Tag Archives: Rural development

Yassine Ben Rejeb (2015 – present), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaf1aaaajdiymwrmogy3ltmxn2etndqxni1inmvhltu3otixyjfizmnlzgMA, Thesis: Social franchising in the development non-profit sector: Prospects for achieving adaptable and sustainable scale of impact. (Oct. 2015 – present)


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)

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…)

How to (mis)understand youth, migration & agrarian change

Much of the literature on a “cellphone revolution” in Africa frames the technology as the driver of change, for such things as financial inclusion for the poor, better agricultural or climate information to farmers, the power for social movements to hold governments accountable.  In this brown bag talk I am interested in exploring how cellphones are part of a broader set of social changes – responding to and helping to shape those changes – but not necessarily driving them.

Click here to download the slides (“This cellphone is my lifeline”: How to (mis)understand youth, migration, and agrarian change in Kenya).

This talk draws on ongoing research as well as material previously published and presented, e.g.:

Mohamed Noorani (2013-2014), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

Mohamed Noorani
Mohamed Noorani

MA Thesis: To Farm or Not to Farm? Rural Youth Perceptions of Farming and their Decision of Whether or Not to Work as a Farmer: A Case Study of Rural Youth in Kiambu County, Kenya.

Read the full thesis here (pdf file).

Mohamed was in Kenya from Feb.-May 2014 to study how youth in central Kenya perceive and engage with agriculture.  He was particularly interested in those who are approaching (or returning to) agriculture as an entrepreneurial opportunity.  Mohammed worked in conjunction with FarmShop (www.farmshop.co.ke), a Kenyan NGO.

For more information contact me or Mohamed himself (through LinkedIn).


The present study examines rural youth perceptions of farming and their decision of whether or not to work as a farmer by paying special attention to personal career aspirations, social (peer and parental) influences, and structural (land, finance, market, and agricultural education) constraints as the “push” and “pull” forces of farming. Interviews were conducted with 59 youth in six villages of Kiambu County, Kenya. Findings revealed that non-agricultural career aspirations, such as engineering and teaching, may create the desire to migrate away from farming. While many youth held negative perceptions of farming, which were reinforced through peer and parental influence, a sub-set of youth expressed a passion for farming and considered farming an attractive career path. However, the existence of structural barriers and the difficulties in overcoming them, especially access to land, limited their participation in farming.

Lynsey Longfield (2013-2014), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

MA Thesis:  Challenges and Opportunities Shaping Smallholders’ Engagement with Formal and Informal Markets for Food and Livelihood Security: A Rift Valley, Kenya Case Study Analysis. (Jan. 2013-Aug. 2014)

Thesis available from UofO here.

Lynsey’s project addresses whether and how smallholder farmers in the Eldoret-Kitale corridor of Kenya are effectively able to gain access to supermarkets and other formal markets.  For more information contact me or Lynsey herself (through LinkedIn).


This case study analysis looks at four communities in Rift Valley, Kenya including Matisi, Moi’s Bridge, Sirende and Waitaluk.  The research focuses on the role of markets in achieving food and livelihood security for the smallholders in these communities and smallholders’ perceptions of the roles of the Government of Kenya and other institutions in facilitating market access. The largest challenges to market participation, as reported by the smallholders in the studied communities, include low yields, weather inconsistencies, and lack of land.  In terms of the Government of Kenya, many smallholders noted the benefits of participating in groups as they are subsequently offered training or field days and subsidies.  A significant group of respondents did comment on their lack of interest in joining similar groups as they were seen as unstable or corrupt.  The potential roles of formal and informal markets to increase food security were also analyzed.  All smallholders wished to be participating in informal markets, but twenty-five percent were constrained by the lack of surplus produce.  Similarly, although many reported their desire to be participants in formal markets lack of surplus produce, price fluctuations, inconsistent weather patterns, transportation costs and post- harvest losses or food waster were recognized as significant barriers.  In order to mitigate these constraints, most smallholders recommended subsidies on inputs and the overall restructuring of markets.  It is recommended that organizations and governments implement a livelihood diversification policy program or initiative to diversify and intensify agricultural activities and other non-agricultural activities.  This case study analysis demonstrates the need to recognize the importance of local contexts, specifically Rift Valley as much of the research done in Kenya is found in Nairobi and surrounding areas and cautions labeling communities as food secure based on favorable conditions.

Nathalie Rainville (2011-2014), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

Major Research Paper (MRP): Women at the Center of Food Security in Ghana? An analysis of National Investment Plans’ Support of Women in Agricultural Development.   (2011 – Aug. 2014).

The Government of Ghana’s national investment plan was compared with IFAD’s support plan for how they framed the role of women farmers


Women farmers in Ghana are responsible for 80% of agricultural output and make up the majority of the population who is concerned with household nutrition and food security. Yet, this study of the government of Ghana’s Medium term Agricultural Investment Program (METASIP) and IFAD’s Country Strategic Operations Program for Ghana (COSOP) did not find any evidence that point to these labor statistics or women producers’ potential as leaders in agricultural development. Rather, the findings point to strong support for the private sector as the knowledge holders to modernize Ghana’s agriculture industry, despite strong gender equality policy dialogue advocating for shifts in gender dynamics, which would empower female producers as entrepreneurs and decision-makers. This study concludes that future studies need to delve into this disconnect between the gender mainstreaming policies that promote power shifts in gendered relations and the disempowering agricultural development programs and cooperation practices that are actually implemented in the West African context.

Download the full Major Research Paper here.  For more information contact me.