The breakdown of socialist agriculture in post-Soviet countries generated a large number of smallholders, of which only a minority turned to entrepreneurial agriculture. With the largest number of family farms per capita in Europe, Moldova represents an exemplary case study to explore the livelihood trajectories of these land recipients. Relying on an original smallholder survey, we analyse the role of farming in their livelihoods two decades after land privatisation. Two groups are identified: ‘peasants’, who represent a large majority, and ‘entrepreneurial’ farmers. The former tend to diversify their livelihoods off-farm; the latter turned agriculture into a proper full-time business but maintain a small-size compared to the corporate farms that succeeded the Soviet kolkhozy and sovkhozy. The two groups are found to share similar goals and values, but while ‘entrepreneurs’ pursue profit maximisation, ‘peasants’ set their working pace based on family needs. Still, some ‘peasants’ invest part of their off-farm income in agriculture to intensify production and commercialise ‘niche’ products. De-commodification, internalisation, mutual aid mechanisms, and reliance on ‘traditional markets’ emerge as strategies to preserve autonomy vis-à-vis risky modern markets, rather than a mere outcome of necessity. Despite such aspirations of most smallholders, EU-driven rural development policies require them to behave as ‘entrepreneurs’.

Post-Soviet smallholders between entrepreneurial farming and diversification. Livelihood pathways in rural Moldova

Piras, Simone;Masotti, Matteo;Vittuari, Matteo
2021

Abstract

The breakdown of socialist agriculture in post-Soviet countries generated a large number of smallholders, of which only a minority turned to entrepreneurial agriculture. With the largest number of family farms per capita in Europe, Moldova represents an exemplary case study to explore the livelihood trajectories of these land recipients. Relying on an original smallholder survey, we analyse the role of farming in their livelihoods two decades after land privatisation. Two groups are identified: ‘peasants’, who represent a large majority, and ‘entrepreneurial’ farmers. The former tend to diversify their livelihoods off-farm; the latter turned agriculture into a proper full-time business but maintain a small-size compared to the corporate farms that succeeded the Soviet kolkhozy and sovkhozy. The two groups are found to share similar goals and values, but while ‘entrepreneurs’ pursue profit maximisation, ‘peasants’ set their working pace based on family needs. Still, some ‘peasants’ invest part of their off-farm income in agriculture to intensify production and commercialise ‘niche’ products. De-commodification, internalisation, mutual aid mechanisms, and reliance on ‘traditional markets’ emerge as strategies to preserve autonomy vis-à-vis risky modern markets, rather than a mere outcome of necessity. Despite such aspirations of most smallholders, EU-driven rural development policies require them to behave as ‘entrepreneurs’.
Piras, Simone; Botnarenco, Svetlana; Masotti, Matteo; Vittuari, Matteo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/791360
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