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Shady Practices: Agroforestry and Gender Politics in The Gambia

Richard A. Schroeder
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    Shady Practices
    Book Description:

    Shady Practicesis a revealing analysis of the gendered political ecology brought about by conflicting local interests and changing developmental initiatives in a West African village. Between 1975 and 1985, while much of Africa suffered devastating drought conditions, Gambian women farmers succeeded in establishing hundreds of lucrative communal market gardens. In less than a decade, the women's incomes began outstripping their husbands' in many areas, until a shift in development policy away from gender equity and toward environmental concerns threatened to do away with the social and economic gains of the garden boom. Male landholders joined forestry personnel in attempts to displace the gardens and capture women's labor for the irrigation of male-controlled tree crops. This carefully documented microhistory draws on field experience spanning more than two decades and the insights of disciplines ranging from critical human geography to development studies. Schroeder combines the "success story" of the market gardens with a cautionary tale about the aggressive pursuit of natural resource management objectives, however well intentioned. He shows that questions of power and social justice at the community level need to enter the debates of policymakers and specialists in environment and development planning.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92447-5
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xxx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xxxv-xxxviii)
  8. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Some sixty kilometers upriver along the North Bank of The River Gambia lies the Mandinka-speaking community of Kerewan (ke′-re-wan). The dusty headquarters of The Gambia’s North Bank Division is located on a low rise overlooking rice and mangrove swamps and a ferry transport depot that facilitates motor vehicle transport across Jowara Creek (Jowara Bolong), one of the River Gambia’s principal tributaries. Since the Kerewan area was dominated by opposition political parties throughout the nearly thirty-year reign of The Gambia’s first president, Al-Haji Sir Dawda Jawara (1965–1994),¹ it became something of a developmental backwater. Before 1990, Kerewan town had no...

  9. CHAPTER 2 The Rise of a Female Cash Crop: A Market Garden Boom for Mandinka Women
    (pp. 21-38)

    The phenomenon of a cash-crop system managed exclusively by women had little precedent in The Gambia prior to the market garden boom, For that matter, the ethnographic record shows relatively little cash-crop activity by women elsewhere in the West Africa region. Thus, the emergence of a viable market gardening sector in rural Gambia begs several questions. Why did cash-crop production by Gambian women, flourish when similar efforts by women in other parts of the region routinely met with failure? How can we account for the timing of the boom, and the fact that it flourished on the North Bank in...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Gone to Their Second Husbands: Domestic Politics and the Garden Boom
    (pp. 39-60)

    One of the offshoots of the surge in female incomes and the intense demands on female labor produced by the garden boom was an escalation of gender politics centered on the reworking of what Whitehead once called the “conjugal contract” (Whitehead 1981; see also Jackson 1995). In Kerewan, the political engagement between gardeners and their husbands can be divided into two phases. The first phase, comprising the early years of the garden boom, was characterized by a sometimes bitter war of words. In the context of these discursive politics, men whose wives seemed preoccupied with gardening claimed that gardens dominated...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Better Homes and Gardens: The Social Relations of Vegetable Production
    (pp. 61-77)

    The new conjugal contract won by gardeners on The Gambia’s North Bank accorded them considerably greater autonomy than they had held previously, but only on condition that they continue to meet their husbands’ demands for financial support. Thus in the early stages, the intra-household battle over domestic budgets became a major driving force behind the garden boom. Gardeners responded to this impetus by pressing hard, to intensify production, even while continuing to satisfy their families’ needs for domestic services. The primary objective in this effort was to extend the income stream from gardens beyond the narrow market window afforded by...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Branching into Old Territory: The Gender Politics of Mandinka Garden / Orchards
    (pp. 78-104)

    The key to the various strategies rural Mandinka women developed for horticultural intensification lay in the ability of women to acquire additional land resources to grow their crops. Until the garden boom, the dominant land tenure system in and around Kerewan was centered on cultivation of rice, groundnuts, and the coarse grains (millet, sorghum, and maize). Upland areas cultivated by men in a groundnut / coarse grain rotation were known locally asboraa banko, or “land of the beard,” So-named, according to one informant, because it is “something a woman will never have,”boraa bankoland was inherited along patrilineal...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Contesting Agroforestry Interventions
    (pp. 105-129)

    In retrospect, it may seem surprising that the state agencies, NGOs, voluntary organizations, and mission groups that once supported the garden boom could so blithely shift their focus from market gardens to agroforestry ventures. There were, however, at least three mitigating factors that helped steer development efforts in this new direction. First, although the garden boom produced dramatic social and economic changes in many parts of the country, this fact was not widely appreciated in The Gambia in the mid-1980s. In fact, as noted in the Preface, the garden boom was systematically discredited by several of the major developers, who...

  14. CHAPTER 7 Shady Practices
    (pp. 130-136)

    In this book I have explored successive attempts to reclaim low-lying soil and water resources in a small town on the North Bank of the River Gambia. In the first instance, rural women’s groups, responding to drought-related changes in. key agro-ecologies and a squeeze on household finances engineered by the promoters of structural adjustment embarked on a venture to intensify production of fresh vegetables and fruit for commercial sale. As these women gradually improved their horticultural knowledge and practices and forged crucial market connections, women and sympathetic male colleagues in the United States and Europe, the centers of development capital,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 137-148)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 149-164)
  17. Index
    (pp. 165-174)