1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Rural development

  • Gone Fishing or Gone Organizing? Multi-level Community Development as a Pathway to Reduced Inequalities (31 Oct 2018) | Peter Westoby
    Community development is often thought to be about “sitting under the mango tree” together, but if we want to make it work really effectively for marginalized people, we need to think bigger. This is the premise of this think piece, which argues that a multi-level community development framework is needed which scales grassroots social innovations up and across levels of intervention. Two examples from South Africa and Uganda show how multi-level community work has served to reduce inequalities in access to land and protection of the commons.
  • The Energy Transition in India: Creating Decent and Inclusive Green Jobs for All? (7 Jun 2018) | Joachim Roth
    Around the globe, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is accelerating. The economics behind this trend are simple to understand: between 2010 and 2017 solar, wind and renewable energy prices have fallen precipitously. In fact, they have fallen so fast that many of these technologies are now on a par with, if not more competitive than, fossil fuels. Although the benefits of cheaper and cleaner energy are undeniable, it is important to consider the many social and political challenges that need to be addressed if green transitions are to be effective and equitable. This think piece looks at the case of India to discuss how green jobs can become more decent and how to manage change in states that have depended on fossil fuels for their growth.
  • Participatory Guarantee Systems: A Transformative Public Policy to Boost Organic Farming in Bolivia (26 Jan 2018) | Eduardo Lopez Rosse
    A social and industrial revolution is underway in Bolivia. With a new Constitution in 2009, based on the Vivir Bien, or Living Well paradigm, the country is promoting an eco-social approach to development. As well as nationalizing the main fossil fuel and water services, there is a strong emphasis in the Constitution on the right to safe and nutritious food for all. This think piece reviews policy reforms introduced to guarantee the right to food and considers their transformative potential.
  • Raising the Resilience of Brazil Nut Gatherers in the Amazon Basin: Towards Transformative and Sustainable Change? (26 Jan 2018) | Marcelo Cunha
    How can the resilience of traditional quilombola communities in the Amazon Basin, whose livelihoods depend on trading the Brazil nuts they gather, be improved—while conserving forests? This think piece uses value-chain analysis to provide insights on how the institutions the forest dwellers are embedded in could be improved to provide a more enabling environment. The piece concludes with recommendations on how to achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability, and transformative change, in the region.
  • Life on the Land: Landowners Associations in the Italian Alps (27 Nov 2017) | Cristina Poncibò
    As the rocks collapse and mountainsides crumble into sometimes deadly landslides because of decades of neglect of the land and people leaving for the towns, small groups of mountain villagers in some parts of the Piedmont Region of the Italian Alps are quietly trying to improve the situation. This think piece shows how voluntary local initiatives for unified land management, supported by helpful public policy, are helping to improve sustainable rural development and the social-ecological resilience of mountain regions in Italy.
  • Policy Making in a Globalized World: Is Economic Growth the Appropriate Driver? An Example from Mesoamerica (22 Aug 2017) | Andrea F. Schuman
    This think piece traces transnational influences in national-level economic policies and their impacts on one municipality in Mesoamerica. Policy influences that emphasize economic growth, and propose “modernization” and market-based solutions led by the private sector, are found to undermine resilience at both household and community levels, and pose threats to the sustainable livelihoods generated by the activities and practices historically engaged in by the population. The policy implications are relevant across the region in question, and far beyond.
  • Agricultural Transformation to Reduce Poverty and Hunger: An Innovative Approach (19 Jul 2017) | Massimiliano Terzini and Marco Knowles
    Combining agricultural and social protection interventions to support small family farmers is an innovative approach to combating poverty and hunger that is gaining credibility in sub-Saharan Africa and making its way into international development discourse. This blog post explores evidence of how social protection is contributing to improving both social and economic outcomes for poor farmers.
  • Collective empowerment? Producer cooperatives versus women’s groups in Kenyan ethical trade (29 Apr 2015) | Kiah Smith
    Part of the rationale behind fair and ethical trade is to improve the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers in the South, but also contribute to environmental sustainability, more equitable trading and decision-making relationships, and often, gender equality. However, the extent to which women’s participation in particular schemes contributes to their empowerment is highly variable. This think piece considers in particular the extent to which women’s empowerment is enhanced or reduced through their participation in ethical and fair trade decision-making structures, such as producer cooperatives, as well as other collective strategies, such as women’s groups.
  • 'Crops' or 'Carats'? Interaction between gold mining and cocoa production and the livelihood dilemma in Amansie Central District of Ghana (30 Oct 2014) | Stephen Yeboah
    Gold mining and cocoa production co-exist and interact as vital livelihood strategies in Ghana. While gold mining and agriculture complement each other in terms of income and labour flows, they also compete significantly for land and water resources. Drawing upon qualitative fieldwork in the Amansie Central District of Ghana, this think piece argues that despite its substantial income-generating potentials, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is not a complete substitute of agriculture because predominantly young farmers (those below 50 years) choose to mine. ASM complements the income of these farmers. Cocoa production remains an important economic activity for a majority of the farmers, as the one that they have long lived with. Farming is also more sustainable than ASM. I argue again that though ASM generates income for some farmers, the costs of its activities in terms of collective loss of vast agricultural lands and water pollution diminish these benefits.
  • African Mining, Gender and Local Employment (10 Oct 2014) | Anja Tolonen
    Large scale mining operations have been accused of being economically isolated enclaves, with few positive benefits to nearby communities. In addition, it has been argued that extractive industries hinder women’s labour market participation by increasing reservation wages (the lowest wage rate at which a worker is willing to accept a job) and decreasing demand for female labour, thus reinforcing gender inequality. This think piece builds upon original research performing the first cross-national study using micro-data testing these important hypotheses. We treat mine openings and mine closings in sub-Saharan Africa as natural experiments to explore local labour market changes. We partly refute and partly confirm the above arguments. Industrial mines generate local structural shifts. Subsistence farming becomes less important for both men and women: men shift to skilled manual labour, and women shift to service sector jobs or leave the labour market. The effects are not persistent and mining risks creating local ‘boom-bust’ economies.
  • Extractive industries, power struggles and the battle of ideas (23 Jul 2014) | Karolien van Teijlingen
    Over the past decade, there has been rapid growth and expansion of the extractive industries in the Amazon, accompanied by a rise in social mobilization and conflicts. This think piece scrutinizes the discourses that have been used, and are still being used, to legitimize powerful actors’ interventions in the extractive industries and local social development in this region. Various examples from South America confirm that rather antiquated top-down discourses of resource abundance and progress still guide the interventions of states and companies, despite recent discursive innovations of the concepts of sustainable and harmonious development. In some cases however, counter-discourses gain ground and enable marginalized communities to take control over their own social development. This think piece concludes by inviting actors involved in extraction-related conflicts, in particular young scholars, to critically consider the role of discourses and discursive power.
  • Paving a national avenue on top of a complex network of trails: Contentions around mineral extraction in Ecuador (23 Jul 2014) | Duygu Avci
    Since his election in 2007, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has embarked on a post-neoliberal development strategy based on mineral extraction. The main justification of the government for promoting mineral extraction is that it will serve the ‘national interest’ and provide the resources to finance social policy. Although mineral wealth, if properly managed, can contribute to social development, pursuing this strategy at all costs might indeed prove counter-productive for the long-term development of the country. In some particular places, extractive activities might threaten diverse social experiments with alternative models of development, and harm processes of institutional innovation and social learning. What can be learned from such social experiments can potentially be important for facing future development challenges in a world characterized by complexity and uncertainty. A more integral development strategy should take such complexity and uncertainty seriously and allow diverse social experiments to multiply and flourish.
  • “It is the powerful farmers who really enjoy the group”: Inequality and Change in Uganda’s Coffee Cooperatives (10 Apr 2013) | Karin Wedig
    Despite the recovery of agricultural cooperatives in sub-Saharan-Africa since the 2000s, knowledge about their social and economic effects in liberalized agricultural markets remains inadequate. Evidence from Uganda’s coffee sector indicates that today’s cooperatives create net benefits for small producers by contributing to an improved capacity of disadvantaged groups to defend their interests. However, high risks and inadequate financial services in weakly regulated agricultural markets create barriers to economic organization for small producers, and some become too poor to organize. Furthermore, intraorganizational inequalities limit access to cooperative benefits for some members. New evidence from Uganda (Wedig, forthcoming) indicates close linkages between existing inequalities and the lack of a larger institutional framework which would allow disadvantaged members to defend their interests vis-à-vis stronger economic actors at the local level. Thus, community-based organizations seem to be particularly vulnerable to alliances between better-off producers and primary-level cooperative managers, which contribute to the reproduction of elite bargains.
  • Let’s “Do-It-Ourselves”: Building a Participatory Economy in South Asia (9 Apr 2013) | Bryn Gay, Chatrini Weeratunge
    The think piece examines principles of the participatory economy (“parecon”, including fair trade and collective rights) to envision a social-justice-based framework that addresses the shortcomings of the current capitalist trading system, which largely excludes small-scale producers. Expansion of parecon relies on worker solidarity and shared, socially responsible values along the supply chain. Women producers play integral roles in sustaining agriculture, ensuring food security for their families and communities, and strengthening solidarity for a participatory economy. Initiatives from Sri Lanka and India offer evidence of the creation of parecon producer networks, yet further efforts could enhance women’s inclusion.
  • Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Which Way for the Informal Economy? (23 Jul 2012) | Fredrick Otieno Dawa, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
    This think piece argues that the informal economy should be included in discussions on green economy. The informal economy represents three-fourths of non-agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa, making it an important component in the social, economic and political arenas in Africa. The authors draw on a case study on the informal sector in Kenya, known as the Kamukunji Jua Kali cluster, to make their case. The cluster is an initiative by subaltern groups that supports rural agriculture, creates jobs, recycles industrial waste and has an association that runs its own affairs. It is an example of how the informal economy in Kenya is linking social and environmental concerns. The likelihood that this sector will persist requires rethinking the informal economy in terms of community economies that secure livelihoods, cultural identity and employment while moving toward green economies more generally.
  • The Social Side of Biofuels in Brazil, India and Indonesia (20 Jul 2012) | Mairon Bastos Lima
    The move away from fossil fuels towards cleaner fuels such as biofuels has been seen by some countries as an opportunity to both increase energy self-reliance and create an additional market for agriculture. However, the social implications remain understudied. This think piece, based on extensive field work in Brazil, India and Indonesia, looks at what this process means for social equity, especially for vulnerable groups, and whether biofuels could be an effective way to tackle rural poverty.
  • Sustainable Agricultural Innovation Systems (SAIS) for Food Security and Environmental Protection (17 Jun 2012) | Christina Bodouroglou, Diana Alarcón
    The twin perils of global food insecurity and environmental degradation necessitate expanding resources and fostering innovation in agriculture to accelerate food production in a sustainable manner, while also supporting poverty reduction. Achieving this will require increased recognition of the centrality of small-scale farming, short-term humanitarian action, and longer term policies for sustainable agricultural innovation systems (SAIS).
  • Equipping Democracy to Deliver Sustainable Development (16 Jun 2012) | Halina Ward
    Environmental and social challenges like climate change are accelerating faster than the ability of current forms of democracy to cope. This think piece raises four challenges faced by democracy in dealing with climate change. First, there is a need for long-term thinking to ensure that actions are taken now to forestall the risk of possibly extreme climate change. Second, politicians tend to prioritize economic growth over societal goals where progress is difficult to measure. Third is the challenge of retaining and nurturing an active commitment to vibrant democracy while allowing expertise—and science—space to offer insights and inform policy. And finally, climate change demands a globally coordinated response. If democracy is to survive and thrive, it will likely have to outperform any currently or potentially competing political system in relation to such challenges.
  • Gender in the Green Economy (15 Jun 2012) | Candice Stevens
    In the absence of appropriate social policies, the green economy may exacerbate existing gender inequities to the detriment of overall sustainability. As workers, women are being excluded from the green economy due to gender-segregated employment patterns and discrimination. As consumers, women are more likely than men to buy eco-friendly products but they have limited purchasing power. As citizens, women are crucial to good governance in the green economy but have little influence because very few women hold management positions in both public and private sectors. The author suggests policies that would assure a fuller role for women, including putting female empowerment at the centre of development assistance programmes that aim to promote the green economy in developing countries; mandating business to adopt family-friendly practices to increase women’s participation in green jobs; giving women special skills training to work in the green economy; and enacting quotas to get more women onto corporate boards and in top-level management positions in industry and government to increase their influence over the shape of the green economy.
  • Driving Green Jobs through Rural Renewable Energy Systems (8 May 2012) | Carola Kantz, J.R. Siegel, Kathrin Bimesdörfer
    Green growth is being touted as a way to reconcile economic growth and sustainable development. However, as this think piece demonstrates, there is a gap in the assessment of data and knowledge with regard to employment and labour conditions. Using a rural off-grid electrification initiative in Bangladesh as an example, the authors aim to build awareness about employment and job conditions, and suggest indicators of social dimensions.
  • The Challenge of Political Empowerment (24 Mar 2012) | Peter Utting
    In the struggle over ideas in the development arena, terms that are associated with more radical perspectives are often picked up by mainstream actors and organisations. And this has been the case with ‘empowerment’. But such mainstreaming can cause original meanings to be modified or become obscure. From the perspective of strategies that aim to improve the well-being of small-scale farmers, there are various risks inherent in the way the term ‘empowerment’ has been taken up by international and bilateral development agencies.
  • The False Dichotomy Between Economy and Society: Implications for a Global Green Economy (6 Mar 2012) | Leisa Perch
    One of the assumptions about green economy is that it will lead to poverty reduction and equity. Since several mainstream arguments for going green are largely economic, the structural changes and incentives envisaged are also largely economic in nature. However, green economy must do more than provide more employment opportunities. To "go green with equity" will require social sustainability principles such as (i) preferential access for the poor and vulnerable to new jobs, green microfinance and green infrastructure; (ii) adaptable social protection mechanisms which mitigate the impact of environmental and disaster risk and also provide income support for green consumption by the poor; and (iii) a rights-based approach which tackles fundamental structural inequalities such as land rights and tenure for women in Africa and Asia.
  • Green Growth, Social Agency and the Regulation of Agricultural Production in India and Brazil (10 Feb 2012) | Diego Vazquez-Brust, Evelyn Nava-Fischer
    Green growth is being promoted as a new paradigm that encompasses economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. However, some developing countries have been questioning its relevance for their development. This paper shows how this paradigm is challenging, and being challenged by, traditional social norms and practices in agricultural production in India and Brazil, and how the commitment and agency of supply chain actors—both of which are key for resource efficiency and social inclusion—are affected.
  • Green Economy and Beyond – Case Studies in Guangzhou, China (31 Jan 2012) | Chen Jinjin
    China's rapid economic growth has led to a gap between urban and rural development, environmental pollution and the marginalization of traditional farming. Two cases in Guangzhou in Guangdong province, southern China—a government programme and a non-governmental initiative—show how the local government and the public are trying to connect the green economy agenda with other sustainable development objectives, including poverty reduction, food security and social protection.
  • Biofuels and Food Security: Green Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (22 Nov 2011) | Chike Jideani, Chinney Kennedy-Echetebu, Chizoba Chinweze, Gwen Abiola-Oloke
    The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardizes the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. UNEP defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. Yet the inclusion of biofuels as part of this green economy agenda ignores ecological realities as well as the social dimensions of food insecurity.
  • Changing Rural Power Structures Through Land Tenure Reforms: The Current Dismal Role of International Organizations (15 Aug 2002) | K. B. Ghimire
    Agricultural or rural development, although generally considered to be a process to improve the economic and social conditions of poorer groups in rural areas, signifies different things to different people.