New Publication: Worldviews Apart: Agriculture Extension and Smallholder Farmers

Cochrane, L. (2017) Worldviews Apart: Agriculture Extension and Ethiopian Smallholder Farmers. Journal of Rural Social Sciences 32: 98-118.

Abstract: This paper presents an inquiry-based learning assessment into why farmers in the highlands of Ethiopia were not adopting a new planting methodology promoted by the government and non-governmental organizations. It offers a process of reflexivity whereby assumptions emerge as the key barriers to misunderstanding, and focuses on the concept of divergent worldviews as an important consideration for understanding (non)adoption. The learning process offers insight for policy, programming and research, emphasizing learning instead of definitive conclusions.

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The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies

Why are policies created they way they are? This question is particularly interesting when the policies do not appear to function well. It may be that the 'failing' policies are not actually failing, but serving another, often unstated, purpose. A classic, essential read on this question is "Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies" by Robert H. Bates (1981). The author explains that the book "seeks to go beyond the position of agricultural economists by asking the obvious question: Why should reasonable men adopt public policies that have harmful consequences for the societies they govern? In answering this question, it looks for the social purposes that lead policy-makers to intervene in agricultural markets. Above all, it examines the political calculations that induce governments to intervene in ways which are harmful to the interests of most farmers" (p. 3).

"When African governments intervene in markets, they often do so in ways that harm the short-run interests of most farmers. On the one hand, by sheltering domestic industries from competition, they increase the prices that farmers must pay for goods from the urban areas. One the other, through the use of state power, they lower the prices farmers receive for their products; alternatively, they compete with them in supplying food to the urban markets. And the benefits of subsidies they do confer on farm inputs are reaped by the richer few" (p. 81). Further, these same programs are used to secure power, as incentives and disincentives (p. 110, 112, 117).

The problem of the decision maker is that they "want to move resources from agriculture to industry; and therefore they set prices in markets in order to capture resources from agriculture. Moreover, the governments need resources with which to implement these development programs; and to achieve their objectives, they need foreign exchange. In nations in which agriculture is the greatest source of income and the principal source of exports, it is natural that they should seek to levy revenues from the rural sector… Governments want to stay in power. They must appease powerful interests. And people turn to political action to secure political advantages – rewards they are unable to secure by competing in the marketplace. This book stresses the role of such factors in the formulation of agricultural policy." (p. 4)

Essentially, Bates outlines how governments have used policy to harm the majority of farmers, in seeking to serve other objectives.

While this book is good, it is unlikely it would pass the peer review process today. The author uses a few cases to generalize about "governments of Africa", pulling examples to prove points where most suitable. It is, nonetheless, a important read – one that set the groundwork for much of the political economy research for agricultural policy.

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Funded MA: Northern Agriculture and Food

Project: Agricultural values and food sovereignty possibilities on the edge of Northern Ontario

Graduate Program: Public Issues Anthropology MA – University of Guelph
Deadline: February 1, 2017

SSHRC-supported graduate funding for students interested in issues of agriculture, food sovereignty, agricultural values and ethics, local food systems, and rural livelihoods. Seeking 1-2 MA students who are planning to begin their graduate studies in September 2017, and who will be applying to the Public Issues Anthropology MA program at the University of Guelph. The value of the funding is between $7000-$10,000 each year, for up to two years.

The application deadline for the Public Issues Anthropology MA is February 1, 2017.

If you are interested in this funding opportunity, please feel free to contact Dr. Elizabeth Finnis.

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Resources on Seasonality

Robert Chambers states that "As a dimension of poverty, seasonality is as glaringly obvious as it is still grossly neglected. Attempts to embed its recognition in professional mindsets, policy and practices have still a long way to go" (Chambers, 2012: xv; in the Forward of Devereux, Sabates-Wheeler and Longhurst, 2012). This quote comes from an edited volume on seasonality, which brings together a range of interrelated topics revolving around the topic. The book itself draws upon works presented at a conference, and is a sort of follow-on to a similar conference (1978) and book (1981) – highlighting the research gap that has emerged since an interest in seasonality in the 1980s and early 1990s. Drawing upon the 2012 book, below are some of the key resources identified by the authors, as a means to further research on seasonality and support the identification of research taking seasonality as a focal point of study (in chronological order):

Chambers, R., Longhurst, R. and Pacey, A. 1981. Seasonal Dimensions to Rural Poverty. Frances Pinter: London.

Longhurst, R. (Ed) 1986. Seasonality and Poverty. IDS Bulletin 17(3).

Sahn, D. 1989. Seasonal Variability in Third World Agriculture: The Consequences for Food Security. Johns Hopkins University Press: London.

Chen, M. A. 1991. Coping with Seasonality and Drought. Sage: New Delhi.

Gill, G. 1991. Seasonality and Agriculture in the Developing World: A Problem of the Poor and Powerless. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Ulijaszek, S. and Strickland, S. 1993. Seasonality and Human Ecology. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Devereux, S. Vaitla, B. and Hauenstein-Swan, S. 2008. Seasons of Hunger. Pluto Press: London.

Devereux, S., Sabates-Wheeler, R. and Longhurst, R. 2012. Seasonality, Rural Livelihoods and Development. Earthscan: New York.

For those interested in more reading, I suggest the 2012 edited volume Seasonality, Rural Livelihoods and Development as a key resource from which many more references can be obtained.

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Logan Cochrane

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