Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In response to an earlier blog post

Last week Prof. Martin Jones published a blog post on food plants in Marakwet. He writes about the market in Kolowa in East Pokot "A link between cash crops and men as posited by recent writers such as Caretta and  Börjeson (2014) was not as immediately evident, as the market and other places contained many entrepreneurial women." and then he adds " Caretta and  Börjeson detail a series of crop varietal names which overlap with, but do not entirely match the longer list compiled by Helena.  This is unsurprising as all parties are recalling varietal names, sometimes from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  Further enquiries would clarify these, and indeed some terms may have multiple usages." 
In response to Prof. Jones´ statements I would like to add two points. First of all, our article referred mostly to women´s and men´s labor as in cultivation, not in trading. However, it is true that women are the principal, if not the sole, sellers at market, especially at the one in Kolowa and at Tot centre. This circumstance however does not mean that women have control over cash crops or, if you like, more recently introduced crops that have brought about livelihood diversification through sale. Women in fact sell minimal quantities in these local markets, while men deal directly with wholesalers. Yet another instance in which local patriarchal structures are manifested. This power configuration points also to the fact that the informal economy is often feminized and feeds off the care economy i.e. unpaid work. Moreover, as showed by Carney (1993) in The Gambia, markets risk being saturated by women selling vegetable decreasing their returns.  
Secondly, Prof. Jones correctly states that crop names have changed through generations and that the ones mentioned in our articles constitute a partial listing. In fact, while I never heard some of the name mentioned in his blog post, I could remember other ones. Indicative of this multiplicity of names is the fact that once when I was carrying an interview, also with the assistance of Helena Chepto, a lady who was originally from a Chesongoch used a different name than Helena to indicate the same long term millet seeds that we were looking at. Hence, crop varietal names are not only generation specific, but also place specific within Marakwet. As Prof Jones indicates, it is high time to record and archive seeds and crops varieties in Marakwet. This cultural richness risks being lost with the commercialization of seeds which the new Red Cross-sponsored Tot-Kolowa irrigation project could be the dawn of. A forthcoming publication by me and Wilhelm Östberg will discuss this project and the projects in the last 40 years by of Kerio Valley Development Agency more in depth. 
Finally, I welcome Prof. Jones´ blog post because I think it is the perfect examples of how academic communication and debate can be enhanced through new and quicker forums, such as blogs. While articles drafts are not often shared among academicians hence, missing an opportunity to improve a colleague´s work, blogs can be useful straightforward and easy means to make early work visible and open up for comments. 


  1. Interesting discussion. But the link to Martin Jones post does not work. Where is it? Or is it no longer there? Another issue: is it really to be assumed that terms for crops should be the same in Marakwet and in East Pokot? Or does Martin Jones refer to Marakwet women trading in East Pokot? Or am I out of the blue here?

    1. The blog post indeed does not function anymore, but was in the blog Women from Marakwet go to Kolowa every Thursday, so I assume we are talking about the same women.