Re-patterning water control: Vegetable agro-export chains, water rights and rural livelihoods in the Bajío, Mexico

Project: Staff

Project Details


This research will contribute to a better understanding of how vegetable agro-export chains that supply the demands of Europe and North America change local water distribution and related rural livelihoods in the ‘South’. The research is grounded in Mexico’s leading area of vegetable production and export; namely the state of Guanajuato and will study: a) how the vegetable production and export chains change by whom, how and for what water is used, b) how smallholder families and collectives that depend on irrigation cope with and resist these changes by adapting their livelihoods and production strategies, and c) explore the scope and limitations of initiatives that try to link consumers with producers aiming to promote more socially and environmentally friendly production.

The research has the following objectives:

a) To better understand how, through ‘new’ practices, rulemaking and discourses, local, regional, national and international private and governmental policies and producer certification schemes enable agro-export chains to become important players in local water control.
b) To better understand how irrigation dependent smallholders and rural communities cope with, resist and struggle against the local transformations that are brought about by agro-export chains.
c) To explore the scope and limitations of initiatives that aim to contribute to local social and environmental sustainability by linking fresh vegetable consumers to producers through schemes of fair trade, organic farming and corporate social responsibility in the agro-export sector.

The research results will provide new insights to the literatures on water governance and will link these to the related literatures on the agro-export sector, livelihoods and development. I will do so by using an innovative interdisciplinary socio-technical approach that is based on a broad conceptualization of water rights which will be informed by notions of ‘polycentricity’, ‘governmentality’ and ‘scalar politics’ as they relate to processes of resource control and the distribution of its benefits. I will use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods including a local ethnography of transforming rural communities; a water access and household survey; and a global ethnography along the vegetable agro-export chain and the initiatives that link consumers with producers.
Effective start/end date1/02/151/10/18


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