Publicaties

Governance of global organic agro-food networks from Africa

Glin, L.C.

Samenvatting

The increasing global concerns with regard to agro-food risks and the subsequent consumerist turn in the global food economy challenges the conventional chemical-intensive agricultural production. In fact, the post-war dominant agro-industrial development fostered the intensive use of chemical inputs, corporate concentration, and standardization of products for mass consumption (Goodman et al. 1987; Raynolds et al. 2007). This prompted a rapid agricultural development, which contributed to overall growth, reducing poverty and food insecurity (Koning and Mol, 2009). Despite the success so far achieved, this Fordist regime generated several externalities on natural ecosystems and human and animal health. In addition, the further modernization of production techniques (for instance the genetically modified organisms) combined with globalization processes extended the scope and character of agro-food risks, which became global and cross-border. The global organization of the food system crystallized the ‘globalization’ of food related risks through the growing time and distance compression and the subsequent intensification of commodity flows and exchanges globally. Thus, to be effectively handled, these risks must be addressed from a global perspective; hence within supra nation-state institutions. In parallel, the concerns about the impacts of chemical use in agriculture also expanded over time to include others, such as animal welfare, food safety, energy use, landscape, biodiversity and climate change (Oosterveer and Sonnenfeld, 2012). However, state-led international regimes (WTO and environmental regimes) failed to adequately address modern agro-food related risks, particularly sustainability issues (including environmental, social, ethical, and animal welfare). However, globalization processes also facilitated networking processes and alliance and coalition buildings between various stakeholders within and across regions, aiming for sustainable food provision; hence the double phenomenon of ‘globalization of agro-food risks’ and the ‘reflexive globalization of alternative agro-food’. Thus, several non-state regimes, i.e. market- and civil society-led mechanisms emerged around standards and labeling schemes to respond to these issues while restructuring agro-food production and trade towards more sustainability and rebuilding consumer trust in food. Organic agro-food production and trade is of particular importance among these non-state regimes as this constitutes a major innovation towards the greening of the (global) agro-food economy and the fastest growing food sector worldwide with around 170% increase from 2002 to 2011 (Sahota, 2013).

In Africa, organic agriculture emerged as response to the environmental and health burden of conventional farming techniques and the growing demand for organic products from the North as a result of the emergence of new consumption patterns. Owing to globalization, agricultural products flows and exchanges between Africa and the other regions of the globe, particularly the Europe Union, have been intensified. The Europe Union is a major destination of most agricultural product exports from Africa. Thus, more demand in sustainable agro-foods in global and EU markets affects agricultural production systems in Africa towards more sustainability. In all, given the particular importance of agricultural exports for national and household economies, the fragility of natural resources and the vulnerability of livelihoods Africa is witnessing the double phenomenon of ‘globalization of agro-food risks’ and the ‘reflexive globalization of alternative agro-food’. In this respect, it may be expected

that the introduction of organic agriculture in Africa could help address the pressing challenges of income generation for smallholder farmers, poverty alleviation, and resilience of production systems and natural resources (land, water, forests, etc.).

Broadly, this thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the governance arrangements of transnational organic commodity networks from Africa to inform policy makers, development organizations, civil society and business actors as well as scientists and academia about the underlying rationalities and processes, the challenges and prospects of organic agriculture in the continent. More specifically, this research aims to understand the governing (f)actors, i.e. rationalities and processes that steered the development of organic commodity networks from Africa and to highlight whether and how these processes transform civil society-business-state relationships. In this respect, the following research questions are addressed: (1) how did different rationalities and stakeholders initiate and co-structure the development and further transformation of organic commodity networks from Africa across time and space? (2) how is trust (re)created to establish and mediate relationships between the different stakeholders and material substances involved in the production, processing and marketing nodes across the organic commodity networks? (3) how and to what extent have governance arrangements within the organic commodity networks subsequently reshaped civil society-business-state relationships?

For this purpose we adopted a qualitative and holistic methodology by employing the (global) commodity network perspective (See Chapter 2). The commodity network approach is rooted in the (global) commodity chain tradition of investigation and analysis of the links between production, processing, and distribution of commodities. The commodity network perspective aims to provide a more holistic analysis of actors, institutions, and their interrelations. Governance in this lens refers to how social and political as well as economic actors ideologically and materially construct, maintain, transform, and sustain commodity networks (Raynolds, 2004). Purposively, three cases are selected and investigated in this thesis: the organic cotton from Benin, the organic cocoa from Ghana, and the organic sesame from Burkina-Faso.

Prior to these case studies, Chapter 3 provides an overview of organic agriculture in Africa. The trends in certified organic production as well as the history and development of organic agriculture in the continent are presented. The organic sector in Africa is relatively young and dynamic with some nuances and differentiations across sub-regions in terms of orientation, driving forces and leading stakeholders. Overall, the organic sector in Africa relies mainly on NGO networks, private stakeholders and development funds while government support is lacking. However, there are some recent experiences of engagement from state agencies, mostly through public-private partnerships and other hybrid arrangements. Chapter 3 also presents some features of trade and regulation of organic commodities in Africa and highlights the major challenges that face the development of organic agriculture on the continent.

Chapter 4 addresses the case of the organic cotton network from Benin by responding specifically to the question how the organic cotton production–consumption network is governed locally and internationally. The findings reveal that beyond the traditional producer versus buyer dualism, intermediate stakeholders, namely transnational and local environmental NGO networks, are instrumental in the construction, maintenance and transformation of the organic cotton network. It is also apparent that farmers’ leaders play an important role in mediating and (re)building trust among organic farmers, though they exert insufficient vertical power in the organic cotton network to control it. International conferences and events provided important occasions for establishing linkages between organic cotton promoters and businesses, and they strengthened the organic movement. The findings favour widening the concept of Global Value Chain beyond economics by acknowledging and including environmental rationalities and the representatives of their interests, not as external elements, but rather as co-governing or co-structuring factors (or actors) of sustainable value chains.

Chapter 5 presents the case study on the organic cocoa network from Ghana and addresses particularly the question how the state responded to and engaged with civil society actors in the evolving organic cocoa network and to what extent state involvement reshaped state-business-civil society relationships. While most of the literature argues that globalization and liberalization processes weakened the state’s position as key player in the development and management of agro-food networks, the case of the (organic) cocoa sector in Ghana is often depicted as an exception because of the strong position the state still occupies in it. The chapter demonstrates that although the state is still a major player in the contemporary (organic) cocoa network some hybrid governance arrangements, involving state, transnational and national NGO-networks, and businesses, are emerging. It came out that the tendency toward sustainability in the global cocoa industry with its increased attention for transversal critical matters (eradication of child labor, health safety, good farming practices) offers a fertile ground for newcomers (civil society and business actors) and the hybridization of the governance arrangements of the organic cocoa network. The organic cocoa network also prompted a double process of ‘dis- and re-embedding’ at the local level that helped shape and strengthen the organic cocoa network.

Chapter 6 addresses the case study on the organic sesame network from Burkina Faso. Specifically, this chapter examines the structure and development of this network to explain the declining trend in organic sesame export and addresses the question whether the organic sesame network is structurally (re)shaped as a conventional mainstream market or whether it still presents a real alternative to conventional sesame production and trade. For this purpose, the chapter elaborates on the concept of conventionalization of ‘alternative’ food economies from governance perspective. It is found that over the last decade organic sesame is increasingly incorporated into mainstream market channels. But contrary to the well-known case of conventionalization in California, where organic agriculture grew into mainstream agro-food arrangements, this study illustrates a case where organic sesame agriculture shrank into mainstream agro-food arrangements. In fact, the organic sesame trading system is strongly affected by fierce price competition and volatility in the conventional sesame sector and the free market behavior of conventional sesame traders. This makes the organic sesame network vulnerable and permeable to the international commercial pressure from the mainstream conventional sesame market. The weak coherence in the organic sesame chain resulted in failures to vertically mediate information, balance power relationships in and across sesame chains, build trust, and limit price volatility and speculation, resulting in a shrinking organic sesame market. For developing a viable alternative to conventional sesame trading, relations between production and trading nodes in the organic networks need to be strengthened through public-private partnerships, combined with other public and legal reinforcement.

Chapter 7 elaborates on the major findings from the case studies to draw conclusions on the governing (f)actors, i.e. the rationalities and processes that steer the initiation, development and further transformation of the organic commodity networks from Africa. By doing so, this chapter also responds to the research questions of the thesis. From the empirical findings, it came out that various rationalities, stakeholders, processes, values and practices from different spheres (political, environmental, social, and economic) interfere to co-structure and shape the development and life of the commodity network. Several networking processes, different in their scope and importance, are instrumental in the construction, (re)shaping, and (re)configuration of the organic commodity networks. These networking processes include: (1) mobilization of personal social networks and interpersonal social ties; (2) mediation of material and natural resources; (3) market networking and relations and (4) transnational events and gatherings. However, this does not suggest that the governance arrangements and dynamics are linear or similar across the three cases. In fact, it stands out that the degree and relative engagement of each category of stakeholders and rationality evolved over time and differs from one case to another. As Coe et al. (2008: 271) argue unraveling the complexities of the global economy, with its fundamental geographical unevenness and huge inequalities, poses immense conceptual and empirical difficulties. The commodity network perspective applied in this thesis helped to conceptualize and capture the diverse, fluid, and dynamic processes involved in the governance of organic commodities from Africa. The research methodology based on a multi-case study and a qualitative approach unraveled the multifaceted factors, rationalities, processes, and realities of the governance arrangements and dynamics of the organic commodity networks from Africa.

Trust appears to be a major determinant of connectivity and networking among individuals, organizations, places, and material objects involved in the organic commodity networks from local to global level and vice versa. Three trust building mechanisms are identified including trust in persons, trust in organizations/institutions, and trust in things. In organic commodity networks practices these forms of trust often intermingle. However, this trust is sometimes challenged because of opportunism, information and power asymmetry, and suspicion between producer groups and traders, potentially resulting in severe consequences for the success of organic commodity networks. In this case, a mediation process (often led by farmer leaders or a third-party, in general a development organization) may be necessary to rebuild trust and reconnect the ties between these categories. Otherwise, this situation may ultimately lead to mistrust and distrust in, and put at risk the viability of the organic commodity network.

It also appears that the governance of organic commodity networks opened up the way for (further) collaboration and partnerships between civil society organizations, private enterprises and public agencies. In fact, throughout the processes of initiation, development and further transformation of the organic commodity networks the relationships between the three key players (State, Businesses, and CSOs) have been reshaped as result of ongoing across sesame chains, build trust, and limit price volatility and speculation, resulting in a shrinking organic sesame market. For developing a viable alternative to conventional sesame trading, relations between production and trading nodes in the organic networks need to be strengthened through public-private partnerships, combined with other public and legal reinforcement.

Chapter 7 elaborates on the major findings from the case studies to draw conclusions on the governing (f)actors, i.e. the rationalities and processes that steer the initiation, development and further transformation of the organic commodity networks from Africa. By doing so, this chapter also responds to the research questions of the thesis. From the empirical findings, it came out that various rationalities, stakeholders, processes, values and practices from different spheres (political, environmental, social, and economic) interfere to co-structure and shape the development and life of the commodity network. Several networking processes, different in their scope and importance, are instrumental in the construction, (re)shaping, and (re)configuration of the organic commodity networks. These networking processes include: (1) mobilization of personal social networks and interpersonal social ties; (2) mediation of material and natural resources; (3) market networking and relations and (4) transnational events and gatherings. However, this does not suggest that the governance arrangements and dynamics are linear or similar across the three cases. In fact, it stands out that the degree and relative engagement of each category of stakeholders and rationality evolved over time and differs from one case to another. As Coe et al. (2008: 271) argue unraveling the complexities of the global economy, with its fundamental geographical unevenness and huge inequalities, poses immense conceptual and empirical difficulties. The commodity network perspective applied in this thesis helped to conceptualize and capture the diverse, fluid, and dynamic processes involved in the governance of organic commodities from Africa. The research methodology based on a multi-case study and a qualitative approach unraveled the multifaceted factors, rationalities, processes, and realities of the governance arrangements and dynamics of the organic commodity networks from Africa.

Trust appears to be a major determinant of connectivity and networking among individuals, organizations, places, and material objects involved in the organic commodity networks from local to global level and vice versa. Three trust building mechanisms are identified including trust in persons, trust in organizations/institutions, and trust in things. In organic commodity networks practices these forms of trust often intermingle. However, this trust is sometimes challenged because of opportunism, information and power asymmetry, and suspicion between producer groups and traders, potentially resulting in severe consequences for the success of organic commodity networks. In this case, a mediation process (often led by farmer leaders or a third-party, in general a development organization) may be necessary to rebuild trust and reconnect the ties between these categories. Otherwise, this situation may ultimately lead to mistrust and distrust in, and put at risk the viability of the organic commodity network.

It also appears that the governance of organic commodity networks opened up the way for (further) collaboration and partnerships between civil society organizations, private enterprises and public agencies. In fact, throughout the processes of initiation, development and further transformation of the organic commodity networks the relationships between the three key players (State, Businesses, and CSOs) have been reshaped as result of ongoing .