Organic Farming is Coming to Our Valley : The Development of Pumi Eco-Agriculture and the Indigenisation of Modernity in Sino-Myanmar Borderlands
Sammanfattning: How do indigenous people perceive and practice eco-agriculture, especially when it was introduced as a development project? This thesis aims to delve into this question by focusing on a policy-induced agrarian transition for Pumi community in Sino-Myanmar borderlands. Using ethnographic methods, I intend to offer an intimate account of a provincial programme to facilitate eco-agriculture in this ethnic region. With the conceptual framework presented, the current research starts with the introduction of Pumi agricultural history and indigenous farming knowledge, with a focus on Pumi biocultural heritage. Then, I will examine how the process of ‘indigenisation of modernity’ (Sahlins 2000) has occurred against the backdrop of Pumi eco-agriculture programme. The insights will be distilled from three different aspects, which are agricultural land use, technical practices, and governance issues. For each aspect, I will scrutinise to what degree the government is following an industrial model to design the eco-agriculture agenda which corresponds to the ‘conventionalisation hypothesis’ of organic production (Buck 1997) and is thus in alignment with their long-term strategic goals to ‘modernise’ this borderland region through agricultural transformations, whereas the local Pumi farmers are actively coping with the government’s external interventions, meanwhile searching for the ‘alternative pathway’ towards agricultural modernisation. In the final chapter, I will interpret the motives of the both actors in the programme. For the government, the post-development theory will be employed to provide a critique of the ‘development discourse’ embedded in the agenda. For local farmers, the concept of ‘environmentality’ (Agrawal 2005) will be focused to interpret the Pumi farmers’ motives to indigenise, which ultimately questioning the transforming powers of modernity and globalisation on Pumi agrarian society. Basically, this thesis aims to trace the socio-political processes which drive the ‘agrarian transition’ in a Southeast Asian frontier, and further demonstrate how the resource abundance in the borderlands can underpin intense processes of commodification and dispossession (Nevins and Peluso 2008; Ishikawa 2010; see also Milne and Mahanty, 2015), the implications of which crystallised in an ethnographic context. To a larger extent, this research aims to shed lights on the interactions between social structure and individual agency ― although the Pumi farmers are struggling to survive with the adaptation to modern inputs, they are still marginalised by the structured inequality of the market economy, which limited the farmers’ opportunities to improve their own livelihoods. Furthermore, this research also has significant policy implications as it addresses the issues such as agricultural policy and ethnic relations in the borderland regions. By reflecting upon the overlapping implications of highland livelihoods, agencies, and the transforming powers of social change, the current study aims to build a locally rooted understanding of Pumi eco-agriculture programme, and provide lessons for sustainable planning and future policy-making for rural development in developing countries such as China.
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