Food quality as a public good: cooperation dynamics and economic development in a rural community
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The present work deals with an initiative that aims at creating and promoting rural development through high quality. It is called “Presidia”, it has been started by the Slowfood movement, and it relies on an approach to rural economies different from the standard spreading of industrialization. The phenomenon on focus is based upon the cooperative dynamics of several small producers, and thus some criticalities typical of social dilemmas have emerged in the case-based study on the field: they deal with the role played by cooperation-supporting institutions. Through an empirically grounded agent-based model which allows what-if analysis of some policy suggestions, different mechanisms for promoting cooperation among producers are thus investigated. Simulation results outline how single altruistic actions are not capable of sustaining a positive aggregate while single selfish choices can determine very negative outcomes, and how only the strong commitment of most central actors can protect the system from random fluctuations in cooperation levels. Two main results are finally discussed: informal control mechanisms do not ensure the desired level of cooperation and high quality; interaction structure codetermines the outcome.
KeywordsSlowfood presidia Voluntary public good provision Agent-based models Food quality Rural development
The author acknowledges the staff of Slowfood (Bra, Italy) and of MIAC (Mercato all’Ingrosso Agroalimentare di Cuneo, Italy), Sergio Capaldo and the producers who have been interviewed. Further acknowledges are due to Nigel Gilbert, Peter Hedström and Sara Arber for their useful comments on earlier versions of the work.
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