“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.
MA, Major Research Paper: Who profits from ecosystem services? The winners and losers of forestry PES schemes in Costa Rica and beyond. (Dec. 2014 – Aug. 2015)
Costa Rica’s National Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program has been hailed as an example of a successful application of market-based conservation to increase forest cover. The theory and application of PES has greatly evolved since its inception in the mid-1990s, but many questions remain unanswered including the real environmental and social benefits derived from PES schemes, particularly effects on the poor and landless. Using a thorough literature review of forest cover and watershed PES case studies in Costa Rica and other countries in Latin America, this paper reveals that PES benefits have, in most cases, been beneficial as a form of income diversification for larger landowners with insignificant benefits for participants at the very bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. Suggestions for evolution of the PES framework include incorporation of greater and more diverse incentives, social and environmental targeting as well as improving awareness of PES effectiveness at the local level. More broadly, the PES framework has been useful in testing the grounds for market-based conservation with state participation while promoting a culture of sustainable ecosystem use within socioeconomic boundaries.
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.:
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.
Kenya is on the frontline of changes to the global climate. Local communities report that weather is becoming more variable and less predictable.
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)
Thesis: Economic optimization of integrated soil fertility management strategies for maize-based production systems: A case study of smallholder farm typologies in Central Kenya. Dept. of Agricultural Economics, University of Nairobi.