«Stories of a rural African working class»: the case of smallholder vanilla farmers in Northeastern Madagascar
S. Annette Witherspoon (Georg-August-University of Göttingen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper tells a story of a rural working class: smallholder vanilla farmers in Northeastern Madagascar. It provides a situated gaze into their everyday experiences as they navigate the push toward global markets and their encapsulation by everyday realities to make the market work for them.
Paper long abstract:
Social Change imposed by globalization through increased interlinks of spaces, people, ideas and goods are a common feature of modern societies. However, power remains a central element of these processes, dictating who participates, how, when, and how benefits are distributed. Using Madagascar's vanilla value chain as a case, soaring vanilla prices and the recent introduction of vertical market integration characterized by buyer-organized farmer's organizations are transforming producer's lives and their communities. This research explores, with the use of grounded theory, the past and present socio-political processes and ambivalent role of farmer's organizations in the vanilla value chain. I ask: why are farmer self-organized farmer organizations rare in the region, despite the long history of vanilla production as an export cash crop; and how does the recent push by farmers for direct links to importers (foreign buyers) and the emergence of enterprise-organized farmer's organizations influencing farmer's position in the value chain? The paper provides a situated gaze into the everyday experiences of smallholder vanilla farmers as they navigate the push toward global markets and their encapsulation by everyday realities to make the market work for them. The paper situates farmers as workers, but most importantly as active participants of the change process, with diverse, interest and capabilities.
- Social Anthropology