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Tropentag, September 20 - 22, 2017 in Bonn

"Future Agriculture: Social-ecological transitions and bio-cultural shifts"

Rethinking the Way We Farm

Bina Agarwal

University of Manchester, Development Economics and Environment, United Kingdom


We stand today at a cross-road. We have a crisis not just of agriculture but of the rural economy itself. Some 80 per cent of farmers in developing countries are small (cultivating 2 hectares or less) and increasingly female, as more men than women move to non-farm jobs. They face challenges in accessing land, other inputs, technology and markets, and live under a growing shadow of climate change on the one hand and inadequate growth of alternative job options on the other. In addition, decades of agricultural intensification and shifts to monocultures have left in their wake depleting soils, falling watertables, and disappearing crop diversity. Clearly we need to rethink the way we farm, not just technologically, but more fundamentally, institutionally. The global debate on food security and the kinds of farming systems that could prove economically and ecologically sustainable has focused overwhelmingly on small family farms versus large commercial farms, with little attention to alternative models based on farmer cooperation. Drawing on examples especially from South Asia, this talk will examine the nature of the agrarian crises and potential alternative pathways.

Keywords: Agricultural transformation

Contact Address: Bina Agarwal, University of Manchester, Development Economics and Environment, Oxford Road, M13 9PL Manchester, United Kingdom, e-mail: bina.india@gmail.com

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