The Role of Businesses in Empowering Farming Communities through Non-Monetary Transactions. the Case of Organic Wayanad, India

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Maria TOURI, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
The paper engages with the role that small private enterprises can play in the development of marginalised communities in the Global South, through the less visible non-monetary relations that underpin market transactions. The role of businesses in development has been studied primarily in relation to broader global development initiatives to include the world’s poorer communities into global markets, as well as in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Such projects tend to focus heavily on the development of innovative products and on income generation, while often their impact is assessed ‘in terms of the instrumental value to business rather than to the poor and marginalised’ (Blowfield and Dolan 2014: 35). Moreover, the non-monetary input of businesses remains obscured; yet, it is this non-monetary role that presents a valuable opportunity to explore the different ways in which businesses can contribute to development. First, and drawing on the work of feminist scholars Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham, I propose that understanding the development efficacy of businesses can benefit from recognition of the social relations that underpin market transactions and create possibilities for non-capitalist development. Second, I explore these relations through the case study of a community of Fairtrade, organic farmers in South India – the Organic Wayanad – and their foreign buyers, a group of small private enterprises. This is an ongoing study and the data presented in this paper has been collected through two rounds of focus groups and individual interviews with farmers and officials from Organic Wayanad in 2014 and 2016. These were combined with in-depth interviews with six buyers in Europe and North America. The findings demonstrate some of the less visible communicative practices that connect farmers with the buyers and can empower farming communities in subtle yet significant ways.