(Mis-)communicating climate information in Kenya

“Is this a bad time to call?” Mobile phones, migrants (mis-)communication of climate information in Kenya

NEW!  Click here to download the full presentation from Wed. 5 April, 2017 – American Association of Geographers (AAG), Boston, MA

Huge thanks to all who joined me and my fellow panelists (Peter Dannenberg; Sheila Huggins Rao; Dorothea Kleine) at the American Association for Geographers (AAG) meeting in Boston, MA.  Feedback, questions and comments continue to be welcome. Please keep in touch!

Abstract: . Ethnographic fieldwork conducted with farmer groups in contrasting high and low market-access sites over the period 2012-2016 explores how household members shared (or withheld) information about climate and agricultural performance using phones or physical visits.

Phone calls were the dominant medium for information sharing, which for agricultural issues prioritised discussion of crop problems, dry spells, lack of inputs, and extreme weather events.  Mobile money transfers were the most common response to reported problems with many migrants concerned and frustrated by the poor agricultural performance in the rural areas. Reliance on mobile communication and a decreasing frequency of migrants’ physical involvement in the rural home leads to migrants’ perceptions that climate-related changes are extreme and potentially costly.

Narratives of climate change and its impacts in rural Kenya must therefore be interpreted with care, since many are embedded in household narratives constituted to maintain the economic and emotional involvement of migrants in their rural homes.

FOLLOW THE PROJECT ON ITS WEBSITE multilocationality.wordpress.com

Brenna Croal (2015 – present), MSc., Institute of Env. Sustainability, Univ. of Ottawa

MA, Major Research Paper (Institute of Environmental Sustainability): Caribou Variability and Inuit Food Security: A case study of Iqaluit and the Baffin Island Caribou herd. (Oct. 2015 – Aug. 2016)

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaosaaaajdlizdk5zjczltbiotqtndmzos1imdq4lwe1mmzhnmy2zjm1ngABSTRACT:
The relationship between food security and climate change in Canada has largely been addressed in the context of large-scale agriculture-based food systems but there have been few studies considering how smaller, subsistence-based food systems are affected. Moreover, there are distinctive food security considerations for First Nations and Inuit related to the harvesting and consumption of traditional foods, which impacts the commonly considered dimensions of food security: access, availability, supply and utilization. Due to shifting away from a traditional to more modernized economy, there has been increased competition between traditional food consumption and a more westernized diet which can be conceptualized as a “nutrition transition”. However, traditional foods still make up a large proportion of people’s diets and, in combination with store-bought foods, remain integral to the contemporary Inuit food system. Climate change appears correlated with increased variability of traditional food sources such as caribou, which may be impacting local food security for First Nations communities.
This research paper sought to investigate this relationship by using a case study of the Baffin Island caribou herd, which has recently plummeted to critically low levels of abundance, and its impact on the community of Iqaluit. The research found that climate variability caused a decrease in the availability of caribou likely due to the subsequent shift in their distribution as a result of changing ability to access forage. While this created a shortage of caribou meat in Iqaluit, it can be argued that broader socioeconomic conditions such as poverty and unemployment were more pressing than environmental conditions in terms of food security determinants among those living in Iqaluit.

Pamela Tom-Jack (2014 – 2016), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

MA, Major Research Paper (Graduate School in Public & International Affairs): The Evolving Geopolitical Relations of Nigeria and China: What is the impact of the Nigeria-China trade and direct investment on the Nigerian economy?

04645bcABSTRACT:
This paper examines the growing economic relations between Nigeria and China with the aim of providing more information on the true impacts of their bilateral trade expansion on the Nigerian economy, both at the domestic and international level through the lenses of authors of various literature reviews.
In order to perform this assessment, this paper will examine the history of Chinese penetration into Nigeria and its industries in comparison to other Western investors. This research evaluates current trade statistics between both countries. Data was collected mainly from secondary sources.
Nigeria and China have had a longstanding relationship founded on a strategic partnership to promote a South-South cooperation, development and growth of their economies. The conclusion is that there is a neo classical dependency theory that Chinese growth and development model is beneficial for the Nigerian economy and China’s expansion in Africa is not a new form of colonialism. However, Nigeria needs to create more employment opportunities for its local population by reducing the number of the Chinese workers through a process of skills and acquisition transfer.

Where’s the Gap? The social construction of “yield gaps”

Wed. 24 Feb., 2016 – IDS Sussex, Brighton, UK

NEW!  Click here to download my presentation at the 2016 Contested Agronomy conference (“Where’s the Gap? The social construction of yield gaps between researchers’ and farmers’ practice”).  This is the draft version of the 15 minute script to the forthcoming paper… and even includes a special celebrity in an unexpected, starring role!

More information on the conference itself can be found here.

John-Eric Teehan (2014 – 2015), MA, Univ. of Ottaw

MA, Major Research Paper:  Towards a New Green Revolution? Exploring Competing Approaches to Food Security In the Aftermath of Malawi’s Agriculture Success Story. (Jan. 2014 – Dec. 2015)

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaiyaaaajdu3ywjkn2u0ltjknwitndriny1hytjjlwi5zji1zdyxmzcxmwABSTRACT:
In Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the workforce is employed in agriculture and the majority of the poorest households depend on farming for their livelihoods.  In Malawi, low food production has led to chronic food crises and famines as domestic food production collapsed nationally in 1992, 1994, and 2004. In response to these shortages a Fertilizer Input Subsidy Program (FISP) was introduced in 2005 by the Government of Malawi to increase the ability of small-holder farmers to generate yields and improve food security nationwide. Hailed as a prime example of the “New Green Revolution” and often viewed as a success story, this paper analyzes FISP’s challenges and limitations. It reviews FISP within the context of a food security theoretical framework, and explores alternative and experimental policy interventions for achieving food security, including agroecology and social protection programs. Specifically, this research paper argues that while the implementation of FISP increased food availability at the national level, it did not fully address issues of food access, utilization, financial and ecological sustainability, and beneficiary targeting.  Therefore, FISP constitutes only a partial solution to food insecurity in Malawi. A multipronged, balanced approach that includes agroecological initiatives and social protection programs that target different groups with different interventions could provide a more effective, efficient, and holistic approach to food security.

Download the full Major Research Paper here.

Cellphones’ ambiguous effects on rural households in Western Kenya (2015, Article)

“Never at ease”: Cellphones, multilocational households, and the metabolic rift in western Kenya

Agriculture and Human Values (Dec. 2015) DOI: 10.1007/s10460-015-9654-3
Download the pdf from my ResearchGate site here.

AHV coverHIGHLIGHTS: New field data from Western Kenya (building on the chapter published in 2014 – read it here) suggests:

  • Rural households are networked to migrant members elsewhere in the country, who can be called upon for financial, social, and emotional support.  These networks were larger than expected.
  • Frequent telephonic contact within households seems to be decreasing the frequency with which members physically see each other, and extending the time between migrants’ return visits to the rural area.
  • The lack of physical presence is disrupting the transmission and generation of agroecological knowledge about the rural area.
  • Migrant men believe themselves to be quite involved in rural affairs; frequent telephonic contact constrains the already limited autonomy of female-headed households in the rural sphere.

The article is part of a series of papers from a 2014 symposium on “Labour Dynamics of Agrarian Change”.  SSHRC-funded research in Kenya (2015-2020) will continue to explore these issues in other settings and in greater detail.
ABSTRACT: Western Kenya has been a labour-exporting region for over a century, with many households straddling both rural and urban contexts. While the spatial separation of migrants from their rural places of origin represented the first tangible metabolic rift within Kenyan agricultural production systems, that rift is being reshaped as rural families engage in new forms of interconnection with migrant members (“multilocationality”). These changes appear to be driven by the ongoing crisis of agrarian livelihoods and are supported by the advent of cellphone communication and mobile money transfer technologies.
Interviews and ethnographic data collected in a western Kenyan community and amongst its out-migrants reveal the role of cellphones in mediating social, financial, and knowledge flows within multilocational households. The increased ease of communicating and sending money is associated with less frequent physical movements between rural and urban settings, with commensurate disruptions in the acquisition and development of agro-ecological knowledge, and a shifting burden of agricultural labour. Gender relations are also put under further stress: migrant men remain (or believe they have remained) involved in rural affairs but appear to be using cellphone technologies to reinvent their household roles, replacing previously social or labour contributions with financial ones and by asserting claims over the on-farm decision-making of rural households previously considered female-headed.

(Contact me for more information…)

Knowledge – Food – Development

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