Working Papers

Troubling Tradition, Community, and Self-Reliance: Reframing Expectations for Village Seed Banks

  • Troubling Tradition, Community, and Self-Reliance Reframing

Heralded by both food sovereignty activists and mainstream development practitioners, village seed banks are a rural development phenomenon rapidly gaining attention for their potential to support resilient agricultural systems. This paper presents a case study for examining the power of prevailing narratives to shape and ultimately constrain the operations of village seed banks in Telangana, India. The case demonstrates how visions of tradition, community and self-reliance can serve to discount the materiality of seeds, the social complexity of village institutions, and even the voices of farmers. The goal of this research is not to criticize village seed banks, as they hold great potential, nor to vilify the narratives in question, but rather to encourage critical reflection on how the assumptions embedded in these narratives shape mechanisms for agricultural development. This research argues for a shift away from framing tradition,community and self-reliance as development solutions and propose an interrogative approach that turns these narratives into questions for engaging more effectively with rural livelihoods.

Radicalizing the Co-opted Cracks of Light in a Structural Critique of Development

  • Radicalizing the Co-opted? Cracks of Light in a Structural

In this paper I lay out a brief overview of the salient critiques of participatory development, followed by a description of the communitymedia program that gave me the opportunity me to be a part of some of its daily activities over a period of eight weeks in 2015. It presents a necessarily brief overview of the origins of participatory filmmaking and some preliminary connections with the form this kind of filmmaking has taken in contemporary India. I refer to conversations I had with co-founders, co-directors and employees of the organization to elicit social and historical connections with a strain of filmmaking particular to the participatory process, complicit in propagandist, anthropological and development activities through the course of a century. These conversations are at the heart of the paper, various strands of which I will situate in literature, broadly conceived, from media studies, documentary studies and development studies.

The Role of Millets in Climate Risk Reduction: Evidence from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh

  • The Role of Millets in Climate Risk Reduction Evidance from

Amidst growing concerns about the threats posed by climate change for rural livelihoods, policy makers have given increasing attention to the need for more climate secure agriculture. This paper explores the challenges and opportunities of encouraging the cultivation of millets, a class of coarse grain cereals that are both water efficient and drought resistant that are prominent in rainfed regions of the developing world. Based on a qualitative study in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, India, we explore how millets factor into households’ production strategies and their role as a risk response strategy. Millets, we found, play an important role in mitigating households’ exposure to climate risk, both by diversifying production portfolios and as a contingency crop to confront delayed rains at planting time. Nonetheless, there remain important limitations in the viability of millets due to their low income generating capacity. To have a more significant impact on welfare and sustainability, policy needs to address the structural conditions of vulnerability that limit the viability of more secure livelihoods. We explore some of the ways that state intervention can make millets more viable by enhancing their terms of marketability and providing other kinds of support.

Small Farm Specialisation and Risk in Indian Agriculture

  • Small Farm Specialization and Risk in Indian Agriculture

This paper highlights three important issues that aggravate the problems of small holder agriculture and their financial risks in India. These are allocation of land towards non-food commodity crops, sources of finance and indebtedness, and labour market and employment pattern. Fragmentation of land holdings reaches to a point where small holder agriculture leads way towards specialization and resource allocation towards capital intensive non-food commodity crops. Resource poor farm households with less than 1 hectares of land allocate more than 3/4th of their land to single crops like cotton and soybean. Dominance of a single commodity crops exposes small holder farm households to greater farm financial risk beyond their capacity and increase their food security concern. These farms acquire more than 60% of their credit needs from non-institutional finance sources. In addition, for more than 50% of these farming households, wages and labour is the major source of income and employment. Poor access to institutional finances and inadequate non-farm employment opportunities and income sources limit their capacity to withstand risks leading to indebtedness. Therefore, it is critical that the access to institutional credit and promotion of rural non-farm employment opportunities are improved to relieve farmers from indebtedness and distress. Further, development and promotion of low cost sustainable technologies is imperative to reinvigorate and revitalize small holder agriculture.