Dis/articulating global agro-chains

We study the increasing importance of fresh vegetable and fruit value chains both from the perspective of producers in the Global South (e.g. value chain development in Tanzania) and in the Global North (e.g. strawberry production in Andalusia). In addition to this we have contributed to attempts to revitalize critical commodity chain studies with a number of publications, in particular involving a dialogue with political economy and the so-called “disarticulation” perspective.

Dis/articulating globalizing capitalism. Shifting frontiers of globalizing agro-markets for the poor in Tanzania.

PhD project of Johanna Herrigel

Funding: CanDoc Forschungskredit, University of Zurich

Ph.D. Committee: Christian Berndt, Timothy Raeymaekers, Urs Geiser, Jennifer Bair (University of Virginia)

In my Ph.D. project, I focus on the concrete enacting and reworking of global food circuits and the development policies deployed for this end. Global food circuits are a very politicized issue, and food is an intimate, visceral commodity which we all consume daily.

Donor agencies play an increasingly important role in the expansion of the market frontiers in countries of the Global South through the recent shift in development policy towards market development approaches. While this does represent a continuation in market-led development, the market is recognized to be largely imperfect and failing the poor, necessitating corrective interventions so as to make markets more accessible for and work in favour of the poor. Prominent mobile policy models for such pro-poor (agricultural) market development include Value Chain Development (VCD) and Making Markets work (better) For the Poor (M4P). These policy “models” are traveling rapidly and extensively throughout the Global South, transforming “on the go” both the markets and communities where they “touch down” as well as the globalizing policy landscape. Clearly, these policy models provide a perfect ground for studying what Jamie Peck has called a globalizing and fast policy regime. Beyond that, especially VCD is also exemplary of the performativity of academic concepts (i.e. the GVC concept).

The aim of my research is therefore two-fold. On the one hand, I study how the market development policies have emerged as a new fast and globalizing policy regime, how these policies travel, and the effects they co-produce on the ground. On the other hand, I study the concrete everyday practices of how a new global market connection is articulated, stabilized and reworked in a specific place, and how inter alia pro-poor market development interventions interact with these (re-)articulations. For this, I focus on the case of the emerging export sector of non-traditional export vegetables in Northern Tanzania. Empirically, I work with an ethnographic approach, following the policy through policy workshop participation and narrative interviews and following the market network. For the latter I conducted narrative interviews with export companies’ managers, employees and their current and past smallholder out-growers, and did participant observation in these companies in Northern Tanzania.


Master Theses

  • Nina Leuenberger (2018): Landwirtinnen in der Schweiz: Arbeiten gegen die geschlechtsspezifischen Zuschreibungen auf dem Hof
    Sondra Tijn (2018): Sozialstandards in der Erdbeer-Value Chain - Wie Schweizer Abnehmer Einfluss auf die Arbeitsbedingungen im Erdbeeranbau in Huelva nehmen.
  • Christine Wiederkehr (2017): Aushandlungen des Palmölmarktes aus einer Perspektive von Schweizer Akteuren und Akteurinnen
  • Aldilla Noor Rakhiemah (2017): Land Conflict: Clashing Interests in Large-Scale Land Deals: The Case of Rajabasa Geothermal Power Plant Project in Indonesia
  • Nora Beck (2016): Schokoladenland Schweiz - Ein Blick auf den Kakaosektor. Veränderungen, Herausforderung und Perspektiven. 
  • Valentin Scherrer (2016): Guayusa - Wie und mit welchen Konsequenzen läuft die Marketisierung einer traditionellen Kulturpflanze in Ecuador ab?
  • Johannes Klaiber (2016): Die «Familie Unternehmung»: Eine Analyse am Beispiel eines österreichischen Weinproduzenten
  • Rafael Fritschi (2013): How does Economic Development influence Food Supply? Research into the Relationship between Income and Urbanization and the Supply of Different Food Groups.