A pragmatist context-based assessment of the economic implications of eating patterns in a small sub-Saharan developing economy: Focus on Togo
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Healthy nutrition is recognized as essential to a productive workforce and strategic in preventing healthcare costs. Meanwhile, food supply system proficiency requires socially coherent organizational efficiency. Sub-Saharan Africa is widely presented in agro-food economics literature as a cultural block whereas it enfolds context-specific nations with specific biophysical and historical ties. This thesis aims to determine the importance of investigating country-specific diets’ effects on economic welfare. Equally, it emphases national food system governance on which globalization, socio-economic and demographic transitions are increasingly influential. Normative, critical and grounded in poststructuralism and cultural/relativist pragmatism, the thesis shifts focus from generic material challenges emphasized in economic reports to gaps in substance and framework of Sub-Saharan Africa food economy studies. Suggesting that policy failure largely owes to the lack of focus on the nurture side of policy-formulation equations, the nature of information and how information is sought are emphasized as paramount problematics. Consequently, an in-depth qualitative investigation on Togo is undertaken. It entails a cross-sectoral analysis of data from the public/private food and healthcare sectors and civil society. Critical ethnography and alethic hermeneutics methodologies induced dialogue-provoking discussions with local respondents via surveys, semi-structured/structured interviews and observation through both social immersion and distance. The insider scrutiny aims to uncover valuable metadata possibly unobservable in nonspecific/quantitative studies. Informed by a multidisciplinary abductive reasoning, theoretical frameworks underscore concepts as value chain governance, new governance, global value chain, food anthropology- social psychology, demography and fertility linked to food supply concerns. Jointly, from a philosophical position, implications of individual liberty, societal values/norms on diet and economic productivity are also considered. Such approach, targeting a holistic understanding of links between diet and economic status while shifting from generic to specific paradigms and from traditional empirical value system to ethicist/normative value system, has proven to be relevant. Results suggest that some patterns/trends in literature as dietary evolutions’ links to demographic transition for instance are applicable. However particular historical and socio-political contexts trigger a spectrum of varied reactions. This applies to nutrition knowledge, perception regarding food types, agricultural work, collaboration, or state-civil society power relationship. Biophysical components also contribute in the span of historical and dietary constructs and social stratification of cultural groups. Dismissing a non-normative governance theory, the thesis concludes that because nutrition status reflects governance model and power balance between civil society and food/healthcare stakeholders, policy must be integrative and considerate of the merits of traditional values within their biophysical and cultural context. In pursuit of efficient and sustainable model of governance, the thesis indicates windows of opportunity for further qualitative studies on food-related challenges at the state level in Sub-Saharan Africa as to highlight other concealed influential factors. This calls for perspectives closer to specific needs and motivations of local populations, major players in social transformation.
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