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Title: Agency, decision-making and the political ecology of small-scale agriculture in Barbados
Author: Toole, S. T.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2000
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Small-scale agriculture in the developing world faces an uncertain future at the turn of the century from the dual pressures of globalisation and global environmental change. This thesis focuses on the small island economy of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean, where these pressures have played an important historical influence in shaping the current nature of small farming. This thesis has two aims: (i) to provide an explanation for changes within the island's small-scale economy; and (ii) to improve the theoretical approach of political ecology as a means by which to examine the nature of conflict and change. This thesis has sought to carry out these aims by examining the decision-making processes of farmers within the framework of socio-economic, political and environmental influences, placing particular emphasis on the importance of farmers' agency (and the way in which this varies between different farmer types). These results are based on analysis of in-depth interviews conducted with 109 small farmers across the island. Secondary data are analysed to examine the broader structural context: (i) changes within agriculture (including policies and markets) since the 1960's and (ii) the nature of environmental influences (including climate and land degradation). Results from this thesis have identified six main different types of farmer, each of which closely relate to variations in farm and farmer characteristics, farmers' perceptions of external structures, and the role of their own agency. The thesis concludes that, since the early 1990's, Barbados has witnessed the emergence of a new group of more commercial small farmers working on a larger scale (10+ acres) and with greater agency. These farmers have competed with the more traditional small farmers and, hence, the disparity between farmers has widened. A large proportion of the new 'commercial small farmers' are white Barbadians, forced from former employment within the sugar industry by the effects of global processes (falling sugar prices and restructuring in the sugar industry). Access to resources within the 'white economy' has meant that these individuals have been able to start working on a larger scale. Results conclude that the Barbados government needs to make all small farms more competitive to deal with the effects of trade liberalisation, and to ensure that the disparity does not widen. The thesis also concludes that re-emphasising the role of agency within political ecology allows a more detailed exploration of the nature of power relations between individuals within a specific group of actors (i.e. small farmers in this example) from within the framework of external socio-economic, political and environmental structures operating at a variety of scales.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available