This project examines how farmers and transnational retailers in South India are creating meaning and effecting environmental change through certified organic agriculture. Certified organic agriculture has emerged as a solution to ecological degradation, sustainable environmental development, and agrarian crisis in South India. However, farmers’ management knowledge, rural communities’ potential for economic growth, and local environmental impact varies considerably between crops and regions. While consumers considering a certified organic product may gloss over differences in agricultural goods or branding, the daily experience of organic farming in different regions, illustrated in this project by Telangana cotton farmers and Andhra Pradesh coffee growers, varies considerably across education, infrastructure, state governance, and climate. By conducting field research with farmers, NGOs, and retailers, this project will examine how organic commodity chains create new development subjects, introduce creative possibilities for farmer agency, interact with state regulators, and ultimately create new possibilities for environmental management. This project also provides one of the first case studies in marketing and regulatory variability between alternative agriculture projects in these newly bifurcated states. Despite differences in crops, climate, infrastructure, and governance, organic agriculture in both contexts can be a means for reduced agrochemical input, biodiversity conservation, improved livelihoods, and economic development. Emphasizing the tensions between international regulations, local commodity networks, and the active role of farmers shaping development programs in their own interests, this research will be of interest to policy-makers and consumers grappling with the transformative potential of alternative agriculture. This project is funded by the American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Fellowship.
Publications related to this project:
Flachs, Andrew and Sreenu Panuganti. 2019. “Organic Aspirations in South India.” Economic Anthropology. Published online July 2, 2019.