Relational rural geographies, resilience, and narratives of small-scale fruit farming in the metropolitan countryside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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This thesis analyses the processes through which farming and rural communities in transition economies build resilience in the face of changes to rural areas caused by globalisation and urbanisation. The study is based on analysis of how urban-rural interactions have affected small-scale farming in the metropolitan countryside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an area where land-use, economic and environmental policies and urban land speculation have prompted increasing competition between agricultural, industrial, residential and conservation land uses within a highly multifunctional countryside. To achieve this, the research examined the pressures facing farmers in areas affected by the metropolitan dynamics of Rio de Janeiro, how these pressures have influenced farming practices, how farmers have developed individual and collective resilience, and the wider theoretical and policy lessons gained on how rural areas and farming communities respond to urbanisation and globalisation. The research adopted a relational rural geographies perspective to investigate the lived experiences of farmers and farmers’ associations and utilised a place- and community-based approach to engage closely with farmers’ life histories and development pathways and gain ‘on-the-ground’ insights into their strategies for responding to rural and global change. The methods combined interviews with farmers and policymakers, participant observation in three farming communities, and archival research. The findings indicate that small-scale fruit farmers have built resilience by adopting flexible strategies that utilised diverse types of knowledge, social organisation, innovation and cross-scale linkages to become proactive in the face of rural change in the metropolitan region. In addition to offering new insights into how farming communities negotiate their place in the metropolitan countryside, the thesis encourages readers to think beyond representations of rural spaces as passive in the face of urbanisation and industrialisation by seeing more clearly the continuing importance of local agency in shaping resilient rural futures.