Traders: Cross-scale sustainability of small-scale food production

Investigating how cross-scale relationships influence the resilience of small-scale food production systems

Small-scale producers (i.e. fishers or farmers) are embedded in sets of social and economic relationships with traders (also called buyers or middlemen) that can influence their behaviour and relationships with ecosystems, as well as their incomes. These complex networks of social and trade relationships mediate the interaction of producers with market demands at other scales. In this project, we seek to understand cross-scale interactions mediated by these trade relationships, such as how the local production decisions and subsequent patterns of resource exploitation change over time, and have the potential to shape the supply for fish at bigger scales (e.g. cities, global demand). In addition, we investigate how such local decisions are affected by actors, institutions and processes at regional, national or international scales. We hypothesise that these cross-scale interactions influence the capacity of small-scale food production systems to deal with shocks and changes while maintaining livelihoods and food security at scales beyond local systems.

The project is based on an in-depth analysis of two study cases of small-scale food production through a mixed-methods approach. It will combine network analysis and agent-based modelling, grounded in qualitative insights resulting from fieldwork campaigns. Combining network analysis and agent-based modelling will allow accounting for how diverse trading actors influence and are influenced by, the set of social, economic and social-ecological relationships in which they are embedded.

Case description: The project will analyse two study cases: Small-Scale Fisheries in Mexico; and Small-Scale agriculture in South Africa.

People: Blanca González García-Mon, Emilie Lindkvist, Örjan Bodin, Maja Schlüter.

Keywords: Small-Scale Food Production, fisheries, agriculture, resilience, trade, diversification, mobility

Methods: Network analysis, qualitative methods, agent-based modelling

Model: Small-Trade Model


  • Gonzalez-Mon, B., Bodin, Ö., Lindkvist, E., Frawley, T. H., Giron-Nava, A., Basurto, X., Nenadovic, M., Schlüter, M., Spatial diversification as a mechanism to adapt to environmental changes in small-scale fisheries. Environmental Science & Policy116, 246-257 (2021).

Funding: ERC MuSES