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Tropentag 2023, September 20 - 22, Berlin, Germany

"Competing pathways for equitable food systems transformation: trade-offs and synergies."

Is associativity the key? Unraveling power dynamics in rural trading using an ‘intertwining approach’

Marco De la Cruz Sanchez1, Diana Santos2, Joost Dessein1

1Ghent University, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Belgium


In recent years, global efforts are increasingly trying to promote more farmer-to-farmer relationships on their road to transform imbalances in commercial exchanges and bring more bargaining power to defend against unfair dealing. This process however supposes that farmers have appropriate conditions to work and trade in organised ways, i.e., in organisations, so that to allow efficient and fairer food trade and an efficient supply chain in the long run. This is often reflected in development initiatives, which tend to favour 'organised' mechanisms of associativity (e.g., committees among farmers, etc.). We hypothesise that part of the limited reflection relates to the difficulty to explore the hidden power play mechanisms and organisational dynamics happening between farmers. We reason that associativity in rural trading necessarily involves institutional change and this can bring latent power structure to the fore that are better reflected in the ‘intertwining approach’. In this sense, our study aims to understand the power dynamics and structures of the rural organisations that engage in the commercialisation of agroecological products in Aija Province, Ancash region, Peru. These organisations participated in the project Food Systems, Markets and Water (SAMA) of ECLOSIO and its partners. The organisations have operated sharing information, generating new commerce ideas, and developing capacities to realise them. Yet, reports suggest that they face challenges concerning organisational development issues and fragile interactions. Through the lenses of the 'intertwining approach', the research will reconstruct the institutional evolution of the rural organisations built under the initiatives of ECLOSIO. It will also apply a novel analytical model to provide a scheme for framing and understanding the elements that have a dominant role in structuring the organisational dynamics of commercialisation in Andean regions. Our case study demonstrates that the local dynamics influenced organisational developments and that their evolution exposed more complex mechanisms of power-play in farmers’ interactions. We identify two power-play mechanisms that influenced farmers’ interactions in commercial practices: `manageability of the risks’ to aligning their economic and social interests with those of the programs, and ‘learning by exposition’, as a means to interpret economic transactions.

Keywords: Critical institutionalism, intertwining approach, Peru, power dynamics, rural commerce, rural trading

Contact Address: Marco De la Cruz Sanchez, Ghent University, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, 3000 Leuven, Belgium, e-mail: m.delacruzs@pucp.pe

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