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Wageningen Universiteit (2007)

Creativity in everyday practice : resources and livelihoods in Nyamira, Kenya

Ontita, E.G

Titre : Creativity in everyday practice : resources and livelihoods in Nyamira, Kenya

Auteur : Ontita, E.G.

Université de soutenance : Wageningen Universiteit

Grade : PhD thesis 2007

Résumé partiel
The introductory Chapter raised the intriguing question : "how are we to understand the continued survival and apparent social functioning of rural people amidst officially acknowledged absolute poverty ?" The question had a rhetorical function and in seeking to answer it I took the view that rural people construct their livelihoods in ways that are largely invisible to policy makers. This book is about the creativity of ordinary rural people. It seeks to unravel the diverse ways in which such villagers create resources and use them to make their living in a variety of ways and with different results. Various theoretical perspectives in the literature can be drawn upon to address the principal question of this study : how do villagers in Nyamira District, mid south-westernKenya, create and use resources to make a living and with what results ? The actor-oriented perspective emphasises that actors have agency, that is, the knowledge and capacity to act creatively and strategically. The perspective points towards the notion that villagers create resources through their everyday practices, but does not deal with the specific processes through which this happens. Livelihood approaches stress the centrality of resources, expressed in terms of various ’capitals’ to the lives of poor people. The approaches thus emphasise that poor people interact in various ways with resources to make their living. However, they define resources narrowly from a materialist and economics perspective, focusing on issues of (un)availability and (in)accessibility. They do not deal with how resources come into being as social, rather than natural elements, or the roles of actors in such processes. The landscape perspective takes the view that livelihood is co-produced by nature and human action, and that the landscape is co-produced through human actions upon ’nature’, undertaken in pursuit of livelihoods. The perspective thus recognises a dialectical relationship between ’nature’ and humans. Not all resources, however, are the result of this relationship ; furthermore the dynamics on both sides are not fully accounted for. As Urry (2000:138) has shown, the view or appearance of a landscape can deceive. In practice, a landscape is the result of social experience ; and includes what has gone into creating it, both the struggles and the cooperation. While the dynamics on the natural side of the equation are largely beyond the scope of this study, I proceeded to consider the socio-cultural context of social action and to ’privilege’ creativity in the resource moulding processes. Therefore, this thesis emphasises the creativity involved in the acts of defining and using resources to make a living. Yet, this emphasis recognises the reality of creativity being situational hence, since human agency is not unlimited.

Mots clés : rural development / rural sociology / resources / agricultural households / tea / daily living skills / diversification / small farms / kenya / africa / livelihood strategies

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