Banner Image

Recent Papers and Publications

  • Organization and Empowerment: Fair Trade, U.S. Policy, and Development from the Bottom

    Research by:

    Georgia Duerst-Lahti, Ph.D. (Department of Political Science, Beloit College)

    Abstract:

    US policy toward women’s empowerment, food security, and areas such as HIV/AIDS are treated as separate policy areas, with distinct budget and staff who manage from above. While government officials frequently give lip service to the utility of integration across policy areas, especially for women’s empowerment, in fact they are not integrated. This separation stands calls for integration among policy thrusts by development professionals. It also contrasts with professionals’ strong understanding that long term development requires strong and sustainable grassroots organization. Using structured interviews with fair trade organization producers, key informant interviews, and participant observation in Botswana and Swaziland, I explore elements of empowerment as they interact with food security and HIV/AIDS policy. Self-help and other formal organization among the poorest of the poor emerge as particularly important for empowerment.

    Full text (PDF format) available here.

  • Fair Trade Cooperatives and Women's Empowerment: Impacts for US Policy on Food Security and HIV

    Research by:

    Miranda Bernstein (Beloit College) and Georgia Duerst-Lahti, Ph.D. (Department of Political Science, Beloit College)

    Abstract:

    Can small cooperatives designed for women’s employment and empowerment in three Southern African countries inform US policy toward food security and HIV/AIDS? Although the scale and scope of cooperatives with fewer than 5,000 households seems a paltry site of evidence for major US policy initiatives, in-depth analysis of the micro level can provide important insights into macro-level policy, much as was true of the World Bank’s shift to supporting micro loans. Using a month-long participant observation, structured interviews with 20 respondents, and a focus group at one producer organization, we find organized, small fair-trade activity has strong impact upon women’s sense of empowerment, ability to feed their households, and orientation to HIV and health generally. This depth analysis is supplemented with profiles of two additional small producer organizations, developed through site visits, and interviews with key informants. Evidence suggests participation in organized (fair) trading activity contributes to efficacy, which is reflected in household gender power dynamics, as well as community status. Further, even a small increase in income shapes how often and how well these families eat, which has direct bearing on the success of HIV treatment. We conclude US policy should strengthen support for such activity in its HIV and food security policies and explicitly attend to the link between such micro-level income and women’s empowerment efforts.

    Full text (PDF format) available here.