Contested Futures - Traditional Rice as a Keystone of Alternative Agriculture Movements
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The Green Revolution reshaped rural livelihoods by introducing new, exogenously-generated, inputs and knowledge. Predicated on enhancing yields and food productivity, this had widespread implications on biodiversity conservation and food security, including the marginalization of traditional crop varieties. In south Karnataka, India, these conditions provide the context for contemporary rural debates centered on alleviating rural poverty, attending to an epidemic of farmer suicides, enhancing food security, and confronting increasing climate uncertainties. My research enters this debate by examining the relationship between seed choice, agricultural knowledge and cultivation practices among smallholder rice farmers across three districts in south Karnataka. Specifically, seed choice serves as a principal lens for elucidating the broader conceptualizations of agricultural development, as well as the knowledge politics therein, across different actors and agricultural movements in south Karnataka. Informed by a political ecology framework, these debates are investigated through a discursive literature review and fieldwork interviews in the case study location with Government officials, agricultural researchers, NGO representatives, organic entrepreneurs, and farmers. My research highlights the agricultural knowledge dynamics, rural hierarchies, incentive structures and public-private partnerships that characterize mainstream agricultural development initiatives in south Karnataka. Next, my research highlights how several local alternative agriculture movements have sought to contest these dynamics by proposing new agroecology-based strategies oriented-around traditional seed varieties. Finally, my research elucidates the ongoing knowledge politics within these alternatives. It highlights their commonalities and critical divergences, and examines their respective opportunities and constraints for enhancing rural livelihoods in south Karnataka.