Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Margarita Estévez-Abe

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation seeks to demonstrate civic activism among rural communities in Indonesia and how they can obtain their policy of interest – two main features that build rural political agency. It emphasizes on rural participation in Rural Producer Organizations (RPOs), popular community-based farmer organizations, which have proliferated over the last decade. Two research questions guide this project: (1) What are the conditions that explain rural participation in RPOs in Indonesia? and (2) What are the effects of this participation on the political agency of rural communities?. Using a mixed-method approach that consists of original survey analysis, interviews, and quantitative analysis, this dissertation found that exposure to trade openness provides the primary motivation for rural communities to join an RPO, as they desire to stay competitive in the globalized market. The dissertation further explores how membership in RPOs promotes not only economic well-being of its members but also rural communities’ involvement in political activities, mainly by participating in policymaking discussions. The empirical findings suggest that rural participation in RPOs correlates with higher government support, although it is still constrained by certain political environment at the local level. The findings in this dissertation will help us better understand democracy in developing countries such as Indonesia, as nearly three-quarters of its population lives in rural areas and engaging in agricultural activities.


Open Access