Sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities, spill-over effects, and global-local relations

University of Copenhagen (Denmark)

Cash crop booms for export markets have transformed much of the forested uplands of mainland Southeast Asia. However, the localized nature of these crop booms masks the dynamics of why and how these crop booms spread, especially across country borders. This project takes point of departure in Thailand, where smallholder maize cultivation has expanded across the northern uplands to feed a rapidly growing livestock industry that exports to other Asian countries and the EU. Yet, as agribusinesses seek an ever-increasing supply of maize, sustainability advocates in Thailand seek to curb its cultivation, as its expansion has caused widespread deforestation and increased chemical use, soil erosion and haze from residue burning. Conflicting pressures such as these are thought to be shifting the sourcing of maize away from Thailand, causing maize booms to spillover to neighboring countries, often in an ungoverned manner. Therefore, sustainable sourcing efforts in Thailand may lead to the expansion of systems that are considered unsustainable elsewhere, as well as unintentional feedback effects. This project aims to dissect the complex cross-border connections between these land-use systems by tracing the changing flows of maize between Thailand and neighboring countries, examining how these flows are governed through a network of actors, and exploring the associated place-based land use, environmental, and livelihood outcomes on both sides of the border.

The research will lead to

  • Creation of knowledge on how to analyze flows that link cross-border land systems
  • Development of new approaches that integrate place-based data sets of a multidisciplinary nature with flow-based analyses
  • Development of methodologies to attribute impacts to drivers in telecoupled land-use systems


Pin Pravalprukskul

University of Copenhagen, Section for Geography
Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 København K, Denmark

“My research will examine how efforts to source commodity crops more sustainably in one place may cause unsustainable crop production systems to spillover to other places, and how land use and livelihoods change as a result.”

Pin Pravalprukskul