faith through individual practitioners that operate within secular NGOs, and research and policy institutes. The aim of the present paper is therefore to consider the structural role of faith and worldview in relation to agricultural development, moving beyond the discourse of instrumentality. We do this by focusing on Giller and Andersson’s political agronomy analysis of the promotion of Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe by the faith-based organisation ‘Foundations for Farming’. We argue that a distinction should be made between religion as a practice of believers and faith functioning as a worldview in every practice. In addition, we argue that it is helpful to distinguish between different kinds of practices involved in agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa, namely farming practice, agronomic scientific practice, and faith practice. The value of this philosophical analysis is that it challenges a dichotomous model of ‘science-based versus faith-based’ approaches to agricultural development. Furthermore, specific kinds of normativity are identified as always already functioning inside practices, rather than practices being neutral spaces that are (subjectively) infused with normativity by applying external ethical standards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-212
Number of pages14
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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