Specialisation, scale, and spillovers in South and Southeast Asia’s agriculture Literature on agricultural development often invokes an implicit bimodal model that contrasts smallholder farming with large-scale industrial agriculture. Smallholder farms are often assumed to be uniformly ‘traditional’, and poorly integrated into markets, while large farms are often assumed to be ‘modern’ and technologically sophisticated.
This bimodal model is poorly representative of contemporary realities in South and Southeast Asia. Drawing on examples from Myanmar, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the two regions, we contend that a large portion of agricultural output now originates from a continuum of intermediate farms that are neither ‘traditional smallholder’, not ‘modern industrial’.
Ben Belton is an interdisciplinary social scientist who has lived and worked extensively in South and Southeast Asia. His research focusses on the political economy of aquaculture and capture fisheries development, value chains and food systems, livelihoods, rural economies, and their links to food and nutrition security, poverty, wellbeing, and the environment. Ben holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor of International Development, at the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Michigan State University, USA, and Global Lead for Social and Economic Inclusion with WorldFish, Malaysia.