Sub-theme 11. Advances in Frameworks and Theory
Value chain coordination and dialogue for sustainable agri-food systems transformation: novel institutional approaches unlocking cooperative potential
In many countries, the extent of externalities attributed to agriculture (contribution to climate change, water pollution, biodiversity loss) goes parallel with the distress of heavily indebted farmers prevented from adopting sustainable agricultural practices in unequal value chains.
Producers’ organizations (e.g. cooperatives) have historically been at the forefront of the institutional practices offering the farmers leverage for collective action and empowerment to overcome different forms of inequalities in value chains. This panel starts from the premise that the transition towards sustainable agricultural practices requires dialogue and coordination with other value chain stakeholders (processors, retailers, and consumers) to meaningfully frame the shift of agricultural practices within socially, economically, and environmentally just value chains.
Against a backdrop of literature overwhelmingly focusing on transaction efficiency, this panel aims at exploring the theoretical approaches encompassing the expansion of the producers’ organizations’ institutional roles and the development of innovative value chain coordination models aiming at supporting this transition. The panel will cover the evolution of cooperative roles as intermediates between farmers and public/private equity funders, interest groups, and related structures of collective action (e.g. consumer cooperatives, processors’ associations), and the resulting adaptations of models of value chain coordination. The panel will explore and question the theoretical and empirical approaches needed to apprehend this expansion of the cooperative roles and models, from micro-level focuses on contracts and relationships to systemic approaches of cooperatives and producers’ organizations as social-ecological systems. The panel calls for papers focusing specifically on the adaptations required in theoretical models to encompass this evolution.
1. Application of Ostrom’s Social-Ecological Systems Framework in South African Fynbos sectors: a case for the missing “E”
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) are two world-renowned exports from the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. Wild-harvesters and small-scale producers depend on good quality biomass to sustain their livelihoods. Unlike introduced crops, these endemic member species of the biodiversity-rich Fynbos are narrowly adapted to the complex ecological conditions of the Mediterranean type ecosystems of the Cape. These include cold winter winters, summer drought and fire as an ecological driver. The aim of this paper is to present an enhanced version of Ostrom’s Social Ecological Systems Framework applicable to local Fynbos sectors in South Africa. A review of literature on the two genera was conducted for the period 1950 – 2020, and compared with the modified version of Vogt et al. (2015). Focusing on the biophysical core subsystems (resource system, RS, and resource unit, RU), 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier variables were mode narrowly defined the two comparable Fynbos sectors. Furthermore, we present findings from interview data (n=32) at a village historically known for honeybush harvesting, but where adoption of the endemic crop has failed. Findings show that, important as they are, biophysical requirements are less critical to successful production than institutional and inter-personal relations. We argue that, true to their ecological underpinnings, sustainability outcomes in the rooibos and honeybush sectors are best ensured with business models that are centred on species ecology, but in which human agency amongst small-scale producers and wild-harvesters is recognized as an essential element.
2. Who(se) Rules? A Typology of Governance Actors and Strategies in Agri-Food Value Chains
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern; Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland
While certification of voluntary sustainability standards remains a main strategy for sustainability of agri-food value chains, various other governance approaches have emerged in recent years. These include inclusive business (such as company-owned responsible sourcing schemes), direct trade practices and a variety of business models with an enshrined societal purpose, joining cooperatives in what is increasingly referred to as the social and solidarity economy.
This growing institutional diversity creates an empirical and theoretical challenge of mapping the range of governance actors and strategies, including the goals, theories of change, and precise instruments they deploy to achieve those goals. Existing typologies of value chain governance remain at a broad level, without disentangling the precise institutional details regarding, e.g., ownership, voice, and the distribution of benefits, risks, and costs. Moreover, expanding the scope of governance actors to producer organizations may not only reveal innovative models of producer-led value chain upgrading and coordination between aligned actors, but also a more diverse range of strategies that go above and beyond currently dominant governance approaches in terms of goals, instruments and theories of change.
This paper addresses this challenge by developing a typology of value chain governance actors and strategies based on the results of an extensive survey of organizations in Peru and Switzerland that are involved in the production, processing, trading, selling, and certification of coffee and cacao and derived products. Where beneficial, it will make use of the institutional analysis and development framework to discuss potential adaptations required in current theoretical approaches value chain governance.
3. Oligopolistic Competition in Common Pool Resources Governance: A case study of Natural Resource Conservation and Utilization in Lashihai Rural Community
Renmin University of China, China
Taking the Lashihai area in Yunnan Province as an example, this paper answers the following questions related to polycentric common-systems management problems in rural areas: Under what circumstances should rural communities govern common pool resources? Furthermore, when should the local government intervene? How should the local government choose between quantity and price policies in managing common pool resources? To answer these questions, we first document the transformation process of local common pool resources management patterns from purely self-governance by the rural community to government-involved joint governance based on qualitative interview data. We then distinguish the specific circumstances for which each of these two management patterns should be applied and compare the relative efficacies of the government’s quantity and price policies according to the degree of product differentiation and local environmental constraints using the oligopolistic competition model. A numerical simulation is adopted to justify our findings.
We find that in rural areas, a joint governance pattern of common pool resources with nested management systems including community and government should be recommended, and the government’s policy choices should take different characteristics of economic activities, especially the degree of product differentiation and local environmental constraints into consideration, thus overcoming the tragedy of the commons in rural natural resources utilization dilemmas and achieving a win-win situation between environmental conservation and economic development.
4. Community-Supported Agriculture and its importance for social cohesion and environmental attitudes
Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
Agriculture takes on not only agrarian but also social and ecological responsibilities, and small farms are said to have a special relationship with the surrounding community and towards the environment. The Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) envisions a community of individuals who support a farm and participate in food production. Community members share the risks, investment costs, and responsibilities associated with managing the farm, and participate in non-industrial farming often out of special care for the environment. Scientific debate on the outward social and environmental impacts of CSA farms has been limited. This contribution addresses the question whether and to what extent newer forms of CSA – CSA cooperatives – as investigated here in the examples from Germany show the potential to strengthen social cohesion and promote stronger environmental attitudes. Developing theoretical foundations of social cohesion, linking this with the environmental attitudes literature, and using a comparative and qualitative content analysis, a radiating power of social effects from CSA to the outside of operations (n=4, test group; n=10, three control groups) and structural features of the CSA cooperative indicating a promotion of social cohesion and stronger environmental attitudes were investigated. The results showed that CSA enterprises had a stronger outward social impact than enterprises of other forms and that the form of the CSA cooperative had structural characteristics that promote sustainable livelihoods by strengthening social cohesion and perceptions of the environment. The results of this work confirm that CSA communities will play an increasingly important role in broader social and environmental debates in the future.
5. Mobilization of Ostrom’s IAD and SES models to capture the complexity of agri-food cooperatives’ strategic decision-making: insights from a case study of Walloon dairy cooperatives
Rotterdam School of Management, The Netherlands
This presentation will outline the content of two recent papers, respectively published in 2022 and 2023. In these papers, Ostrom’s IAD and SES models have been used to understand the interplay between dairy cooperatives’ internal dynamics and their trajectories. Both papers are the outcome of a historical investigation based on archival material and oral sources, conducted over the timespan from 1945 till present-day. The first paper focuses on cooperatives’ internal dynamics and on inter-cooperative collaboration dynamics, seen from a social-ecological perspective. The paper resorts to a combination between the IAD and the SES frameworks to discuss how the interplay between the components of the cooperatives’ social-ecological system unfolded in the trajectories of the Walloon dairy cooperatives over the last sixty years. This combination allowed to uncover social dilemma at play, which constituted a structural driver of the competition between dairy cooperatives and the subsequent inability to cooperate and invest towards successful long-term diversification pathways. The paper discusses how contextual factors, in particular market features, regulatory frameworks, socio-political features, and institutional support to dialogue, may aggravate, or conversely mitigate the effect of these social dilemma on cooperatives’ trajectories. The second paper considers cooperatives in terms of model, that is in terms of value chain organisation. The paper draws on coordination models encountered in the trajectories of consolidation of the Walloon dairy cooperatives over the last sixty years. A SWOT analysis based on historical accounts outlines the strengths and weaknesses of cooperative models on several dimensions underpinning their long-term strategic relevance: their cost-efficiency and strategic efficiency in a given market and institutional context, their impact on commitment. The paper discusses the interplay of cooperative models and contextual factors, from social capital to regulatory frameworks, in the agri-food sector and beyond. The paper identifies cost-efficiency and strategic efficiency as outcomes emerging at the crossover of multiple dimensions. Ostrom’ Institutional Analysis and Development framework (IAD) framework illustrates the contextual anchoring of these outcomes. The framework defines avenues of collective mobilization and research to manage cooperative models in sustainable value chain development. Both papers, by considering cooperatives as common pool assets and mobilizing Ostrom’s frameworks as analytical lenses, stress the relevance of considering cooperatives as complex and contextualized systems of collective agency to better understand their past and future trajectories.