Ben Belton

Country: Myanmar

Ben Belton is an Assistant Professor of International Development at the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Stirling, UK. He has worked extensively in South and Southeast Asia, and is currently based fulltime in Myanmar, where he conducts research on agriculture and the rural economy.

Ben conducts interdisciplinary, mixed methods research on social and economic dimensions of rural development and change in the Global South. Much of his work has focused on drivers of aquaculture development in Asia, and its outcomes with respect to food and nutrition security, agrarian change, and poverty. His  recent work explores processes of transformation in agri-food value chains, and labor dynamics in capture fisheries, and makes use of social wellbeing approaches to understand the subjective and relational effects of processes of rural change.

1. What are you currently working on within the context of SSF?

BB: My current research on small-scale fisheries aims to better understand labour relations and working conditions in capture fisheries operating across a range of scales, and to link these dynamics to broader processes of social and economic change. My work also seeks to better understand the undervalued contributions that the production, trade and consumption of dried fish products from capture fisheries make to livelihoods and food and nutrition security, as well as associated challenges (e.g. poor working conditions and food safety). Other ongoing research seeks to quantify and compare the rural economic multipliers generated by small and large scale aquaculture, and to account for the environmental impacts of aquaculture operating across a range of scales and intensities using Life Cycle Assessment.

2. If you could single out one or two most significant factors for securing sustainability of SSF, what would these factors be?

BB: Conditions under which labour is employed are a very significant and widely overlooked factor in the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. This issue has gained prominence recently in the wake of seafood slavery sandals in large-scale fisheries, particularly in Thailand, but has yet to receive adequate attention in small scale fisheries research. The social dimensions of fisheries sustainably (to which labour is central), tend to receive insufficient attention in general.

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