Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets – newly published book

Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets,  edited by Paul Hebinck, Sergio Schneider and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, has just been published in the Routledge ISS Studies in Rural Livelihoods.  The book can be purchased here.

This book focuses on empirical experiences related to market development, and specifically new markets with structurally different characteristics than mainstream markets. Europe, Brazil, China and the rather robust and complex African experiences are covered to provide a rich multidisciplinary and multi-level analysis of the dynamics of newly emerging markets.

Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets analyses newly constructed markets as nested markets. Although they are specific market segments that are nested in the wider commodity markets for food, they have a different nature, different dynamics, a different redistribution of value added, different prices and different relations between producers and consumers. Nested markets embody distinction viz-a-viz the general markets in which they are embedded. A key aspect of nested markets is that these are constructed in and through social struggles, which in turn positions this book in relation to classic and new institutional economic analyses of markets. These markets emerge as steadily growing parts of the farmer populations are dedicating their time, energy and resources to the design and production of new goods and services that differ from conventional agricultural outputs. The speed and intensity with which this is taking place, and the products and services involved, vary considerably across the world. In large parts of the South, notably Africa, farmers are ‘structurally’ combining farming with other activities. By contrast, in Europe and large parts of Latin America farmers have taken steps to generate new products and services which exist alongside ongoing agricultural production. This book not only discusses the economic rationales and dynamics for these markets, but also their likely futures and the threats and opportunities they face.

Table of Contents: 1.The construction of new, nested markets and the role of development policies 2. Newly emerging, nested markets: a theoretical introduction 3. The construction of nested markets 4. Family farming, institutional markets and innovations in public policy in Brazil 5. Self-labelling, certification and alternative marketing networks in Brazil 6. Rural tourism in China and the construction of new markets 7. Multi-level rural governance performances and the unfolding of nested rural markets in Europe 8. Smallholder irrigators and fresh produce street traders in Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province, South Africa 9. Beyond land transfers: the dynamics of socially driven markets emerging from Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme 10. In the shadow of global markets for fish in Lake Victoria Tanzania 11. Reconsidering the contribution of nested markets to rural development.




Places worth caring about

This week I have discussed, in my MSc course Understanding Rural Development, the modernization of Europe’s agriculture and rural areas in the post World War II era. By showing pictures, tables and figures I have tried to demonstrate how drastically the rural landscape, the agrarian structure and the food supply chain have changed in a period of several decades. Multifunctional countrysides were transformed into places for specialized and high-tech forms of food and fibre production, the number of farms decreased by some 80% in 50 years time, the average farm size increased enormously, agricultural employment decreased drastically, an ever increasing part of the agricultural products are processed by the food processing industry and the supermarket has become the dominant outlet for most food products. There are, of course, differences between regions and countries, but this is the prevailing development trend in EU member states that have been subject to the EU’s original Common Agricultural Policy. The agricultural modernization project has been very successful in terms of creating food self sufficiency in Europe at low prices for consumers, but this has also come at a cost. By the 1990s the negative side-effects of modernization became widely acknowledged. When talking about negative side-effects topics as environmental pollution, degradation of biodiversity, declining farmers’ incomes, animal welfare concerns and consumers’ distrust in the modern food system are usually brought to the fore.

Inspired by a humorous and thought-proviking presentation of James Howard Kunstler at the TED 2004 conference (“The tragedy of suburbia” ) as the analogy between suburbian development and agricultural modernization is astonishing, another side-effect came to mind: the loss of a sense of place and a sense of belonging due to the (feeling of) expropriation of local self control (e.g. due to centralized spatial planning) and due to the eradication of many specific and distinctive regional assets (cultural history, landscape, traditional products and processing techniques, etc…). Rural regions that were subject to the agricultural modernization project have de facto become non-places and are thus easily interchangeable. And as a result many rural regions have become, quoting Kunstler, places not worth caring about … and places not worth caring about are places not worth protecting or defending.

Looking at rural development from this point of view sheds an interesting light on its dynamics. Continue reading