From pioneering to organized business: the development of ecological farming in China

Liu, P, Ravenscroft, Neil, Ding, D and Li, D (2019) From pioneering to organized business: the development of ecological farming in China. Local Environment, 24 (6). pp. 539-553. ISSN 1354-9839

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Small-scale ecological and community farming and their associated alternative food networks, are increasingly important in China, as a response to poor farm incomes from traditional small-scale agriculture and as a contribution to widespread concerns about environmental degradation and food safety. However, despite the enormous market potential and the notable success of some ventures, this type of farming remains at the margins, with many businesses struggling to develop beyond their start-up phase and consumers struggling to build confidence in the new produce and routes to market. Many of these farms display the classic elements of what are understood in the West to be pioneer businesses, including high reliance on charismatic individuals, insecure land rights, high transaction and monitoring costs and fragile routes to market. Empirically, many of these businesses fail, largely because they cannot grow out of the pioneer phase before the pioneer grows tired of the business. While this is a problem for all small businesses, it is particularly acute in business sectors like ecological and ‘alternative’ farming in China, where there is very little evidence of suitable and sustainable developmental models. Using Bernardus Lievegoed’s work on organizational development applied to two case study farms, we suggest that there are Western developmental models that are applicable to small scale ecological farming and that have the potential to offer insights into how this might be achieved with Chinese characteristics. We conclude by arguing that, just as in the West, Chinese ecological farms have to plan explicitly for a form of development that allows them to remain committed to their ideals while moving them away from dependence on charismatic individuals, family labor and volatile customer bases.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Ecological farms, organisation development, pioneer phase, integrated phase, China
Divisions: Real Estate and Land Management
Depositing User: Professor Neil Ravenscroft
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2019 14:58
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2022 16:22

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