Subsistence agriculture to commercial horticulture
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Mountains present unique challenges for conventional development efforts due to their topography and associated socio-economic complexity. Himachal Pradesh in India has defied the odds by making a relatively successful transition to commercial horticulture from an erstwhile subsistence economy based on cultivation of cereal crops. I critically assess the emergence of Himachal as a “model” and its applicability to other South Asian mountainous areas by analyzing in a historical perspective the social and political factors that made the transition possible. Data from a number of sources including interviews, survey, newspapers and government reports involving multiple social actors and sites are used to provide a more comprehensive description of development policy formulation and implementation. In analyzing development, I focus on the ideas, institutions and practices that have together produced a historically specific experience meaningful to the people and policy-makers alike. Furthermore, I emphasize the inability of development policies, owing to underlying ontological and epistemological premises, to effectively deal with contingency and uncertainty that characterize the situation on ground. Thus generalizations from the case of Himachal cannot proceed from an assumed unity of theory and practice but have to take into account myriad ramifications and unintended consequences that follow from attempts to transfer concepts and practices across a terrain marked by asymmetrical social and political relations.