Archives for September 2015

Inclusion and commitment build freedom, Part I

Inclusion and commitment build freedom, Part I

Opportunities and Capabilities together build freedom.

Opportunities and Capabilities together build freedom.

Here’s the first part of  my HDCA presentation as a Capabilities Scholar.  Full academic paper to come in December.

Thesis: Inclusion and commitment build freedom. Freedom is necessary for sustainability.

Working definition of freedom (Sen, 2010): “Freedom to achieve things one has reason to value.”

Here is the introduction of my supply and demand model of the Capabilities Approach.  My argument here is that Opportunities and Capabilities can be both dependent and independent variables.  Opportunities are understood as things outside one’s immediate control such as market prices and access to goods and services.  Capabilities are things that can be individually obtained such as skills, physical mobility, and knowledge.  When opportunities and capabilities are in balance, then a degree of freedom is enjoyed.  If there is a drop in Opportunities such as a world market crash in quinoa prices than the equilibrium is lost and one moves to an area I labeled “deprivation” in accordance to Rawls‘ definition of the term.  In this model the variables can shift and Capabilities can impact ones access to freedom.  For example if one’s quinoa production is low, they have experienced a loss in capabilities.  The market prices are there (opportunities) buy one is unable to fully realize them.  When both opportunities and capabilities are grown together then a new level of freedom is achieved.  Freedom can be realized in many ways, economically, socially, personally, etc.

Day 73 – Did you know?

Day 73 – Did you know?

quinoa prices-org-conv

2015 was the first time prices differed in Bolivia between Fair Trade, organic and conventional quinoa.

quinoa retail breakdown

Quinoa has a relatively short supply chain usually with a single export buyer purchasing direct from the farmer. In this scenario, farmers can earn up to 27% of the final retail price.

From 2005 onward, Bolivia’s quinoa exports have enjoyed steadily raising market prices.  The downturn of the 2015 market has yet to make an impact on FOB since Bolivia mostly exports certified organic quinoa, which is holding a stronger price and the 2015 year has not yet ended.

From 2005 onward, Bolivia’s quinoa exports have enjoyed steadily raising market prices. The downturn of the 2015 market has yet to make an impact on FOB since Bolivia mostly exports certified organic quinoa, which is holding a stronger price and the 2015 year has not yet ended.

Though the base value of quinoa is rising as is the export price, the US consumer market has seen the greatest price increase.

Though the base value of quinoa is rising as is the export price, the US consumer market has seen the greatest price increase.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 72 – The importance of associations and Fair Trade

Day 72 – The importance of associations and Fair Trade

Continuing on with the analysis of the quinoa study data, it has come to my attention that one area that showed statistical significance amongst producers was membership in associations.  Quinoa producers voluntarily joined or formed organizations for organic or Fair Trade certification. The government made it easy for these organizations to be formed and gave them legal recognition. Associations came with membership dues often paid with sacks of quinoa, voting rights, collective bargaining for market prices and technical assistance. Producers would join a single association, often with family members. Associations ranged in size from 30 to 80 families with three to four associations present in a region. These associations worked alongside each other, mildly competing for market access and members but mostly focused inwardly on serving member needs. Private agronomists were hired by the associations to provide technical assistance and tools to support quinoa production. A small, elected board of directors worked with large export buyers and oversaw the combining, processing, storing and sales of members’ quinoa. An association could easily sell four to seven shipping containers of quinoa a year representing 40,000 pounds of product per container with a current market value of $17,160 per container for certified organic quinoa and $29,920 for Fair Trade certified. Members were active participants in their associations, democratically agreeing on sales prices and budgets, attending mandatory monthly and annual meetings, and being decision makers.

In total almost a third of people surveyed were members of producer organizations with the bulk (83%) coming from Salinas. Of this, 70% were members of Fair Trade associations and 30% certified organic associations. The Fair Trade associations were also certified organic and worked with both markets depending on buyer demand. Because of its high price and lack of consumer awareness there was more demand for organic rather than Fair Trade quinoa resulting in Fair Trade associations having to sell their Fair Trade quinoa at the lower, certified organic, market price. The rest of the study participants were conventional producers, who mostly farmed with organic methods but did not have a certification. When asked why they did not join an association, many replied that they did not see the value of it, did not feel committed enough to their production to do it, or did not want to take the time for it. Historically independent producers enjoyed the same high market prices and access as association members. Now with the recent market changes this has shifted.

Regardless of where they were from, producers in associations, both Fair Trade and organic, had statistically significant more positive experiences in their political environment and community decision making. This could be due to the tremendous economic power that associations provide and their highly participatory, democratic operations which were empowering for producers who were historically some of the most marginalized people in Bolivia. Environmentally all association members reported statistically significant gains in the areas of wildlife, a clean environment and recreational spaces. As part of their organic certification, many association members were using better composting, sanitation and recycling methods reducing the trash and environmental contamination in the countryside. Economically only Fair Trade association members reported a statistically significant positive outcome with 82% reporting their income to be satisfactory to excellent. Only 68% of the certified organic only association members ranked their incomes as satisfactory to excellent. In addition 80% of the Fair Trade association members found their market access in general and for export to be satisfactory to excellent while only 45% of the certified organic only association members felt that way.

All association members felt their culture was highly valued and showed a statistically significant positive response in the areas of culture value, traditional dress, community festivals, language and indigenous wisdom. The Fair Trade association members in particular showed a strongly positive response to having their culture valued. This could be that the Fair Trade requirements of association membership, democratic participation and community building, resonates with the indigenous values that the people of the region practice.

Day 71-75 – Fleeting Glances

Day 71-75 – Fleeting Glances

Am I here or in Bolivia? Every night I have dreams of leaving, returning, tossing-turning, fleeting moments of lucidity when I ask, in which world am I? I prefer the closeness, simplicity of Bolivia…where conversations are long and personal, work happens when it does, and no one is ever alone.

Hearing the crickets at night through the open window. Thin sheet. Thick humidity. I knew for sure I was in Chapare; the Bolivian rain forest.  But no, I was in the northern forest of Vermont with birch and pine needing to get the kids up early for yet another day of school, the HDCA paper due, syllabi to finish, and Moodle postings to do. Another busy day. Sigh!

Next post will be the initial HDCA paper – I will stop labeling the days since technically that part of the research has ended.  Look for updates on content in this blog too with better links, images, better edited posts, and completed information.