Accepted Paper:

Capitalist efforts and shifting cultivators' intimate practices in vanilla cultivation in Northeast Madagascar  
Jenni Mölkänen (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores demands in the vanilla industry and shifting cultivators' intensive engagement in their environment and cultivation practices. What is cultivated and how is a multilayered and constantly negotiated topic and understanding power structures does not explain it thoroughly.

Paper long abstract:

Madagascar, one of the world's conservation hot spots, is the world's biggest vanilla producer providing 70-80% of world's vanilla. The most of the Madagascar's vanilla is produced in northeast of the island where cultivation is done by shifting cultivators living in villages near to Marojejy National Park. Colonial government and later Malagasy state together with environmental and developmental organizations have encouraged and regulated cultivation of vanilla to get tax revenues, to be able to act in global economy and to change their ways of natural resource use, especially quitting burning hillside rice fields and to protect the park. Still, today vanilla is cultivated in dual cultivation system: rice providing subsistence and vanilla money, both circulating in villagers' debt systems. Recently arguments of sustainability and vanilla's organic nature have become important in vanilla producing industry. Organic is used as an argument when price is negotiated by cultivators and sustainability adds value for industry's marketing strategies.

Cultivation and producing of vanilla is labour intensive. All work is done manually by the cultivators. Due to and intensive engagement in their environment, shifting cultivators have developed knowledge about landscape, plant's ecology and techniques how to produce vanilla that seeks to correspond quality standards defined by vanilla using industry and their consumers. This paper argues that what is cultivated and how is multilayered and constantly negotiated topic related to intimacies of human life and understanding of power structures do not explain it thoroughly.

Panel P038
Soils, seeds and capitalism: political agronomy and the intimacies of farming