Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here are four books that explore various facets of agriculture in Asia:

Borneo Transformed: Agricultural Expansion on the Southeast Asian Frontier edited by Rodolphe De Koninck and S. Bernard et al. Since the 1960s, Southeast Asia's agricultural sector has experienced phenomenal growth, with increases in production linked to an energy-intensive capitalisation of agriculture and the rapid development of agrifood systems and agribusiness. Agricultural intensification and territorial expansion have been key to this process, with expansion of areas under cultivation playing an unusually important role in the transformation of the countryside and livelihoods of its inhabitants. Borneo, with vast tracts of land not yet under crops, has been the epicenter of this expansion process, with rubber and oil palm acting as the spearhead. Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have all undergone major changes but the time frames have varied, as have the crops involved. Agricultural expansion in Borneo is both an economic and a political process, and it has brought about profound socio-economic transformations, including deforestation, and development of communication networks. There has also been rapid population growth, much faster than in either Indonesia or Malaysia as a whole, with attendant pressures on employment, housing and social services. Until the end of the 20th century, agricultural expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia was largely state driven, with the goal of poverty reduction. Subsequently, as in Borneo, boom crop expansion has been taken over by private corporations that are driven by profit maximization rather than poverty reduction.

Vietnam (Southeast Asian Agriculture and Development Primer Series) by Nguyen Tri Klem. This primer starts by describing Vietnam's agriculture and its significant contributions in bolstering the country's overall economy. It features the primary agricultural commodities produced for the import and export market and the market trend. Government interventions and policy reforms that have had profound impact on development efforts are also discussed. The final parts of the primer deal with the important facets that could potentially help boost the agriculture sector if addressed accordingly - public investment and research and development. This series aims to promote awareness on the state of agriculture of the Southeast Asian countries. The consistency in format and presentation of the series enables easy comparability of agriculture situation across countries and the drawing of lessons from each other's experiences. The cultural differences notwithstanding, there are many commonalities and similarities among the countries, especially in geographical characteristics, making agriculture a common priority and concern in the region.

Land to Till: The Chinese in the Agricultural Economy of Malaysia by Tan Pek Leng. Personal interviews and research have been incorporated into this account of the achievements and impact Chinese planters, farmers and labourers have had in the development and pattern of Malaysia's agricultural economy. Black-and-white archival photographs complement the text which looks at many areas of agriculture and agro-based industries in both East and West Malaysia and roles of many of the influential personalities involved. Index.

Indonesian Exports, Peasant Agriculture and the World Economy, 1850-2000: Economic Structures in a Southeast Asian State by Hiroyoshi Kano. An "Indonesian economy" first took shape in the latter part of the 19th century, consisting of a dominant export industry supported by a rural agrarian sphere. The agricultural sector provided food and labour to the export sector, which was firmly incorporated into the world economy through international trade. This economic pattern survived several shifts of the leading export industry and persisted even after Indonesia became independent in the mid-20th century. Hiroyoshi Kano uses international trade statistics to analyze three key elements in the Indonesian economy: the balance of international payments and trade, the transformation undergone by leading export industries, and the way in which the agricultural sector supplied land, labor and food. Dividing the 150-year time span covered by the book in four periods based on prevailing major expert industries, he identifies key actors and analyzes long-term changes in agricultural production and rural society, and how they shaped the national economy.

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