Smallholders and Householders

Netting, R. (1993). Smallholders, Householder. Smallholders, Householders: Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive, Sustainable Agriculture, 224-224.

In this piece Robert Netting describes the effects of social organizations on environmental management and their different views on sustainability and environmental degradation. He describes two main forms of social organizations: “smallholders” and “householders.” Smallholders are people who have a small role in the agriculture business and Netting believes that they are more sustainable than large-scale industrial farms. He examines the physical, chemical, biological and socioeconomic degradation caused by both groups and concludes that these smallholders cause less degradation. He makes the point that Western knowledge is considered to be “universal.” “The “truths” of Western scientific and engineering knowledge are deemed universal, and only isolation, “peasant conservatism,” illiteracy, and poverty impede their transmission and implementation,” (Netting 1993, 41). These smallholder systems have a positive input/output balance, meaning that they are not exhausting the environment of its resources. Large scale environmental management organizations usually cause large scale pollution, exhaust local resources and cause environmental degradation. The choices that the smallholders make when it comes to managing the environment are made with much knowledge of the local land. They are indigenous people who have lived on the land their whole lives and know enough about it to know how to manage it and maximize their products while minimizing any depletion of the environment. Outside organizations do not have this knowledge so when they come in with strategies already in mind that they think will work, they often fail and cause more harm than good.