Sustainability of Small Scale Farming in a Mountain Region: Case Study of the Khaling Rai Population of the Solukhumbu, Nepal.
By Valerie Mary Burris
A study was undertaken to examine the assets that determine the livelihood sustainability of the Khaling Rai – a small tribal group living in a remote area of Nepal dependent on subsistence agriculture and coping with the characteristic mountain constraints of remoteness, marginality and fragility. This paper focusses on agriculture given that it is the key central livelihood strategy of the Khaling Rai.
The sustainable livelihood approach is the theoretical framework used to analyse the assets of the Khaling Rai. This approach examines the assets and livelihood strategies of the community at household level. It addresses the need to create livelihood strategies that maintain the natural resource base while being resistant to external shocks and stresses. A survey conducted in 2004, was the main source of quantitative data about the assets that govern the livelihoods of the Khaling Rai. It involved a simple random cluster sample of 201 households in the Khali valley, in the district of Solukhumbu. This was supplemented by qualitative data from government agencies, multilateral institutions, NGOs, local associations and community leaders.
The local climate is determined by elevation and orientation. Altitude ranges from 1000m to 3000m. Annual rainfall is around 2300mm with 78% of precipitation falling during the monsoon. The climate is suitable for growing summer and winter crops. The households farm on small scattered terraced plots. All of the respondent households own their land and the average holding is a fragmented 2.6ha divided into approximately twelve plots. The land is fertilized by dung collected from animals. Tools are simple and fashioned locally.
All respondent households possess some livestock: buffalo, cattle, goats, pigs and poultry. Excepting cattle, livestock holdings are less than those of the overall mountain ecological zone of Nepal. Transhumance is practiced and cattle go to higher pastures during the monsoon season. The level of milk and meat produced falls short of basic needs level and there is very little trade in livestock. The respondent households grow a wide variety of crops: in winter, wheat and barley and in summer maize, millet and potatoes. Rice is grown at lower altitudes. Vegetables are grown in household gardens and a minority of households cultivate soybeans and lentils. Seeds are saved for the following year’s crops. While there is wide variation in the output of crops, on average enough cereals and potatoes are produced to fulfil the dietary needs of the average respondent household of 5.5 persons. The majority of households trade locally with bartering as the preferred option. Approximately 10% of total grain output is sold for cash. The main marketing difficulties are distance from markets and low prices. Negative mountain specificities of isolation and inaccessibility hinder the spread of information about new farming technologies. Less than 4% of respondents ever had a visit from the farm extension services.
Bivariate analysis showed that total income is strongly correlated with crop output indicating the importance of subsistence agriculture to total income. Household education levels are also significant: households strong in human capital – literacy and education – are significantly correlated with endowment of other assets such as livestock holdings and farm size thus illustrating that access to one type of capital usually gives access to others. Small scale farming fulfils a basic need of most of the respondent households which is food security: 75% of them had enough food. However, to overcome the limitations of their resource base, the following is recommended: firstly the formation of agricultural associations in the area and secondly, through them the selection of key personnel for training in the adoption of improved low cost technologies for staple crops and the introduction of appropriate new niche cash crops.
Integrated Livelihoods and Landscape Approach for Smallholders in Northern Thailand
By Angela Joehl Cadena, David Pond and Tawatchai Rattanasorn
Smallholder farmers are increasingly facing threats to their livelihoods due to climate change, environmental degradation and the un-sustainability of monoculture socio-ecological farming systems. This impacts on communities’ ability to develop from the resultant pressures on maintaining productivity and food security. An integrated approach implemented at the household and village level encompassing building resilience within the socio-ecological system aims to address poverty alleviation, landscape restoration and conservation outcomes. This approach was implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in villages in northern Thailand.
The research implemented in the area demonstrates that household-level economy is inextricably linked to the wider socio-ecological system, and strategies for improvement must include all components of the system. Three main strategies are presented including landscape restoration, decentralised governance mechanisms and poverty reduction schemes. Activities within each strategy are interlinked and each provide co-benefits which contribute to the overall outcome. Increasing resilience in the ecological system meant shifting the focus of agricultural activities from a monoculture landscape to a mosaic matrix typical of an agro-ecological system. Intercropping and intensification of cropping areas was a key activity to increase household incomes by diversifying income streams and replicating the structure and diversity of forest areas. This was coupled with reforestation of degraded forest areas and implementation of bio-engineering projects which increases biodiversity, improves ecosystem function and services, and reduces erosion of fertile topsoil. The diversity and modularity of agro-ecological systems increases the ability of the socio-ecological system to absorb shock and maintain productivity. This is imperative given the potential losses from the impacts of severe weather on smallholder communities relying on mono-cultures.
Logistically, the employment of a decentralized, bottom-up governance approach was crucial in obtaining the trust and support of the local community. Specifically, these governance arrangements included implementation of land use planning schemes and stakeholder negotiation between villagers, district leaders and government departments. Also a trial policy relating to communal land rights was enacted in the project area which demonstrated communal land management and sovereignty. The methods utilized are site-specific, following research and interaction with local communities over the period of 7 years, hence they are considered to be highly sustainable over the long term. The case study demonstrates that an integrated approach viewing smallholder livelihoods in the context of processes occurring at the catchment-wide scale is important for understanding and implementing schemes which can contribute to poverty alleviation, conservation and landscape restoration.
Small and Closed vs. Large and Open: Some Lessons from Comparing Cuban to Colombian Agricultural Development
By Brandon Scott Huson, Bernd Reiter, Maria Auxiliadora Gonzalez
In our paper we ask the question of what type of agricultural development model works the best. Different schools of thought on development offer different solutions and prescriptions for how countries should manage their agricultural sector. First, we identified the developmentalist or ‘integrationist’ schools of thought whose prescriptions for the agricultural sector require the opening of markets to investors, the promotion of large-scale production, and the marketization of production food chains echoing earlier promotions of the Green Revolution. Next, we examine more critical discussions of development that emphasize the need to promote small-holder production and which assume that at least a part of the problem with attaining the MDGs has been the overuse and promotion of the integrationist model of development. We chose to focus on agricultural development due to its importance in linking nation-states to the global market place and the centrality of agricultural development to achieving MDG 1, the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger. To run a test of separate development models, we identified the time period immediately following the announcement of the millennium development goals (2000-15) and did a comparison of the performance of two direct agricultural production models. The two countries selected were from Latin America, and represent two ends of the development spectrum, Cuba and Colombia. Cuba, which is a socialist country and who follows a small-farmer drive agricultural production strategy through the provisioning of land to communities of peasants and the active promotion of agroecology, represented a model of agricultural development based on critical theoretical approaches. Meanwhile, Colombia represented the model of an integrationist agricultural policy. Their promotion of private property, expanded foreign investment, and the shrinking of the small-farmer sector through massive displacement made It the perfect country to examine the impact of ‘integrationist’ development thinking to a nation-state. We collected data on indicators of human nutrition such as the food supply, the quantity of food consumption, and the rate of infant mortality in each country over the time period under examination (2000-2013). Comparing the two countries, we found that Cuba outperformed Colombia on every indicator. Ultimately this leads us to recommend that the promotion of small-farmer production is essential for rural development and the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Growing through Connections – Alternative Food Networks in Cluj-Napoca, Romania
By Josefin Smeds
Romania is an agrarian country with a third of the population occupied in agriculture, most of them smallholders (here referred to as peasants). Due to increased corporate concentration in the food sector, peasants are facing difficulties selling their produce. Alternative food networks (AFNs) have emerged, providing health-conscious consumers in the city with fresh, mostly organic, vegetables directly from a local peasant. These kinds of systems are embedding food provisioning in social relations, reclaiming socio-cultural aspects of agri-food and contributing to a (re)peasantisation process, although challenged by unfavorable national and EU policies.
In different places in the world, a diverse range of local solutions for providing food are sprouting. These strategies often focus intrinsically on sustainability and health and can be seen as a response to the conventional food system (CFS) which many scholars recognise as unable to effectively deal with converging global challenges. The growth of the CFS, as well as alternative solutions, can be seen in Romania, where half the land is owned by peasants, using traditional practices with a high level of diversity. Such alternative solutions can be in the form of CSA, where producers and consumers share the risks of the production, and direct selling vegetable box schemes, where producers sell their produce through subscriptions directly to consumers.
The two AFNs included in this study, Asociația pentru Susținerea Agriculturii Țărănești (ASAT) and Cutia Ţăranului (CT), both accommodate to consumers’ need for tasty, good quality, and local produce and producers’ need for a more secure and rewarding market. CT consumers are more satisfied with their network, but ASAT might be a more transformational mode of food provisioning, through a clear focus on community and solidarity. Potential conflicts lie in issues regarding food quantity, the delivery system, unequal power relations, and inclusiveness. A major synergy is the idea of quality produce being closely tied to peasant production, a factor which assists in strengthening producer-consumer relations, especially within CT. Thus, although challenged by disadvantageous trends on national and EU levels, the networks can play an important role in creating strong alliances between producers and consumers.
The AFNs also highlight socio-cultural aspects of agri-food, which can serve to position the AFNs as qualitatively different from the CFS. In CT and ASAT, this happens through producers expressing pride in providing urban citizens with food, consumers seeing peasants as an important part of the Romanian identity and through the focus on community and solidarity. Similarly, these AFNs can be seen as part of (re)peasantisation process, whereby the autonomy of peasants is increased. However, it is important to consider how alternative practices can build connections between each other so as to constitute a more significant counter-force to the CFS and the trend of depeasantisation.
ASAT and CT provide benefits for both consumers and producers and can also have broader socio-ecological benefits considering the intrinsic focus on sustainability and health. The direct connections between the involved actors are interesting since they seem to be deepening a sense of co-dependence, solidarity, and community. Local responses to the limitations of the CFS are developing in various places around the world and studying how these innovative practices can emerge, be sustained and developed, can provide important insights on sustainable solutions for food and agriculture. For future research it could be relevant to look into to what extent initiatives like ASAT and CT can or should explicitly challenge the CFS, considering that alternative solutions may have limited prospects if the CFS increases its dominance.
Political Economy of Global Rush for Agricultural Land: a Tract on India’s Overseas Acquisitions
By Santosh Verma
Land acquisition is not a new phenomenon, but historically, it continues in its structural designing from feudalism and pre-capitalism to its current capitalist oligarchy where neo-liberal market based system and financialization of the economies have been at the helm of the State affairs. The land acquisition, at the current juncture, is significantly due to the ongoing economic recession, devastated securities markets and muddled investors’ faith in the hedge funds. To evade these involved risks, the MNCs from the developed and developing countries via speculation in the agricultural commodity markets through controlling agricultural activities directly and creating its own value chains for trade in agribusiness and to accumulate capital.
The current run for land acquisition in the developing countries can also be ascribed to the crisis of capitalism in itself and its inherent tendency to monopolize resources. The sway of land acquisition if allowed, due to crisis in capitalism, it will destroy the existing agricultural structure: the small and medium scale farming, its biodiversity, land relations and its ownership structure. It converts the self-sustenance based agriculture to the dependence on market for food and export based large scale production chain for profit resulting into loss of employment, livelihood and sovereignty of the natives.
These continuous pressures on livelihoods and sovereignty to the indigenous communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America have produced a number of violent movements to save agriculture as a right of the locals. Bowing to these movements, governments in many of the developing countries have canceled land agreements with the MNCs. Still, the rush to the land under current circumstances gives several reasons to conclude that it is a process of neo-colonialism where several ex-colonies like India and China with the help of their MNCs are on the land hunt for their own benefit at the cost of the lives of the people whose land is being acquired.
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