Pro-Poor Development or Elite Capture? Agricultural Modernization, State Policies, and Deepening Social Divides

This session aims to investigate elite capture (Dutta, 2009) as it relates to state policies and international agricultural development. The papers on this panel examine who benefits from government policies promoting agricultural production among rural populations in the global South and address the concern that such policies often favor wealthy and socially advantaged elites. A particular focus will be paid to how agricultural development slated as “pro-poor” often becomes co-opted by privileged groups of actors, doing little to address the root causes of rural poverty. Government intervention in the form of input support, titling of land and resources, or simple services such as extension, are often hailed as the solution to many equity issues in the realm of rural agricultural development (Gaither et al., 2019). This session draws inspiration from the works of (Dutta, 2009), (Gaither et al., 2019), (Luna, 2018), (Bernstein, 2010), and (Scoones, 2015)  as well as field research conducted by the panel organizer during the summer of 2019 in central Ghana. Sitko and Jayne (2014) point out the multiple ways agricultural commercialization has unfolded globally, with particular attention to  the rapid accumulation of land in African countries by “emergent” farmers. As state governments play such a large role in agricultural modernization any policies or actions that favor the wealthy, elite, or otherwise privileged threaten to deepen economic and social divides in agriculturally dependent communities (Luna, 2018). State governments and state development programs can have criterion for what constitutes a “genuine” farmer that is often exclusionary and  aligned with wealth, status, and material capital (Hedrick forthcoming).


We welcome papers that engage with the above themes and address questions such as: what explains the common elite bias of agricultural modernization programs in the global South? Under what conditions do “pro-poor” agricultural development programs actually benefit resource-poor farmers?


Applicants are invited to send paper abstracts of no more than 250 words to no later than November 17, 2019. Selected participants will be notified by November 25, 2019 and must register with DOPE 2020 by December 1st, 2019 in order to participate.


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