In this chapter, I discuss how the political economy of agrarian change (PEACH) might enhance research on the causes of chronic poverty and its transformation in rural areas.

The rise and fall of the political economy of agrarian change (PEACH) in mainstream poverty studies

From the mid 1960s through to the mid 1980s, Judith Heyer was part of a general movement which sought to understand rural poverty through a distinctly cross-disciplinary analysis of the political economy of agrarian change and which was firmly rooted in empirical research. In the early 1960s, growth-based theories of agricultural development driven by technical change were promoted as a solution to persistent rural poverty (e.g. Mellor 1967). Yet local observers and village field researchers noted that rural development wasn’t working – the numbers of poor grew and some non-poor smallholders, fisherman and pastoralists became poor through loss of assets or common property resources. Bigger farmers appropriated the land of smaller farmers; rural labourers were displaced by machines; capitalist farming depleted scarce water resources and ruined soils; exploitation of the rural poor was intensified through linked credit, labour and commodity markets, and foreign companies continued to extract mineral resources, cheap labour and cheaply made commodities.2