The University of Arizona

Group compositions: the politics of technology implemented in smallholder farming

Harro Maat

Abstract


This article investigates the connection between performance, group, and society. The argument is that group formation around particular farm operations and the details of the activities they engage in are an expression of the preferred way of technology implementation. The argument is developed using Paul Richards' notion of agriculture as performance. Two cases are presented. The first is the composition of a spraying team for weed control in smallholder oil palm production in Sumatra, connected to a global agreement on sustainable oil palm production, known as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The second case is about a team of women transplanting young rice seedlings on prepared paddy fields in a village in Uttarakhand, India. A new way of rice transplanting was introduced by a local non-governmental organization, known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). The analysis shows that group performances provide essential information about how introduced plans, regulations and material designs are reworked and turned into meaningful and effective changes to agricultural practices. The article concludes that these activities are not merely technical adjustments but in themselves express arguments about the preferred way of organising farming, farm labor, and payments. Performing groups thus exert a form of bargaining power against development actors.

Keywords: Group performance, smallholder farming, technology transfer, political acts


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v25i1.22389