New Publication: Stages of Food Security

Cochrane, L. (2017) Stages of Food Security: A Co-produced Mixed Methods Methodology. Progress in Development Studies 17(4): 1-16.

AbstractThis article presents the stages of food security methodology, an adaptation of stages of progress developed by Dr. Krishna. Studies of food security are primarily survey based, applying a common set of generalist indicators across a range of agroecological areas and for a diverse array of people; these findings have provided a wealth of information and insight into the trends, challenges and the extent of food security on national, regional and global scales. Ethnographic and qualitative approaches have provided detailed, contextualized findings about the interrelated and complex nature of food security at the micro level. This co-produced, mixed methods approach brings together participatory qualitative approaches and co-produces quantitative data collection tools, which provide generalizable data geared towards supporting the development or refinement of policies and programmes to strengthen food security. Based upon a pilot implementation of the methodology in Ethiopia, advantages and limitations are discussed, as well as reflections on why co-production as a participatory approach was adopted, in contrast to other participatory processes. The findings demonstrate the ways in which co-produced approaches can offer unique insight, complementing and enhancing existing knowledge about complex challenges. 

Available from publisher here.

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21st Century Economics

​Today's students, the citizens of 2050, are being taught economics rooted in the 1950s, which are based on the theories of 1850. Kate Raworth argues we need a new, 21st century economics, and proposed its seven key features in "Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st Century Economist" (2017). In many ways the key idea presented in Kate's book preceded its publication, and those following the work of Oxfam over the last few years are already familiar with the doughnut.

The book delves deeper than the doughnut; exploring how dominant ways of thinking came to be, their limitations, and proposing new approaches. At the root of the argument is that "we have economics that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive: what we need are economics that make us thrive, whether or not they grow" (p. 30). For the author, this does just mean new ideas, but also new images and metaphors. For example, from thinking that good equates with "forward-and-up" to good as "thriving-in-balance" (p. 53). An important shift Raworth highlights is the need to think about the long term; "it may sound extraordinary but, despite having adopted GDP growth as the de facto goal of economic policy, the textbooks never actually depict how it is expected to evolve over the long term" (p. 246). And, in so doing, recognizing that we may not – probably cannot – continue to grow indefinitely.

Much of the book is high level visionary thinking, providing thought leadership in how thinking might and could change. There are some key specific issues that Raworth highlights: population, distribution, aspiration, technology and governance" (p. 57). The book offers the most on distribution, technology and governance, which are interwoven, such as: "Rather than wait (in vain) for growth to deliver greater equality, twenty-first century economics will design distributive flow into the very structure of economic interactions from the get-go. Instead of focusing on redistributing income alone, they will also seek to redistribute wealth – be it the power to control land, money creation, enterprise, technology or knowledge – and will harness the market, the commons and the state alike to make it happen. Rather than wait for top-down reform, they will work with bottom-up networks that are already driving a revolution in redistribution. What's more, they will match this revolution in distributive economics with an equally powerful one in regenerative economic design" (p. 205).

A few side notes, I found interesting:

  • On Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs): "economists also uncovered a troubling flip side to the experiment that they had not been expecting. Students who were not selected by the scheme, but had siblings who were, became less likely to attend school regularly – and more likely to drop out – than students from similar families in which no one took part in the scheme. Most strikingly, this was particularly true amongst girls: those with siblings in the scheme were 10% more likely to drop out of school than girls from similar families in which no one was participating. What's more, this unintended negative drop-out effect turned out to be far stronger than the positive effect on attendance and re-enrolment that the scheme was set up to achieve in the first place" (p. 119)
  • On currency: "What kind of currency, then, could be aligned with the living world so that it promoted regenerative investments rather than pursuing endless accumulation? One possibility is a currency bearing demurrage, a small fee incurred for holding money, so that it tends to lose rather than gain in value the longer it is held… demurrage is a word worth knowing because it could just feature in the financial future." (p. 274).

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New publication: Designing Knowledge Co-production for Climate and Development

Harvey, B., Cochrane, L., Van Epp, M., Cranston, P., and Pirani, P.A. (2017) Designing Knowledge Co-production for Climate and Development. CARIAA Working Paper #21. International Development Research Centre: Ottawa.

  • AbstractClimate change poses significant global challenges. Solutions require new ways of working, thinking and acting. Knowledge co-production is often cited as one of the innovations needed for navigating the complexity of climate change challenges, yet how to best approach co-production processes remains unclear. In this working paper we explore the ways in which climate and development researchers are approaching the co-production of knowledge and grapple with the extent to which the modalities used are reaching their stated potential. Using a diverse array of case studies, we outline a range of approaches to co-production, from technical to transformative. Drawing on literature on co-production, we propose a heuristic that maps out a spectrum of approaches to co-production and offers an assessment of the relationship between processes and outcomes of co-production in order to enable more informed planning and decision-making. In so doing this paper provides lessons and insights that CARIAA and similar adaptation research initiatives can apply in determining the potential of knowledge co-production as a means to influence policy, practice and behaviour.

Available here.

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Political Economy of Tanzania

Edwards wrote about Tanzania in 2014, providing an external perspective, largely from purview of the World Bank. For an alternative perspective, readers can pick up Andrew Coulson's "Tanzania: A Political Economy" (1982), which he wrote from within, as a civil servant and academic in Tanzania. Coulson provides an introduction to Tanzania from the colonial period until 1980, attempting not to be "ether romantic or dismissive" about the nation (p. 25). The book is very readable, and accessible for undergraduate readers – particularly those with an interest in history (given the book was published 30+ years ago). It is also important for the different perspectives. A dominant opinion about Tanzania and its early socialist inclinations has developed, Coulson provides viewpoints and insight that are well worth revisiting.

What did the socialist inclinations in Tanzania include? Coulson neatly summarizes that for "some years after 1967, Tanzania was the country in Africa most noticeable committed to socialist principles. Nyerere became a world figure, a spokesman for the 'poorest of the poor', demanding a New International Economic Order that would give them a greater share of the world's wealth, and trying to ensure that the non-aligned countries acted as a trade union, merging some of their individual interests to campaign on a common programme" (p. 22). Coulson outlines the origins of Nyerere's approach to non-alignment and independence in international relations (e.g. p. 180-181), which set the nation on a unique path during the post-colonial period. At the same time, Coulson criticizes Nyerere, such as the authoritarian rule, and idealized and romantic assumptions that drove the African Socialism approach (e.g. p. 184, 285, 347, 377).

In contrast to many writers, Coulson says the villagization program "cannot be said to have failed – although it changed the face of Tanzania – for the achievements in the field of social services also have to be taken into account" (p. 308). Speaking about international relations, and specifically the choices and actions of the international donor community, he writes "it would be a rash analyst who thought that a single theory would explain the behaviour of all the governments involved" (p. 367) – although Edwards cites Coulson, he seems to have missed this point.

There are many interesting side notes for readers studying history and development, such as the increase of tsetse due to colonial activity (p. 56), the German use of Swahili and advancement of a national language that was not a colonial one (p. 70), and education as "the most powerful weapon in the battle for the minds of the colonized" (p. 123). On the underlying paradigms, Coulson writes "all the institutional policies…were justified by an appeal to modernization theory. The view that peasants are primitive, backward, stupid – and generally inferior human beings – dominates the rural chapters of both the 1961 World Bank report and the Tanganyikan First Five-Year Plan" (p. 199).

An area of particular interest to Coulson is agriculture. Given the book was published in 1980, he offered some sharp criticism of agricultural extension, which (unfortunately) continue to be applicable. For example: "Farmers who refused to accept 'modern methods' were described as stubborn, lazy, ignorant, conservative, uncooperative, etc. There was little or no recognition that logic often lay in the refusal to do what the extension staff advised" (p. 85). Furthermore, "many studies found that much of the advice given by extension workers was not appropriate to small farmers. The clearest case of this was inter-cropping. Extension workers were trying (with little success) to persuade farmers to plant their crops in pure strands" (p. 192). He also points to studies showing that extension workers provided services to richer farmers, not equally, not the most in need of support (p. 191).

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Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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