Possibilities for alternative peasant trajectories: Rethinking the effect of land grabbing through an exploration of the diverse food economy of Kolongo, Mali. — ASN Events

Possibilities for alternative peasant trajectories: Rethinking the effect of land grabbing through an exploration of the diverse food economy of Kolongo, Mali. (14741)

Nicolette Larder 1
  1. School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

In recent years a plethora of civil society organisations and academics have turned their attention to the problem of land grabbing: the appropriation and control of food and fibre producing lands in the Global South by local and extra-local elites for the purposes of mitigating the multiple food, fuel and climate crises (Borras Jr & Franco, 2012). One of the key focal areas of this growing body of activism and scholarship has centered on the way “local” people are negatively impacted by land grabs (Julia & White, 2012; Oxfam, 2011). However, as the work of the Community Economies Collective reminds us, shrinking our focus to the impacts of external capital limits the theoretical and practical possibilities of places and the people in them to continue, and even flourish, in the face of capitalism (Cameron & Gibson, 2005; Gibson-Graham, 1996). This chapter presents findings from fieldwork conducted with members of a women’s farming collective working in Kolongo in the Office du Niger, Mali. In 2008 women in this collective lost access to market garden land due to development associated with one of the “iconic” cases of land grabbing, the Malibya project. This project is part of the on-going developmentalist agenda of the Malian state, currently supported by multilateral institutions but rooted in the country’s colonial past, involving expansion of irrigated rice production ultimately aimed at creating a “West African food bowl”. Research conducted following the loss of land associated with this project finds that while women keenly felt the loss, as a result of reduced access to land and their location outside the dominant rice growing economy, new possibilities emerged for more secure access to land, alongside empowered subjectivities among the collective’s members. Moreover, this research argues that even in the face of shifting land control and the entrance of powerful external actors, a diversity of economic practices sustain communities and their members. These (often unseen) diverse agro-economic practices, such as cultivating rain fed crops, are rooted in a cultural legacy of everyday resistance practiced by communities living in Office du Niger under French colonial rule. Such findings counter the pervasive and wholly negative view of land grabbing as the final enclosure by suggesting alternative peasant trajectories.

  1. Borras Jr, S. M., & Franco, J. (2012). Global land grabbing and trajectories of agrarian change: a preliminary analysis. Journal of Agrarian Change, 12(1), 34-59.
  2. Cameron, J., & Gibson, K. (2005). Participatory action research in a poststructural vein. Geoforum, 36(3), 315-331.
  3. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (1996). The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Oxford: Blackwell.
  4. Julia, A. & White, B. (2012). Gendered experiences of dispossession: oil palm expansion in a Dayak Hibun community in West Kalimantan. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(3-4), 995-1016.
  5. Oxfam. (2011). Land and power: the growing scandal surrounding the new wave of foreign investment in land: Oxfam.