Academic journal article Africa

Maintaining Difference and Managing Change: Female Agrarian Clientelist Relations in a Gambian Community

Academic journal article Africa

Maintaining Difference and Managing Change: Female Agrarian Clientelist Relations in a Gambian Community

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The introduction of dry-season vegetable cultivation on a large scale in Brikama, The Gambia in the early 1970s has led to the development of a new labour system amongst female farmers whereby strangers or clients are given access to land primarily in the dry season for vegetable cultivation in exchange for providing unremunerated labour for hosts for the cultivation of rice in the rainy season. Hosts, who either claim descent from the founding families or have married into founding families, have access to land and control its distribution for women's crops. This article examines the way in which social difference is played out in the acquisition of land and labour through the establishment of agrarian clientelist relations. Agrarian clientelist relations are about the maintenance of host-stranger distinctions and the management of social difference within a rapidly changing Gambian political economy. The nature of these clientelist relations is changing because of the changing relations of agrarian production, related in turn to the introduction of cooperative gardens in the region, the increasing scarcity of farming land and the increasing political power of strangers on a local and national level. The youth, particularly those who are educated, are moving out of farming altogether. Consequently, female hosts are increasingly reliant on their clients' labour. I argue that female hosts attempt to manage these processes of change out of a need to maintain the particular power relations that form the basis for host-stranger distinctions and their existing claims to land and labour. The article examines the tensions and the intra-gender struggles that emerge between female hosts and their client-strangers. In refusing to take the initiative to set up cooperative gardens, female hosts have maintained what they see as their rightful claims to their land and their clients' labour. Hegemonic notions of 'the correctness of practices', associated with host stranger identities, have informed hosts' behaviour and that of their clients, and ultimately influenced the nature of resource allocation.

RESUME

L'introduction de la culture des legumes en saison seche a large echelle a Brikama, en Gambie, au debut des annees 70, a entraine l'emergence d'un nouveau systeme de travail chez les agricultrices, a savoir que les etrangers ou clients se voient donner la possibilite d'acceder aux terres essentiellement pendant la saison seche pour y cultiver des legumes, en echange de quoi ils travaillent gratuitement pour les hotes lors de la culture du riz en saison humide. Les hotes, qui revendiquent une descendance des familles fondatrices ou se sont maries dans des families fondatrices, ont acces aux terres et controlent leur repartition pour les cultures des femmes. Cet article examine la maniere dont la difference sociale se manifeste dans l'acquisition des terres et le travail a travers la mise en place de relations clientelistes agraires. Ces relations sont axees sur le maintien de distinctions hote-etranger et la gestion de la difference sociale au sein d'une economie politique gambienne en mutation rapide. La nature de ces relations clientelistes est en train de changer sous l'effet de l'evolution des relations de production agraire, elles-memes liees a l'introduction de jardins cooperatifs dans la region, a la penurie croissante de terres agricoles et au pouvoir politique grandissant des etrangers au niveau local et national. Les jeunes, particulierement ceux qui sont eduques, abonnent totalement l'agriculture. Les femmes hotes sont par consequent de plus en plus tributaires de la main-d'oeuvre de leurs clients. L'article soutient que les femmes hotes tentent de gerer ces processus de changement par necessite de maintenir les relations particulieres de pouvoir qui forment la base des distinctions hote-etranger et les droits existants qu'elles revendiquent sur les terres et la main-d'oeuvre. Il examine les tensions et les conflits intrasexuels qui emergent entre femmes hotes et leurs clients etrangers. …

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