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Law in Thinking and Practice Around Making Formal Agricultural Markets More Inclusive: Lessons from and For Malawi

Kambili, Cyprian (2023) Law in Thinking and Practice Around Making Formal Agricultural Markets More Inclusive: Lessons from and For Malawi. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.104223) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:104223)

Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only until October 2026.

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This thesis focuses on the participation by smallholder farmers in formal agricultural markets in Malawi-that is, markets that are directly or indirectly generated and sustained by public actors. It asks what roles law can, does and could play in prompting and facilitating the participation of small-scale farmers in these markets; and what factors prevent us from understanding relationships between small holder farmers and formal markets. The thesis is almost certainly the first sustained, sociologically informed, study of law and policy in agricultural economic life in Malawi.

It builds a bespoke conceptual framework using literature that can be gathered under the heading of 'Economic Sociology of Law' (ESL). The thesis argues that dominant economic and doctrinal approaches to the understanding of law are inadequate to understand and explain the limited participation of smallholder farmers in such markets. They should be supplemented by sociological approaches to the economy under ESL. The thesis argues that the integration of economic, doctrinal and sociolegal approaches law might be a more fruitful lens with which to look at agricultural markets to adequately explain the participation or non-participation of other actors in the markets such as smallholder farmer; it proposes that the integration is key to conceptualising and making or organising inclusive markets.

Such approaches are well suited to exploring the economic activities of smallholder farmers, including their reluctance to participate in formal agricultural markets for two reasons. First, they adopt wide definitions of law, including not only state law and related institutions, but also "law-related ideas, ideals, principles and rituals that permeate society" whatever their form. Second, they explore law at all levels of social life: micro-level actions, meso-level interactions and macrolevel regimes, all of which as underpinned by rationalities (ways of making sense of the world). The thesis shows that ESL can reveal analytically, normatively, and empirically the roles law can play in supporting small scale farmers to access formal agricultural markets in Malawi thereby suggesting ways of building inclusive formal markets where such markets have been avoided by smallholder farmers.

The thesis builds on the sociological approaches to law and includes postcolonial approaches to enrich explanations of how law fails or succeeds to legally constitute inclusive economic regimes in Malawi. Empirically, the approach is a qualitative theory-driven one in a manner that 'explains and assesses' the documents that are at the centre of legal constitution or destruction of agricultural markets. This thesis is important for at least two reasons. First it seeks to promote empirically grounded and theoretically informed, cross-disciplinary approaches to law in Malawi and beyond. Second it is important for policymakers, development practitioners, lawyers, researchers, and others with an interest in legally driven economic policy in Malawi and elsewhere.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Perry-Kessaris, Amanda
Thesis advisor: Ashiagbor, Diamond
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.104223
Uncontrolled keywords: law; agricultural markets; structured markets; smallholder farmers; economic sociology of law; ubuntu; socio-legal; ACE; Africa; Malawi
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Funders: Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2023 15:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 09:16 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Kambili, Cyprian.

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