Researches and publications

Category: Journal article Page 1 of 3

The division of work in Senegalese conventional and alternative food networks: a contributive justice perspective

Labor conditions and rights are a key justice issue in agri-food systems, particularly in global, capitalized and industrialized food supply chains. While alternative food networks have emerged to produce and distribute food outside these logics, their ability to provide more equitable work conditions remains widely debated. We examine equity issues in the division of labor in food exchange networks in the horticultural sector of Senegal from the perspective of contributive justice. Contributive justice considers more broadly how different qualities of work are distributed and how work is perceived by the workers themselves. We performed 71 interviews of workers participating in three food exchange networks: (1) the conventional horticultural supply chain from the Niayes production area to Dakar, (2) an NGO-supported organic food network also supplying goods from Niayes to Dakar and (3) a community-supported agriculture scheme in a peri-urban coastal area. We investigated how functions and tasks are distributed along gender, ethnicity, place of origin and education characteristics of workers and how they qualify their tasks in terms of satisfaction and tediousness. We found a sharp labor division along gender, education and ethnic characteristics in the conventional network and a less sharp one in the two alternative networks. However, worker participants in alternative networks tend to belong to local elites and rarely include more disadvantaged people; they also tend to be less specialized and perform several functions, but do not necessarily express better work satisfaction. Workers who perform highly tedious tasks in the conventional network show rather surprising high work satisfaction. Based on these findings, we discuss the interplays between external and situated perceptions of work and the organization of food supply chains. This allows to critically examine the transformative potential of alternative food networks in the context of a lower-middle income country such as Senegal.


Green Agendas and White Markets: The Coloniality of Agroecology in Senegal

Development actors in West Africa have been promoting agroecological farming as a solution to combat climate change and to create more sovereign food systems that enhance the autonomy of local smallholders. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence regarding the actual implementation of such programs and their potential to empower smallholders, especially in the West African region. Drawing on co-produced knowledge from anthropological fieldwork in Western Senegal, the case study of an alternative food network explores the interlinkages between the promotion of agroecology, anti-migration policies, and unequal power and market relations. Informed by decolonial political ecologies, the analysis reveals different layers of coloniality which complicate embodied effects on horticultural smallholders. The authors conclude that instead of fostering the emancipation of smallholders, development actors promote a labor-intensive and unprofitable way of farming that exploits local resources for the sake of green agendas and white markets. This article highlights the need for a critical reflection on the potential limitations of agroecology and calls for a more nuanced approach that considers the complex realities of smallholders in West Africa.


The agroecological transition in Senegal: transnational links and uneven empowerment

Transnational agroecological networks in Senegal (Pic:Boillat et al. 2021)

Senegal is among the few African countries that counts with an important agroecological movement. This movement is strongly backed up by a network of transnational partnerships and has recently matured into an advocacy coalition that promotes an agroecological transition at national scale. In this article, we investigate the role of transnational links on the empowerment potential of agroecology. Combining the multi-level perspective of socio-technical transitions and Bourdieu’s theory of practices, we conceptualize the agroecological network as a niche shaped by the circulation of different types of capital. Using social network analysis, we investigate the existing flows of resources and knowledge, as well as membership and advocacy links to critically address within-niche empowerment processes. We show that transnational ties play a key role in building the niche protective space, showing a financial dependency of the agroecological niche on NGOs and international cooperation programmes based in Europe and North America. This configuration tends to favor the empowerment of NGOs instead of farmer unions, which only play a peripheral role in the network. However, the multiple innovations focus of agroecology may open up prospects for more gradual but potentially radical change. Based on our findings, we suggest to include more explicitly core-periphery dynamics in transition studies involving North–South relations, including circulation of capital, ideas and norms.


Political Agroecology in Senegal: Historicity and Repertoires of Collective Actions of an Emerging Social Movement

Senegalese community protesting against the grab of their land (Picture:

Agroecology has become an ideological foundation for social and environmental transformation in sub-Saharan Africa. In Senegal, agroecological advocacy coalitions, made up of farmers’ organizations, scientists, NGOs, and IOs, are using agroecology as an umbrella concept for proposing policy changes at multiple scales. We describe the history of the agroecological movement in Senegal in the context of the constitution of a national advocacy coalition. We then examine the “repertoires of collective action” mobilized by the coalition. Four repertoires are identified: technical support and knowledge co-production, territorial governance, alternative food networks, and national policy dialogue. Our analysis highlights the potential that these multi-level approaches have to sustainably transform the current food systems in sub-Saharan Africa. However, our research also reveals the limited agency of farmer organizations and the limitations of a movement that is strongly dependent on NGOs and international donors, leading to a “projectorate” situation in which contradictory policy actions can overlap. We further argue that, although the central government has formally welcomed some of the principles of agroecology into their policy discourse, financial and political interests in pursuing a Green Revolution and co-opting agroecology are pending. This leads to a lack of political and financial autonomy for grassroots farmers’ organizations, limiting the development of counter-hegemonic agroecology. We discuss the conditions under which territorial approaches, and the three other repertoires of collective action, can have significant potential to transform Sub-Saharan
Africa in the coming years.


Channels of Labour Control in Organic Farming: Toward a Just Agroecological Transition for sub-Saharan Africa

Channels of labour control and their indirect links to surplus values.
Participatory guarantee system monitoring (Senegal 2018) (Pic: Bottazzi)

Agroecological farming has long been described as more fulfilling than conventional agriculture, in terms of farmers’ labour and sense of autonomy. These assumptions must be reconsidered with adequate theoretical perspectives and with the empirical experience of recent
studies. This paper introduces the concept of channels of labour control in agriculture based on four initiatives in Senegalese agroecological horticulture. We build on Bourdieu’s theory of social fields to elaborate a framework that articulates multiple channels of labour control with the type of capital or surplus values structuring power relations during labour processes. Although each of the four agroecological initiatives place a clear emphasis on improving farmers’ well-being, various top-down channels of labour control exist, maintaining most farmworkers as technical demonstrators rather than agents of transformation. These constraints stem from dependence on foreign funding, enforcement of uncoordinated organic standards, and farmers’ incorporation of cultural values through interplays of knowledge and symbolic power with initiative promotors. Pressure on agricultural workers is exacerbated by the context of the neo-liberalisation of Senegalese agriculture and increasingly difficult climatic conditions. A more holistic approach of agroecological initiatives is needed, including the institutionalisation of protected markets for their products, farmers’ inclusion in agroecosystem governance and inclusiveness in the co-production of agroecological knowledge, taking cultural patterns of local communities into account. Recent attempts to scale-up and politicise agroecology through farmers’ organisations, advocacy NGOs, and municipalities may offer new perspectives for a just agroecological transition in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Mechanisms and impacts of an incentive‐based conservation program with evidence from a randomized control trial

Conservation science needs more high‐quality impact evaluations, especially ones that explore mechanisms of success or failure. Randomized control trials (RCTs) provide particularly robust evidence of the effectiveness of interventions (although they have been criticized as reductionist and unable to provide insights into mechanisms), but there have been few such experiments investigating conservation at the landscape scale. We explored the impact of Watershared, an incentive‐based conservation program in the Bolivian Andes, with one of the few RCTs of landscape‐scale conservation in existence. There is strong interest in such incentive‐based conservation approaches as some argue they can avoid negative social impacts sometimes associated with protected areas. We focused on social and environmental outcomes based on responses from a household survey in 129 communities randomly allocated to control or treatment (conducted both at the baseline in 2010 and repeated in 2015–2016). We controlled for incomplete program uptake by combining standard RCT analysis with matching methods and investigated mechanisms by exploring intermediate and ultimate outcomes according to the underlying theory of change. Previous analyses, focused on single biophysical outcomes, showed that over its first 5 years Watershared did not slow deforestation or improve water quality at the landscape scale. We found that Watershared influenced some outcomes measured using the survey, but the effects were complex, and some were unexpected. We thus demonstrated how RCTs can provide insights into the pathways of impact, as well as whether an intervention has impact. This paper, one of the first registered reports in conservation science, demonstrates how preregistration can help make complex research designs more transparent, avoid cherry picking, and reduce publication bias.


Why telecoupling research needs to account for environmental justice

Mining in Senegal impacting small-scale agriculture (Pic: Patrick Bottazzi, 2019)

Engaging with normative questions in land system science is a key challenge. This debate paper highlights the potential of incorporating elements of environmental justice scholarship into the evolving telecoupling framework that focuses on distant interactions in land systems. We first expose the reasons why environmental justice matters in understanding telecoupled systems, and the relevant approaches suited to mainstream environmental justice into telecoupled contexts. We then explore which specific elements of environmental justice need to be incorporated into telecoupling research. We focus on 1) the distribution of social-ecological burdens and benefits across distances, 2) power and justice issues in governing distantly tied systems, and 3) recognition issues in information flows, framings and discourses across distances. We conclude our paper highlighting key mechanisms to address injustices in telecoupled land systems.


Agroecology as a pathway to resilience justice: peasant movements and collective action in the Niayes coastal region of Senegal

Participatory mapping (Niayes, Senegal) Pic: Bottazzi 2019

In semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa, farming populations face harsh climatic
conditions but also very unequal and dynamic social processes that affect their resilience. This study addresses aspects of power and social justice related with the social-ecological system of the Niayes coastal region of Senegal, and examines the potential of agroecology to improve the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers. We performed a knowledge co-production process with a local farmer union to identify the main social-ecological nexuses that matter for smallholder farmers, their dynamics and the influence of powerful actors and institutions on them. We also look at the potential actions of the farmer union under the banner of agroecology to transform these dynamics. We found that social-ecological dynamics involve reinforcing feedback loops that undermine
the resilience of smallholder farmers and that powerful actors such as
agribusinesses have a strong influence on these processes. Union actions
promoting agroecology have enhanced system thinking and related solutions, but observed social justice claims are very recent and have a limited scope. Our findings expand the notion of resilience grabbing, understood as the undermining of resilience through the loss of commons, to include systemic degradations due to direct and indirect actions of involved stakeholders. We also propose to expand the notion of resilience justice vertically, integrating procedural and recognition justice, and horizontally, integrating linked social-ecological issues. We conclude that agroecology can become a transformative bridge from resilience grabbing to resilience justice, but must be more sensitive to power relations, in particular around labour.

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The Geopolitics of Protected Areas

Bolivian police intervention in the indigenous TIPNIS march Sept 2011 (pic: Dario Kenner)

The conservation enterprise is embedded in ideas of the environment
through which it promotes a vision of the world and the
relations between the non-human and human. The papers in this
forum analyse conservation from various vantage points to draw
the links between geopolitics and conservation. The authors use
three themes to demonstrate these links. The first theme draws on
the concept of environmentality to show the mobilization of ecological
rationalities and power towards the creation of protected
areas. The second pays attention to networks formed across the
distance, and how they influence the location and governance of
protected areas. The third focuses on the strategies the conservation
lobby uses to align local identities with global conservation
ideals and goals. Collectively, these themes highlight features of
conservation geopolitics.

Link to the published article


Livelihoods and food security among rural households in the Northwestern Mount Kenya region

Student surveying farmer in the Mount Kenya area (Pic: P. Bottazzi)

Food insecurity remains a major concern for numerous rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa who rely on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. The assessment of the links between food security and  livelihoods is central for overcoming widespread food insecurity. However, assessments of food security remain challenging, due to its multi-dimensionality and the challenge of finding indicators that are comparable and applicable to various contexts. This study addresses this challenge by adapting a food security index (FSI) and use it to assess the livelihood drivers of food security. The index captures the multi-dimensionality of food security using the conventional food security indicators. The assessed indicators include measures of “food consumption score”, “household dietary diversity score”, “coping strategies index”, the “household food insecurity access scale” and “months of adequate household food provisioning”. The study covered 600 randomly selected households  representative of three ecological areas located closed to large scale agricultural investment of Mount Kenya region in Kenya. Linear regression was used to identify livelihood factors significantly influencing food security. Spearman’s rank-order correlation and student’s T-test demonstrated a strong and significant correlation between the composite FSI index and the each classical indicators of food security. Overall, 32% of the households were food secure and 68% were food insecure. Households’ ownership of productive hand tools, followed by off-farm income, consumption of own produced food, type of agro-ecological zone farm income and number of main crops infested by pests had a significant effect on household food security. All these factors, expect number of main crops infested by pests, were found to positively influence household food security. Household size, the size of accessible land and households’ members’ participation to large agricultural investments (as wage workers or sub-contract farmer) were not significantly  influencing food security. Households of the Mount Kenya region need alternative off-farm income sources combined with further support to improve sustainable agriculture management with appropriate hand tools.

Link to the published article


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