Water is a natural resource whose control for productive purposes is often in the hands of men. Societies grounded on such unequal gender relations have been defined ‘hydropatriarchies’. Against this background, this paper presents a gender analysis of landscape investments, conceptualised as landesque capital in smallholder irrigation farming in East Africa. Based on the analysis of how local gender contracts are negotiated, I argue that as processes of landesque capital formation are often explicitly gendered, attentiveness to gender dynamics is required to fully understand such practices. Moreover, as investments in landesque capital, for example, irrigation, terracing and drainage systems, have primarily been conceptualised as the result of men's systematic work, this study highlights women's contributions to the creation of landesque capital, taking smallholder irrigation as an example. Findings show that a distinction between ‘incremental’ and ‘systematic’ change (Doolittle 1984; Annals of the Association of American Geographers 74 124–37) is central to understanding the gender dynamics of landesque capital investment, but it is not sufficient. As women's work processes are typically not systematic, possibly promoting incremental change, they contribute to the production of landesque capital by supporting and facilitating men's work. However, the work of women is, as a rule, homogenised and stereotypically rendered as reproductive and secondary, due to the underlying cultural norms that limit, control or exploit women. This conceptualisation, or rather lack of, I argue, risks leading to a gender-blind analysis of land use intensification processes. Building on the gendered and symbolic nature of landesque capital, I propose a local gender contract analysis that integrates the cultural, symbolic and physical dimensions of the local gender division of labour into agricultural work and landscape change processes.
2015. Vol. 181, no 4, 388-400 p.
Kenya, Tanzania, landesque capital, local gender contract, smallholder irrigation farming