DSA2016: Politics in Development
This panel will foster discussion on the politics and transformations of the global bioeconomy for agriculture, livelihoods, land-tenure and sustainable development. How are relations between scientists, importers, exporters and growers of biomass changing or reinforcing the global North and South divisions?
Under the banner of sustainable development and greener capitalism, the global bioeconomy has been promoted as a technological and economic way of delivering what the UN has titled the 'Future We Want'.
The US, EU, OECD (and others) have produced policy documents for the future bioeconomy. These political agendas essentially promise the same thing; that 'addressing the grand societal challenges' of the 21st Century - (economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability) - can be achieved by transforming the carbon found in biomass (biological resources) into any commodity currently produced by fossil carbons, the bases of almost all globally traded energy, chemical and material commodities.
New research has begun exploring the implications of this bio-industrial shift to trade, development and agriculture. With 86% of biomass located in the global south, a new international division of labour in agriculture between exporters and importers of biomass is emerging (World Economic Forum 2010). Certainly the rise of flex crops (crops such as sugarcane that can be grown flexibly for biofuel-electric-plastic or for biotechnological conversion) are early evidence of this (Borras et al 2016).
This panel will consider how the bioeconomy and the growing demand for biomass can avoid repeating the negative impacts that biofuel production had upon food security, land-tenure, and livelihoods.
The panel invites papers that consider various issues and implications of the bioeconomy for sustainable development. And aims to foster discussion on the rise of flex crops, lessons from biofuels, next-generation biotechnology, bio-industrial production networks, dynamics between biomass exporters and importers, and the constellations of political, economic and corporate power arising in and between global (bio)economies.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Justice in bioeconomy via responsive natural resources governance?
This paper argues that bioeconomy challenges previous conceptualizations about how states, citizens and corporations affect and influence justice and decision making over utilization of the natural resources. Therefore bioeconomy impacts on local democracy instead of remaining as development intervention.
The bioeconomy is seen as a new economic and social order that will challenge most of the current practices and structures. Currently, there is a global rush to support bioeconomy growth and innovations, although the environmental sustainability and social justice of bioeconomy growth can be questioned. Based on the current research in Finland, Tanzania, Laos, Nepal and Mexico, I argue that social sustainability of the bioeconomy can be examined via citizens' participation in natural resources governance. In this paper, I would like to discuss the empirical and conceptual understanding of responsive natural resources governance and how this could foster justice in bioeconomy. The all case studies present forest-based bioeconomy interventions. The paper exhibit forest governance reform efforts, both as attempts to respond to the need for citizens' participation in forest governance. The forest-based bioeconomy challenges previous conceptualizations about how states, citizens and corporations affect and influence justice and decision making over utilization of the forest. The forest based bioeconomy therefore also impact on local democracy and citizenship instead of remaining as development incentives for bioeconomy and forest governance reform. However, it can be also argued that bioeconomy interventions have the potential to increase participation of local citizens in forest management, but a top-down approach of bioeconomy is criticized. However, and more importantly, the remaining question is how forest-based bioeconomy interventions could be created to include public discussion and the voice of vulnerable groups to defend and strengthen social justice in bioeconomy.
Breaking bad in a commodity frontier: The bioeconomy of castor production in the deep-south of Madagascar
We examine the material relations surrounding production of the castor in Madagascar. Theorizing the bioeconomy through the lens of a commodity frontier, we show how the appropriation of land and restructuring of labour is historically and geographically reproducing exploitative social relations.
The EC defines the bioeconomy, as a 'transition economy which seeks to increase efficiency, optimize use and decrease environmental impact through the reduction of waste and greenhouse gas emissions.' Yet, attempts to replace or 'roll-back' nature through efficient bio-based technology have not lived up to expectations and much of the industry still relies on globally-sourced biomass to engine the bioeconomy. The aim of this article is to examine the social and political economic relations surrounding small-scale production of the bioeconomy feedstock castor in the deep-south of Madagascar. Theorizing the bioeconomy through the lens of a 'commodity frontier,' we build off recent injunctions by Jason Moore to show how the appropriation of land and restructuring of cheap labour is both historically and geographically co-produced by hidden labour regimes and local agricultural knowledge systems. Over the years, castor has been held up to almost mythical proportions as a 'one-crop wonder' which can transform regional economies and a silver-bullet to alleviate poverty, food security in some of the most economically marginal areas of Madagascar. We examine what is behind this discursive cloak of development imaginaries to render the hidden social relations surrounding castor production visible. In particular, we look at the difficulties or uncooperativeness of nature to be commodified and in return the widening or seeking out new natures for accumulation due to limits (exhaustion of biomass stocks, socio-technical constraints) and deepening through appropriating both cheap labour and extra-human nature.
Shaping Adaptive Capacity in Northern Ghana: Political Economy in Agricultural Development Interventions
This presentation presents research on two agricultural development interventions in Northern Ghana. Political economy at international, national, and local scales is significant in informing intervention understandings and objectives but often overlooks the local context of the farmers.
This paper examines how understandings of adaptive capacity are formed and the consequences of diverse framings of adaptive capacity. The concept of adaptive capacity is examined in the context of agricultural development interventions in semi-arid Northern Ghana. The research focuses on understandings of adaptive capacity within two case study projects: one facilitated by a non-governmental organisation and the other facilitated by an international agricultural research institute and the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Data analysis identifies a contrast between formal understandings of adaptive capacity and the practice of enhancing adaptive capacity within agricultural development interventions. Discourse analysis of policy documents shows that national policies inherit understandings of adaptive capacity from international funding and governance bodies situated in the Global North. National policies and associated agencies then enforce understandings of adaptive capacity on the local-level institutions responsible for facilitating agricultural development interventions. Thus, formal understandings of adaptive capacity are developed through a chain-reaction driven by political economy. However, within the two case studies the practice of enhancing adaptive capacity differs to formal framings because of the existence of multiple understandings. The role of farmer participation within both case study projects and the complexities of human and social agency transfer the practice of enhancing adaptive capacity to a local framing. In this local framing, the farmers' engagement with project facilitation and collaborative governance shapes the way adaptive capacity is enhanced. Through participation and social agency the two case studies are enhancing adaptive capacity in indirect and unintentional ways.
Shifting epistemic authority under networked agricultural production in Argentina
Analysis of the political economy of GM soy agriculture in Argentina as both epistemic and social orders. Attention paid to both ‘micro’ perspectives looking at situated social experiments with farmers and their interrelations with ‘macro’ phenomena such as capital-labour relations and 'neoliberalism'
Dynamics of promises and expectations with regard to technological developments, and their uptake, play a major role in shaping political-economic policies, institutional practices and wider societal mutations. This paper will address the political economy of GM soy agriculture in Argentina as both epistemic and social orders. I will engage 'micro' perspectives looking at situated social experiments with farmers and their interrelations with 'macro' phenomena such as capital-labour relations, forms of 'neoliberalism' and citizen-consumer hybrids. Once derived from the scientific knowledge produced by and concentrated in public institutions, I argue that epistemic authority over agricultural innovation is challenged by the emergence of a global farmers' identity empowered by farmers' experiential knowledge, oriented toward entrepreneurship, and supported by technological innovations, such as biotechnologies, no-till farming and precision agriculture. Epistemic claims of farmers becoming innovators-entrepreneurs reciprocally condition the rise of new social formations, particularly sowing pools operating under a networked business model of agricultural production based on capitalization, land concentration and 'salarization'. Under the pressure of agribusiness, agriculture goes beyond the commoditization of food and land toward the utter dematerialization, decontextualization and financialization of nature. In such a configuration, knowledge is elevated as a means of production more valuable than land itself, which tends to disappear from the agricultural equation and to reappear under a revamped sustainability logic overflowing the natural and territorial limits of lands.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.