Governance of global commodity chains : Case of Uruguayan Beekeeping and Sustainable Livelihoods

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201507292656
Title: Governance of global commodity chains : Case of Uruguayan Beekeeping and Sustainable Livelihoods
Author: Malkamäki, Arttu J.
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Forest Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2015
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201507292656
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/155745
Thesis level: Master's thesis
Abstract: This thesis aims to assess the state and development of beekeeping in Uruguay. Uruguay exports more than 90% of its honey and supplies regularly to the demanding markets in the EU and the US. As marginalized actors in the global honey chain, the beekeepers' livelihoods are largely dependent on the shifts of globalization, predominantly on the patterns of global economy. Proliferation of voluntary certification schemes such as Fairtrade International and European Union Organic Farming have become evident features of these patterns. Adoption of voluntary certification schemes has impacted particularly the development trajectories of smallholders, which is why particular attention in this thesis was laid on them. It was, however, quickly understood the development is dependent on several factors on different levels. To conceptualize these levels, value chain governance and voluntary certification schemes in them were seen shaping the livelihood outcomes of the smallholders. Combining governance and horizontal livelihood approaches, which represents the main innovation of this thesis, was used to identify action points and upgrading strategies feasible for the beekeepers as actors engaged in the global honey chain. In addition, this thesis further highlights the context of beekeeping as a livelihood, honey as a commodity with certain features and market dynamics, as well as Uruguay as the main geographical scope. Research methods were qualitative. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2014 with four different respondent groups along the global honey chain: importers of honey in the EU; representatives of local institutions and export agencies in Uruguay; and the beekeepers themselves, which of some were organized in cooperatives. From the collected data, the development trajectories were analyzed deductively to identify the viable strategies to improve sustainable livelihood outcomes. Based on results, the global honey chain was found buyer-driven since the buyers bear the most powerful role. The structure replicates features of market and captive types of governance, suggesting there is a high degree of power asymmetry and coordination. Higher coordination, however, favors successful upgrading. By identifying the activities performed by actors in the chain, the action point was found in the production node due to the recent increase in activities. High costs of inputs and low margins throughout the chain were observed, particularly in the export node. Beekeepers' baseline conditions were determined as access to livelihood assets, which were found generally weak. State of the fundamental aspect of beekeeping, access to natural assets, was found alarming. The decreased floral resources in Uruguay are due to the rapid proliferation of changes in land use, accelerated by the main vulnerability causing shocks in production and with implications on prices: the climate variability. A key finding, however, was that the proliferation of Eucalyptus grandis in Uruguay has created a dependency by compensating the losses in production based on other flowerings. Furthermore, the emergence of pests has brought risk of losing colonies and increasing costs in treatment and prevention. Natural assets set the main constraint over sustainability of beekeeping in Uruguay, but possibilities to compensate smallholders was found among social assets, which clearly were not optimized at their current levels. This notion largely represents the main conclusion in this thesis: horizontal contractualization of the beekeepers through collective action is the only strategy with a reasonable balance between revenues and risks. In all other scenarios, the risks are likely to become unbearable, unless an external agent would be willing to guarantee the risks up to some point to initiate the process. Collective action was found as a precondition of vertical contractualization, which could include affiliation in voluntary certification schemes. Fairtrade International was predominantly found as a more attractive scheme, but could in this context benefit only a large cooperative with already good resources. Affiliation in a certification scheme, however, would not remove the main constraints faced by the sector in Uruguay, which are the decreasing production per hive and the costs running relatively faster than the prices received, resulting in a decreasing profitability. Whereas more beekeepers are excluded from the chain, the ones remaining practice beekeeping largely based on love and tradition. Future research is suggested to take a more sophisticated approach to cost-benefit analyses to support further decision-making on the level of the beekeepers, as well as on the level of policy-makers. In addition, prospective approaches to develop and assess the potential of systems such as payments for ecosystem services in the context of beekeeping are highly recommended.
Subject: Sustainability
Globalization
Value chain governance
Development studies
Latin America
Beekeeping
Honey
Discipline: Marknadsföring av skogsprodukter
Forest Products Marketing
Puumarkkinatiede


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