Social Indicators Research

, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 89–106 | Cite as

Well-Being is a Process of Becoming: Respondent-Led Research With Organic Farmers in Madagascar

  • Cathy Rozel FarnworthEmail author


Malagasy ‘players’—farmers, middle men, organic organisations and policy makers—see in export-orientated organic agriculture a way for Madagascar to build upon its historic export strengths: spices, essential oils, medicinal plants and tropical fruits. They point to the de facto organic status of most farming in the country and view organic production strategies as a means for Malagasy farmers to differentiate their produce in the highly competitive world market (Ramboatiana and Randriamanantena 2000; Randriamanantena 1998; Vallée 2000). However, producing for the export market poses significant challenges for Malagasy farmers. Despite its apparent ‘fit’ with existing farming practice, ‘true’ certified organic practice does not necessarily offer a means towards achieving a Malagasy farmer-defined ‘good life’. Smallholders can be disempowered through their incorporation into wider systemic relationships whose more powerful actors—such as buyers and consumers—and their ‘rules’ about what ‘organic’ is, for example, are necessarily unfamiliar. Yet farmers are very interested in the significant opportunities for much-needed cash that organic farming offers. This paper argues that strengthening farmer agency, and thus their presence as actors in international food chains, can be partially achieved if farmers are involved in devising the rules for organic and social certification. I set out eight principles that I have developed which seem important when trying to capture and measure ‘quality of life’ for the purposes of social certification. My theoretical and empirical work, detailed here, is set within a methodological discussion on how to best ensure that research is ‘respondent-led’. Respondent-led research is, I argue, critical for ensuring that an understanding of the components of ‘quality of life’, and their operationalisation as standards and indicators, is truly meaningful to the target group.


Organic Food chains Farmer agency Quality of life Madagascar 


  1. Ahluwalia, M. (1997). Representing communities: The case of a community-based watershed management project in Rajasthan, India. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, 28, 23–36.Google Scholar
  2. Ashley, C., & Carney, D. (1999). Sustainable livelihoods: Lessons from early experiences. London: Department for International Development.Google Scholar
  3. Ballet, J., Dubois, J-L., Mahicu, F-R. (2003, September). Le Développement Socialement Durable: Un moyen d’intégrer capacités et Durabilité. Paper presented at Communication for the Third Conference on the Capability Approach, University of Pavia, 6–9 September 2003.Google Scholar
  4. Barrientos, S., Dolan, C., & Tallontire, A. (2003). A gendered value chain approach to codes of conduct in African horticulture. World Development, 31, 1511–1526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beyene, A. (1999). Soil degradation and dynamics of land use in mixed farming systems: A users’ perspective study in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Unpublished Procedural Paper. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.Google Scholar
  6. Bryceson, D. F. (Ed.). (1995). Women wielding the hoe: Lessons from rural Africa for feminist theory and development practice. Oxford/Washington, DC: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Capra, F. (1997). The web of life: A new synthesis of mind and matter. London: Flamingo.Google Scholar
  8. Chambers, R. (1994a). Challenging the professions: Frontiers for rural development. London: ITDG Publications.Google Scholar
  9. Chambers, R. (1994b). Foreword. In I. Scoones & J. Thompson (Eds.), Beyond farmer first: Rural people's knowledge, agricultural research and extension practice. London: ITDG Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, D. (2002). Development ethics: A research agenda. International Journal of Social Economics, 29, 830–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook, I. (2004). Positionality/situated knowledge. In D. Atkinson, P. Jackson, D. Sibley, & N. Washbourne (Eds.) Cultural geography: A critical dictionary of key ideas. (forthcoming, to be published by IB Tauris, London). Draft downloaded from
  12. Cooper, D. E. (1992). The idea of environment. In D. E. Cooper & J. A. Palmer (Eds.), The environment in question: Ethics and global issues. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Des Jardins, J. R. (2001). Environmental ethics: An introduction to environmental philosophy (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  14. Eckermann, L. (2000). Gendering indicators of health and well-being: Is quality of life gender neutral? Social Indicators Research, 52, 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Epstein, I., Stevens, B., McKeever, P., & Baruchel, S. (2006). Photo elicitation interview (PEI): Using photos to elicit children’s perspectives. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5, 1–9.Google Scholar
  16. Farlinger, S. (1996). Quality of life for women. Social Indicators Research, 39, 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farnworth, C. R. (1998). Chapati diagrams in a norwich community centre. participatory learning and action notes, No. 31. London: International Institute for the Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  18. Farnworth, C. R. (2004). Creating quality relationships in the organic producer to consumer chain: From Madagascar to Germany. Published Doctoral Dissertation, Agraria 483, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.
  19. Farnworth, C. R., & Jiggins, J. (2003). Participatory plant breeding and gender analysis CGIAR/PRGA PPB monograph 4. Columbia: CGIAR.Google Scholar
  20. Feldstein, H., & J. Jiggins (Eds.). (1994). Tools for the field: Methodologies handbook for gender analysis in agriculture. London: ITDG Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Firouz, A. (2002). In the walled gardens: A novel. Boston MA: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  22. Gereffi, G. (1999). A commodity chains framework for analysing global industries. Downloaded from
  23. Grown, C. A., & Sebstad, J. (1989). Introduction: Toward a wider perspective on women’s employment. World Development, 17, 937–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hamilton, C. (1999). The genuine progress indicator: Methodological developments and results from Australia. Ecological Economics, 30, 13–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ho, M. W. (2000). The entangled universe. YES! A Journal of Positive Futures, Spring 2000. Google Scholar
  26. Jones, G. R. (1999). The nation’s favourite poems. London: BBC Worldwide Ltd.Google Scholar
  27. Kabeer, N. (2000). Resources, agency, achievement: Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment. In Power resources and culture in a gender perspective. Sweden: Uppsala Universitet.Google Scholar
  28. Kavka, G. (1978). The futurity problem. In R. I. Sikora & B. Barry (Eds.), Obligations to future generations. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mikkelsen, B. (1995). Methods for development work and research: A guide for practitioners. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  30. Ministère de l’ Agriculture. (1998). Monographie des Régions de l’Est (provisoire). Secrétariat général, direction générale des activités techniques et l’unité de politique pour le développement rural. Direction Inter-Regionale de l’Agriculture de Toamasina.Google Scholar
  31. Murray, C. L. (1991). Development data constraints and the human development index. Geneva: UNRISD.Google Scholar
  32. Naess, A. (1973). The shallow and the deep, long-range ecology movement. A summary. Inquiry, 16, 95–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nazarea, V., Rhoades, R., Bontoyan, E., & Flora, G. (1998). Defining indicators which make sense to local people: Intra-cultural variation in perceptions of natural resources. Human Organisation, 57, 159–169.Google Scholar
  34. Neumayer, E. (2000). On the methodology of ISEW, GPI and related measures: Some constructive suggestions and some doubt on the ‘threshold’ hypothesis. Ecological Economics, 34, 347–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women’s capabilities and social justice. Prepared as part of UNRISD’s work for Beijing + 5 Review: Gender justice, development and rights. UNRISD, Geneva.Google Scholar
  36. Nussbaum, M. C. (2001). Woman and human development: The capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Nussbaum, M. C., & Sen, A. K. (1993). The quality of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Ramboatiana, R., Randriamanantena, A’I. (2000). Produits Biologiques. In Défis et Enjeux de la Mondialisation pour Madagascar: Cas du système financier, des produits biologiques et de l’écotourisme. (Madagascar: PNUD, Antananarivo).Google Scholar
  39. Randriamanantena, A’I. (1998). Rapport de Mission a la 68 eme Foire Internationale et Gastronomique de Dijon, et la Visite de l’Interprofession et Associations Professionnelles similaires Européennes du 27 octobre au 17 novembre. Madagascar: PNUD, Antananarivo.Google Scholar
  40. Rapley, M. (2003). Quality of life research: A critical introduction. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Richmond, L., Filson, G. C., Paine, C., Pfeiffer, W. C., & Taylor, J. R. (2000). Non-farm rural Ontario residents’ perceived quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 50, 159–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Said, E. (2003). Orientalism. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  43. Saith, A., & Harris-White, B. (1998). Gender sensitivity of well-being indicators. Discussion Paper 95. Geneva: UNRISD.Google Scholar
  44. Salmon, P. (2003). How do we recognise good research? The Psychologist, 16, 24–27.Google Scholar
  45. Shepherd, A. (1995). Participatory environmental management: Contradiction of process, project and bureaucracy in the Himalayan foothills. Public Administration and Development, 15, 465–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pretty, J. N., Guijt, R., Thompson, J., & Scoones, I. (1995). Participatory learning and action: A trainer’s guide. London: IIED Participatory Methodology Series.Google Scholar
  47. Vallée, O. (2000). Mondialisation et Développement a Madagascar. In Défis et Enjeux de la mondialisation pour Madagascar: Cas du système financier, des produits biologiques et de l’écotourisme. Madagascar: PNUD, Antananarivo.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pandia ConsultingCornwallUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations