Peasants, Food and Agrarian Change
with Dr. Haroon Akram-Lodhi
More than 3.4 billion people live in the countryside of developing countries. The vast majority of these women and men rely, to a lesser or great extent, on small-scale farming as the basis of their livelihood. By some counts 70 per cent of the world's food is grown by small-scale peasant farmers – but at the same time some 70 per cent of the world's poor live in the world's rural areas. So the world's food is grown by the world's poorest people. If global citizens want to address human inequality we have to start by understanding how the world's largely ignored peasant farmers have become the epicenter of global poverty. After all, if we want the world to become a better place a good place to start would be among the lives of the world's forgotten peoples that provide the bulk of humanity with their food.
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Historically, peasants have lived in communities with unique mechanisms of redistribution. These mechanisms have broken down as peasants have become exposed to modern economic processes.

If we want to understand the role played by peasants in the emergence of modern economies, we have to understand what might be meant by economic development.

The basis by which peasants live, work and care is the household. Within peasant households divisions of labour between women and men and girls and boys are clearly seen.

The first investigations of how peasant households allocated their resources within themselves was by the Russian A.V. Chaynov, who remains influential to this day.

The different use of time by women and men in households is the result of implicit and explicit negotiations between them that is called ‘bargaining’.

Peasant surplus production of some alongside deficit accumulation of many results in the emergence of distinct groups of peasants with different objectives and behaviours.

The distinctions between groups of peasants can be understood by focusing upon three areas of empirical investigation and analysis.

Across three contemporary rural ‘worlds’ five livelihood strategies can be witnessed among contemporary peasants. Only one offers them a future in farming.

The technical components of the Green Revolution are discussed, and their capacity to be adopted by small-scale peasant farmers evaluated.

How the introduction of genetically modified organisms has produced biological reactions within nature that undermine any benefits from genetically modified organisms.

What kinds of interventions were undertaken by governments between the 1950s and 1980s to create rural financial systems in developing countries?

How small-scale peasant farmers have used and continue to use the ‘weapons of the weak’ to continually if quietly challenge the more powerful.

The origins, objectives and accomplishments of the world’s largest social movement, the global peasant organization La Via Campesina.