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Cultural Influences on Smallholder Farm Decisions: From Church Forests in Ethiopia to Polygamous Households in Tanzania and Mali
Cultural Influences on Smallholder Farm Decisions: From Church Forests in Ethiopia to Polygamous Households in Tanzania and Mali
WhenWednesday, May 17, 2017, 12 – 1 p.m.
Campus locationParrington Hall (PAR)
Campus roomDenny Forum in Parrington Hall, Room 309
Event typesLectures/Seminars

International development efforts targeting smallholder agricultural communities in low-income countries regularly use a combination of institutional reforms, economic incentives and information campaigns in an effort to influence smallholder farm household behavior. However a growing body of scholarship shows that decision-making in rural farm households is a complex process, influenced to varying degrees by smallholders’ assets and access to information, but also influenced by broader cultural and social norms governing behavior. This presentation summarizes two streams of research seeking to contribute to our understanding of the interplay between policy, culture, and smallholder farm household decision-making. The first draws on social-ecological systems theories and NSF-funded survey and remote sensing data to show how religion in northern Ethiopia impacts farmer behaviors towards “church forests”, small patches of indigenous forest protected for centuries by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the midst of vast degraded agricultural landscapes. The second draws on theories of intra-household bargaining and original household survey data collected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Tanzania and Mali to show how intra-household decision-making processes (and hence potential responses to exogenous development interventions) differ systematically across polygamous versus monogamous households. Both studies highlight how cultural variables might be meaningfully incorporated into social-ecological and economic models to better inform international development efforts.

Dr. Travis W. Reynolds is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College, and a graduate of the Evans School Ph.D. program in Public Policy and Management. Travis is currently Principal Investigator for an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program studying the ecology and management of church forests in Ethiopia, as well as co-Principal Investigator for the Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group (EPAR) with Dr. C. Leigh Anderson at the Evans School.

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