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, October 20, 2015

PhD defense November 6th "East African Hydropatriarchies: An analysis of changing waterscapes in smallholder irrigation farming"

On November 6th in William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 14:00 Martina Angela Caretta will defend her PhD thesis titled:
"East African Hydropatriarchies: An analysis of changing waterscapes in smallholder irrigation farming"

Opponent Zwarteveen, Margreet, Professor
Supervisor Börjeson, Lowe, Doktor
This thesis examines the local waterscapes of two smallholder irrigation farming systems in the dry lands of East African in a context of socio-ecological changes. It focuses on three aspects: institutional arrangements, gender relations and landscape investments. 

This thesis is based on a reflexive analysis of cross-cultural, cross-language research, particularly focusing on the role of field assistants and interpreters, and on member checking as a method to ensure validity.

Flexible irrigation infrastructure in Sibou, Kenya, and Engaruka, Tanzania, allow farmers to shift the course of water and to extend or reduce the area cultivated depending on seasonal rainfall patterns. Water conflicts are avoided through a decentralized common property management system. Water rights are continuously renegotiated depending on water supply. Water is seen as a common good the management of which is guided by mutual understanding to prevent conflicts through participation and shared information about water rights.

However, participation in water management is a privilege that is endowed mostly to men. Strict patriarchal norms regulate control over water and practically exclude women from irrigation management. The control over water usage for productive means is a manifestation of masculinity. The same gender bias has emerged in recent decades as men have increased their engagement in agriculture by cultivating crops for sale. Women, because of their subordinated position, cannot take advantage of the recent livelihood diversification. Rather, the cultivation of horticultural products for sale has increased the workload for women who already farm most food crops for family consumption. In addition, they now have to weed and harvest the commercial crops that their husbands sell for profit. This agricultural gender divide is mirrored in men´s and women´s response to increased climate variability. Women intercrop as a risk adverting strategy, while men sow more rounds of crops for sale when the rain allows for it. Additionally, while discursively underestimated by men, women´s assistance is materially fundamental to maintaining of the irrigation infrastructure and to ensuring the soil fertility that makes the cultivation of crops for sale possible.
In sum, this thesis highlights the adaptation potentials of contemporary smallholder irrigation systems through local common property regimes that, while not inclusive towards women, avoid conflicts generated by shifting water supply and increased climate variability.

To be able to assess the success and viability of irrigation systems, research must be carried out at a local level. By studying how local water management works, how conflicts are adverted through common property regimes and how these systems adapt to socio-ecological changes, this thesis provides insights that are important both for the planning of current irrigation schemes and the rehabilitation or the extension of older systems. By investigating the factors behind the consistent marginalization of women from water management and their subordinated role in agricultural production, this study also cautions against the reproduction of these discriminatory norms in the planning of irrigation projects.

This link provides access to all published papers included in this compilation thesis. 

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