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Rutgers University (2013)

Women and gender at the Office du Niger (Mali) : Technology, environment, and food ca. 1900—1985

Twagira, Laura Ann

Titre : Women and gender at the Office du Niger (Mali) : Technology, environment, and food ca. 1900—1985

Auteur : Twagira, Laura Ann

Université de soutenance : Rutgers University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2013

Résumé
This study examines how rural women in twentieth century Mali integrated the technological infrastructure of an industrial agricultural scheme for their own food production needs. The scheme called the Office du Niger (Office) is one of the most ambitious development projects in Africa. Established in the French Soudan in the 1930s to produce primarily cotton and secondarily rice for export, the Office drew upon the Niger River to feed a vast irrigation network that radically altered the surrounding agricultural landscape. Initially, the Office was populated through the forced migration of families. Chronic hunger plagued residents at the colonial Office for many decades and recurred in the post-colonial years. At the Office, women often struggled to produce food. Yet, it was the quality and not simply the quantity of available food that concerned women. Good food was measured by the taste for specific textures, smells, flavors, the sensations of fullness, as well as the nutritional content. For women, maintaining control over food also meant attending to taste. I argue that women used the resources of the Office to engineer a highly adaptive local food production system that depended on female labor power and made use of modest technologies (such as metal cooking pots) that are generally overlooked in favor of the more impressive irrigation infrastructure of the scheme. Gradually women adapted the project elements (the new labor calendar, built-infrastructure, industrial machines, and market logistics) to their own needs. This process of adoption spanned the colonial and post-colonial eras and entailed an interplay between women’s labor, the environment, modest technologies, and industrial technologies.

Mots clés : Women – Mali ; Women – Mali – Social conditions – 20th century ; Women – Mali – Economic conditions – 20th century

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Page publiée le 11 février 2015, mise à jour le 27 octobre 2019