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Title: The impact of staple crop value chain participation on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Nigeria and Malawi : changes in poverty, gender relations, and food security
Author: Forsythe, Lora
ISNI:       0000 0004 7963 390X
Awarding Body: University of Greenwich
Current Institution: University of Greenwich
Date of Award: 2017
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In markets across sub-Saharan Africa, the tropical root, cassava, can be seen in abundance. It is boiled, pounded, fried, and sold fresh and processed in its various forms, often by women. Contemporary development narratives have identified smallholder agriculture - involving staple crops such as cassava - as the crux of the challenge to reduce poverty, boost economic growth and ensure food security across the region. These narratives promote smallholder market participation, through staple crop commercialisation, as the pathway to change. However, such narratives also reflect a neoliberal approach that tends to underestimate the importance of individual choice, social norms, and inequalities. Little is known about how smallholders, particularly women, are involved in commercialisation involving staple crops and the resulting livelihood outcomes. This research addresses this gap in knowledge, focussing specifically on cassava commercialisation in Malawi and Nigeria. Drawing on a livelihoods approach that is adapted to include decision-making, gender and markets, the research partially supports the claim in development narratives, that smallholders who commercialise often acquire more income, and that the income is spent on food, education, healthcare and small assets that contribute to household resilience. However, the transformative power of cassava commercialisation to reduce poverty is limited due to market and supply-related challenges, linked to the uncertain economic and environmental context. Smallholder strategies and value chain participation are influenced by gender and social norms, and can result in different outcomes for different people. In addition, certain commercialisation strategies and value chains can pose greater risks for food insecure smallholders, despite their benefits for the many. From a gender perspective, there are different opportunities for men and women. Some markets, particularly those involving community-level cassava processing, provide space where women can benefit. However, constraints on women's agency, the social conditionality of assets and the responsibilities of household care and food security, limit women's ability to respond to new market opportunities and participate in more formal cassava value chains. The subject of the thesis is a contemporary topic with important implications for international development thinking and practice, specifically whether agricultural commercialisation can work for the poor. This research takes its place among the challengers, to question the validity of assumptions and the rationale of the current development paradigm.
Supervisor: Martin, Adrienne ; Westby, Andrew ; Posthumus, Helena Sponsor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ; European Commission
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: S Agriculture (General) ; SB Plant culture