Team: Sarah Osterhoudt (lead), Kurt Waldman, Stacey Giroux, Julia Valliant, New Faculty Lines, Research Scientists, and Post Doctoral Scholars.
Importance of Site: The island of Madagascar offers a case study of ways smallholder farmers in economically poor regions establish and maintain diversified agricultural systems containing subsistence and global commodity crops, including agroforestry and permaculture approaches to food production that integrate crops, and a traceable food system across levels of production, distribution, and consumption of select global commodities, including coffee, cloves, and vanilla.
Site Description: In one of the most environmentally diverse landscapes in the world, farmers cultivate food crops of rice, tubers, and fruit trees alongside clove, vanilla and coffee crops. Many of the farmers have owned their fields for over nine generations, and often self-organize into community-based farmer organizations. These farmer associations and cooperatives are often well-organized, and some are pursuing certification strategies. Currently, and historically, these communities have faced significant uncertainty and change including volatile markets, destructive cyclones, political unrest, and cultural change (Osterhoudt 2017).
Data Collection Approach/Methods: This research takes a mixed methods approach, drawing from long-term economic botany field surveys of agroforestry fields; interviews; oral histories on land use; structured surveys; community mapping; and participant observation. Analytical frameworks will include those from ecological sciences, cultural anthropology, ethno-history, and the SES framework. Initial phases of the research will re-survey existing agro-ecological fields; establish additional agro-ecological plots; and collect farmer interviews and other ethnographic data. Ensuing phases of research will trace commodity relationships in commodity crops from these sites of production through stages of aggregation, trade, and consumption. Methods include participant observation with farmers and traders, split over multiple field sessions; semi-structured interviews with Malagasy producers; interviews with commodity traders; and agroforestry field inventories.