Actor-oriented perspectives on global food systems: the case of Mae Chaem, Thailand
Richard Friend (University of York)
David Blake (University of York)
Samarthia Thankappan (University of York)
Pongtip Thiengburanathum (Chiang Mai University)
Poon Thiengburanathum (Chiang Mai University)
Paper short abstract:
Taking an actor-oriented approach to social-ecological systems, we paper explores the ways in which marginalised Thai farmers involved in the production of animal feed corn are incorporated as both producers and consumers in global food systems that are the creations of powerful agribusiness.
Paper long abstract:
This paper takes the perspective of farming households as the starting point for analysing increasingly complex food systems. Focusing on the case study of animal feed corner farmers in Mae Chaem district in Thailand, we explore the ways in which marginalised farmers are incorporated as both producers and consumers in global food systems that are the creations of powerful agribusiness. Animal feed corn production has been promoted to support the growing poultry and pork industry in Thailand, that reaches both national and international markets. It is an industry that is itself based on a food systems approach, with a business plan that links all stages of production, processing, distribution and retail. Our analysis draws on both food systems and agrarian change theory. The actor perspective provides important insight into the internal dynamics of multi-scale, complex social ecological systems. While such farming households maintain a degree of agency, they have limited influence in the decisions of agricultural production and marketing. Such analysis is consistent with agrarian change literature, but also illustrates how engagement in food systems creates farmers as consumers of the same systems to which they contribute as producers. Despite avoiding consumption of what they produce, ultimately the way in which their own production is incorporated into global food systems means that they are bound as consumers to these very systems.
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