Tag Archives: Social networks

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.:

Kenya’s Telephone farmers (6 May, 2014) uOttawa Alumni Week

My presentation: Kenya’s “Telephone farmers”: Cellphones, migration, and ecological knowledge (pdf version available here).

The Faculty of Social Sciences organized this panel to highlight the role of social sciences in understanding food (in)security and food issues more generally.  (Thanks to the Vice-dean of Research and Alumni Affairs for making this part of the 2014 Alumni Week!)

CO-PANELISTS: Marie-Josee Massicotte (Political Studies), Jose Lopez (Sociology), and Elizabeth (Betsy) Kristjansson (Psychology).

Photos from the event available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/uottawaalumni/sets/72157644621289493/.

2014-05 Sl Sci of Fd - send pesa
Sending money might be easy by phone in Kenya, but it complicates social and economic relationships.

Lost in transition: Cellphones, multilocational livelihoods, and agrarian change in western Kenya

How are cellphones reshaping the lives of rural Kenyans and the family members who “leave” home?  Click here to read the PDF version of my talk Lost in transition: Cellphones, multilocational livelihoods, and agrarian change in western Kenya”.  

Huge thanks to all who joined me and my fellow panelists (Lincoln Addison; Regina Hansda; Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt; Chris Huggins) at the American Association for Geographers (AAG) meeting in Tampa, Florida.  Feedback, questions and comments continue to be welcome. Please keep in touch!

Abstract: Western Kenya has been a labour-exporting region for over a century, with many households opting to “straddle” both rural and urban contexts by deploying multilocational livelihoods that have reproduced themselves over generations.  Ethnographic and historical investigations show that while this densely settled landscape (with the highest population densities in Kenya) was self-sufficient in food production up until the 1940s, for the last 70 years households and communities have relied heavily on off-farm income and reciprocity to maintain food security, thereby staving off major food crises despite environmental and socio-economic pressures.  Indeed, contrary to the dominant, capitalist models of rural-urban migration and agrarian change, these household coping strategies have actually supported a continued growth in the rural population even while agricultural output has remained stagnant and land per capita dwindled.  This paper draws on thirteen years of interviews and survey data from several western Kenyan communities to interrogate the role of new technologies (especially cellphones) in accelerating the ways in which migrants are (re )enrolled in rural struggles for land, labour, and food security.  Multilocational livelihood strategies are significantly reshaping gender relations and household decision-making but appear to dilute and spread the scarce resources of all but the most advantaged households.


Local experience of climate change in Kenya

Kenya is on the frontline of changes to the global climate.  Local communities report that weather is becoming more variable and less predictable.

Fieldwork, West Pokot
Fieldwork, West Pokot

Although many people label this “climate change”, the reasons for these changes and their impacts on already difficult, rural lives are not always obvious!

The VALUES project (full title “Global Climate Change and Kenya: Vulnerability and Adaptation of Livelihoods Under Environmental Stress“) ran from 2010-2013 and involved multiple students and multiple sites.  We wanted to see what role “climatic” factors played in already complicated rural livelihoods.

Publications and findings will be uploaded soon! (watch this space)

Pierre-Anne Turmel (2010-2012) MA, Univ. of Ottawa

Pierre-Anne Turmel
Pierre-Anne Turmel

MA Thesis: Développement agricole dans le Sud du Rwanda : Étude du processus de participation locale. (Mar. 2010 – Aug. 2012)

Thesis (in French) available from UofO here.

Pierre-Anne worked with rice growing cooperatives in Gitarama, Rwanda from February until June 2011.  Her Thesis investigated the rhetorical claims of inclusiveness and equal participation on which the cooperatives were based.  Her findings, based on individual interviews with 27 farmers, as well as with cooperative leaders, NGO, and government officials, depict the boundaries of “participatory” development in the Rwandan context.

For more information contact me or Pierre-Anne herself (through LinkedIn).

Mayssam Zaaroura (2010-2012), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

MA Thesis: Forgotten Revolutionaries: Reflections on Political Emancipation for Palestinian Refugee Women in Lebanon. (Feb. 2010 – June 2012)

Thesis available from UofO here.

Mayssam Zaaroura
Mayssam Zaaroura

The main objective of this research was to explore Palestinian refugee women’s political rights through a broader examination of the gender dynamics in one refugee camp in Lebanon. Using two focus groups and individual interviews with 20 women, the research highlighted the patriarchal and colonial structures that dominate the women’s lives, preventing them not only in engaging in political activities, but also hindering their opportunities for work and socialization outside their immediate familial spheres. The political disillusionment within the researched and broader Palestinian community, as a result of the encroaching project of Empire as defined by Hardt and Negri, has created a divided Palestinian cause, a failed youth, and a society attempting to hold on to its identity. However, along with that comes the oppression of a sub-section of that society – the women; the remaining possession that the men have. Women who previously engaged in armed resistance have not advanced politically, socially, or economically – and in fact the history of their struggles are being erased as surely as their land is. Nonetheless, pockets of resistance – a Multitude – of women are fighting the current towards a more emancipatory future for themselves and future Palestinian men and women.

For more information contact me or Mayssam herself on LinkedIn.

Michael Tatuli Misiko (2004-2007) Ph.D. – Wageningen Univ.

Misiko ploughing
Misiko uses an ox-plough

Thesis: Fertile ground? Soil fertility management and the African smallholder. (Wageningen University, Netherlands. Full pdf available at:  http://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wda/1842050

Misiko led the field research component of the IDRC-funded Folk Ecology Initiative (2001-2008) and has published many articles (available at his site on ResearchGate) related to his doctoral research and the FEI.