Tag Archives: journal of peasant studies

Confronting authoritarian populism: a new initiative

A few weeks back, I highlighted the launch of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI), and the availability of small grants for doing research on both the contours of the current conjuncture, and how authoritarian populism emerges and is sustained in rural areas, as well as the forms of resistance and diversity of alternatives being generated for more emancipatory futures.

Now the team initially behind the ERPI have produced an open access ‘think-piece’ background paper, the first in a Journal of Peasant Studies Forum series on Authoritarian Populism in the Rural World.

The paper is open access, so please do share widely. The small grants window closes at the end of this week, so if you are thinking of applying do so now. And tell others across the world!

Since our initial launch, there has been massive interest, so do sign up for more info via the ERPI website (www.iss.nl/erpi). This paper will hopefully inspire further questions, suggest challenges and further provoke the debate. With political developments in all parts of the world, this is a vital theme for engaged researchers and activists concerned about the future of the rural world – and more broadly too.

Here is the paper’s abstract:

Emancipatory rural politics: confronting authoritarian populism

A new political moment is underway. Although there are significant differences in how this is constituted in different places, one manifestation of the new moment is the rise of distinct forms of authoritarian populism. In this opening paper of the JPS Forum series on ‘Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World,’ we explore the relationship between these new forms of politics and rural areas around the world. We ask how rural transformations have contributed to deepening regressive national politics, and how rural areas shape and are shaped by these politics. We propose a global agenda for research, debate and action, which we call the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI. This centres on understanding the contemporary conjuncture, working to confront authoritarian populism through the analysis of and support for alternatives.

Download the paper here. We’d love to hear what you think of it. And please do get involved in the Initiative!

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The Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative: small grants call

This week the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) is being launched, with a small grants programme. If you are anywhere near IDS in the UK on 24 May, come along at 1pm, when Ruth Hall and Ian Scoones will be introducing the Initiative. Together with a wider global network, we are interested in confronting the forces of authoritarian populism in rural areas, and exploring emancipatory alternatives.

Why is this important? Deepening inequalities, failed livelihoods, mass (under)employment, climate chaos and racist anti-immigrant attacks characterise many settings across the world. Forms of ‘progressive neoliberalism’ — peddled inaccurately as social democracy — have failed to stem disillusionment, disenfranchisement and marginalisation. The rise of populist, nationalist movements — with racist, misogynist and isolationist characteristics — has been one very visible response. Such exclusionary politics are unravelling protections for women, racial minorities, disabled people, LGBTQ communities and many others.

This type of populism depicts politics as a struggle between ‘the people’ and some combination of malevolent elites and racialized, unfairly advantaged ‘Others’. Yet the reactions to authoritarian populism are incredibly diverse, across and indeed within countries. In this Initiative, we are interested in changes ongoing in and in relation to rural areas that both give rise to a particular form of politics, but also offer alternatives.

Whether in the US, across Europe, Turkey, India, the Philippines, Brazil or South Africa and Zimbabwe – and many other countries besides – various forms of reactionary nationalism have entrenched a narrow, sometimes violent, conflictual, exclusionary politics. This may be in the name of ‘taking back control’ in favour of ‘the people’, or putting one ideology and position ‘first’, while excluding others, generating tensions across society. All are responses to crises in contemporary capitalism, yet they are rooted in specific histories, institutional and social structures and political dynamics. Responses may be contradictory: for example shoring up a certain style of political power, while selectively offering progressive policies, whether free education, land reform or investment in rural communities.

The ERPI is focused on the social and political processes across rural spaces that are giving rise to such political reactions today. We seek to understand – but not judge – the characteristics of the social base that give rise to such political dynamics. We also aim to explore how alternatives are being actively generated to regressive, authoritarian politics.  We seek to create the space for a debate about alternatives, documenting, analysing and theorising these in order to begin to outline new emancipatory politics that challenge narrow, exclusionary, violent and populist visions, analysing, sharing, supporting, deepening and scaling up alternatives.

Initially, we are proposing three core themes and a range of questions for the Initiative: (i) The current conjuncture: rural roots and consequences (ii) Resisting, organising and mobilising for an emancipatory rural politics (iii) Alternatives: understanding, supporting, creating, deepening and scaling. More detail on emerging thinking can also be found here.

With this call we seek to engage scholars, activists and practitioners from across the world who are both concerned about the current conjuncture, but also hopeful about alternatives. We will initiate a Working Paper series, supported by a limited number of small grants, to allow for the writing up of original research. In parallel we are inviting other, shorter contributions in a variety of media, helping to map out responses and alternatives. In 2018, we will host a major international conference on this theme, and we will be encouraging publication of a series of papers in the Journal of Peasant Studies, as well as other popular and media outlets, as a focus for an intense, informed and radical engagement around this theme. We hope others in social movements, political formations, policy institutions, and elsewhere will participate, developing new visions that respond to the current moment.

Collectively, we hope that we can make a small contribution in sharpening our analysis of the global situation, and by doing so, help inspire more people to join in peoples’ movements, community conversations and local innovations and experiments, wherever these may be. So readers of this blog, researching in rural areas and interested in these themes, please join the Initiative! You can sign up to mailing lists by getting in touch at emancipatoryruralpolitics@gmail.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Farmer-led irrigation in Africa: driving a new Green Revolution?

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A new open access review paper is just out in the Journal of Peasant Studies on farmer-led irrigation in Africa. The authors, led by Phil Woodhouse, define farmer-led irrigation development as “a process where farmers assume a driving role in improving their water use for agriculture by bringing about changes in knowledge production, technology use, investment patterns and market linkages, and the governance of land and water”. Covering a huge array of literature and many cases (although surprisingly very little from Zimbabwe), the paper offers a fantastically useful overview of the debate about what form of irrigation is most likely to support increases in smallholder production and livelihoods in Africa.

The paper in particular identifies furrow systems in mountainous areas, valley bottom/vlei systems, small-scale pumping from wells/open water, and peri-urban agriculture, as areas where farmer-led irrigation is important. All of these are important in Zimbabwe, whether the famous furrow systems of Inyanga, the ‘wetland in dryland’ vlei or dambo cultivation in the miombo zones, small-scale pump systems everywhere, and the massive growth of cultivation in and around towns and cities. Yet such forms of irrigation are often not acknowledged, nor counted in the statistics or supported by donor investments and government policy. This is of course not a new argument, but it’s one that has become more pertinent given the rise of small-scale, informal irrigation systems, with the decline of state support for formal schemes and the decline in costs of pumps in particular allowing informal systems to expand.

There was one statistic that really struck me in the paper, based on work by Beekman and colleagues in Mozambique. They estimate that over 115,000 ha are irrigated by farmers on a small scale. Accounting for this area, this would nearly double the national total irrigated area. Perhaps not to such an extent, but the total area irrigated in Zimbabwe is surely a gross underestimate too. This is a pattern increasingly seen by more detailed satellite-based estimates of irrigated areas globally. Estimates vary but there are approximately 150,000 hectares of irrigation land in Zimbabwe, mostly in large-scale schemes, including the sugar estates. The irrigation infrastructure in Zimbabwe, however, is in a sorry state, but people are compensating by digging boreholes or pumping from open water bodies directly. Earlier blogs and some of our films profiled ‘irrigation entrepreneurs’ operating small-scale farmer designed and managed irrigation systems, mostly for market-oriented horticultural production.

Our data from Mvurwi area in Mazowe district in 2014-15 showed that 34% of A1 households in our sample of 220 had pumps, with 0.44 on average being bought per household in the five years from 2010. Around 12% of households have irrigated plots on their main fields, while all households have gardens, either at the home or by a nearby river/stream. Even former farm workers living in compounds are buying pumps, as they branch out into farming (see earlier blogs), with 0.2 pumps on average bought per household in the same period. Pumps now cost only around $200 for a cheap Chinese make, and these can irrigate small gardens. Some are upgrading to larger engines, while others are expanding production areas through storage systems, and having a series of pumps. The extent of such irrigated areas is not known, but just taking our study areas in Mazowe, Masvingo and Matobo districts, my estimate is that it’s considerable.

The JPS paper highlights five characteristics of farmers’ investment in irrigation. They all apply in Zimbabwe, and each has important policy implications.

  1. Farmers invest substantially. Whether this is in new pumps or pipes or furrow systems in mountain areas or in vleis, irrigation requires investments of cash and labour. This is significant, and as we saw in our survey data from land reform areas in Zimbabwe, pumps in particular have become a priority investment, across social groups and geographical areas.
  2. Interactions among farmers, external agencies and the rural economy are crucial. Too often studies of irrigation focus just on the technology, but not on the interactions required and generated. In Zimbabwe, most new irrigation is spontaneous, independent of the state, NGOs and projects. But connections with the rural economy are important. There is a whole new set of businesses emerging for selling, maintaining and repairing pumps. And the production generated from new irrigation is transforming markets, as we showed in our earlier work, highlighted in our SMEAD films.
  3. Innovation occurs in broad socio-technical networks and complex agricultural systems. The classic engineering approach to irrigation focuses on flat areas, large water supplies and fixed technology. This is the form of standard irrigation schemes. But farmer-led irrigation manages water in different ways, making use of water within a landscape. Slopes, pits, valley bottoms and so on all become significant in maximising irrigation potential. The late Zephaniah Phiri was perhaps the most famous of Zimbabwe’s farmer irrigators, and was a master of harvesting water in landscapes. Technologies – in Mr Phiri’s case, a combination of pits, check dams, pumps and contour ridges – are constructed in a social context, and must always be seen as ‘socio-technologies’, part of ‘networks’, as the paper suggests.
  4. Formal land tenure is not a prerequisite for irrigation development. As discussed many times on this blog, ‘formal land tenure’ (such as freehold or leasehold) is not a prerequisite for investment in farming, including irrigation. This is especially so with mobile, flexible irrigation. Communal tenure or the permit/offer letter system found in A1 areas is not a constraint, as we have seen. This seems to be the case across Africa too, as the paper shows.
  5. Many benefit, but others are adversely affected. Highlighting the benefits of farmer-led irrigation must be tempered by an assessment of who wins and who loses. As discussed in respect of the new pump based irrigation systems in Masvingo, downstream impacts can be severe, and second-generation challenges of water management are emerging. The investors in these new irrigation systems are usually men (able to buy the pumps) and the losers may be women and other family members, who often have to supply the labour (a theme largely ignored in the review). Gluts of production are common in such systems too, so those surviving along market chains may be affected. As the paper argues, an overall assessment is necessary, but the benefits are significant – and underestimated.

There is a much-repeated narrative about Africa’s agriculture – that it missed out on the ‘Green Revolution’ due to the lack of irrigation. The comparison with Asia is always made, where approximately 20 per cent of land is irrigated, while in Africa it is supposed to be less than 4 per cent. As discussed above, this contrast is probably not accurate, and far more land is already being irrigated in Africa, but through different systems. Because of rainfall, topography, markets and a host of other factors, Africa and Asia are never going to be the same, and such comparisons are often rather futile. But nevertheless, we should learn more about what is happening with water and agriculture on the ground in Africa. This paper identifies farmer-led irrigation as an important trend, and one that may well be driving an unnoticed Green Revolution in Africa.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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JPS Special issue on land reform outcomes – just released

Just released – the much awaited:

Journal of Peasant Studies Special Issue: Outcomes of post-2000 Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe

Guest Editors: Lionel Cliffe, University of Leeds; Jocelyn Alexander, University of Oxford; Ben Cousins, PLAAS, University of the Western Cape, and Rudo Gaidzanwa, University of Zimbabwe

The occupations of large commercial farms that erupted in Zimbabwe in 2000 and lead to the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLR) has attracted an enormous amount of media comment and controversy in Zimbabwe and around the world, on the basis of which people developed very clear-cut stances about its consequences – on agricultural production, on the prospects of rural dwellers and on the overall economy. But until recently the rush to judgement was largely uninformed by any hard evidence, with little exploration of outcomes: what new production systems, changed livelihoods and social relations have emerged. In the last two or three years a significant volume of independent empirically-based material from detailed local studies has begun to see the light of day. This Special Issue is the first initiative to bring these empirical studies in one collection in order to contribute to a more informed and very necessary debate.

Some of these articles can be downloaded for FREE from the JPS website: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/fjps20/current for a limited period!

Table of Contents:

An overview of Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe, Lionel Cliffe, Jocelyn Alexander, Ben Cousins and Rudo Gaidzanwa

Changing agrarian relations after redistributive land reform in Zimbabwe, Sam Moyo

Zimbabwe’s land reform: challenging the myths, Ian Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene, and Chrispen Sukume

Contextualizing Zimbabwe’s land reform: long-term observations from the first generation, Marleen Dekker and Bill Kinsey

Women’s struggles to access and control land and livelihoods after fast track land reform in Mwenezi District, Zimbabwe, Patience Matupo

Restructuring of agrarian labour relations after Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe, Walter Chambati

Who was allocated Fast Track land, and what did they do with it? Selection of A2 farmers in Goromonzi District, Zimbabwe and its impacts on agricultural production, Nelson Marongwe

A synopsis of land and agrarian change in Chipinge district, Zimbabwe, Phillan Zamchiya

Land, graves and belonging: land reform and the politics of belonging in newly resettled farms in Gutu, 2000–2009, Joseph Mujere

Local farmer groups and collective action within fast track land reform in Zimbabwe, Tendai Murisa

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