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Hydropatriarchies and landesque capital: a local gender contract analysis of two smallholder irrigation systems in East Africa
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Human Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6811-304X
2015 (English)In: Geographical Journal, ISSN 0016-7398, E-ISSN 1475-4959, Vol. 181, no 4, 388-400 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 181, no 4, 388-400 p.
Keyword [en]
Kenya, Tanzania, landesque capital, local gender contract, smallholder irrigation farming
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Geography with Emphasis on Human Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-105853DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12102ISI: 000364648300008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-105853DiVA: diva2:732884
Projects
Current expansion and past dynamics of small-holder irrigation farming in African dry-lands, measuring landscape, labor and climate interactions
Funder
Swedish Research Council, SWE2009-210
Available from: 2014-07-07 Created: 2014-07-07 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. East African Hydropatriarchies: An analysis of changing waterscapes in smallholder irrigation farming
Open this publication in new window or tab >>East African Hydropatriarchies: An analysis of changing waterscapes in smallholder irrigation farming
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, 2015. 81 p.
Series
Meddelanden från Kulturgeografiska institutionen vid Stockholms universitet, ISSN 0585-3508 ; 150
Keyword
smallholder irrigation farming, local gender contract, landesque capital, common property regimes, dry lands, feminist epistemology, member checking, Kenya, Tanzania
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Geography with Emphasis on Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-120591 (URN)978-91-7649-206-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-11-06, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Sida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SWE2009-210
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2015-10-15 Created: 2015-09-14 Last updated: 2015-11-03Bibliographically approved

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