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Making the most of it ? Understanding the social and productive dynamics of small farmers in semi-arid Iringa, Tanzania

Gregersen, Peter

Titre : Making the most of it ? Understanding the social and productive dynamics of small farmers in semi-arid Iringa, Tanzania

Auteur : Gregersen, Peter

Université de Soutenance : LUNDS UNIVERSITET (SWEDEN)

Grade : FilDr 2003

While much of semi-arid Africa is still sparsely populated with unused land, there are everywhere pockets of high and increasing population density in attractive locations. Small-scale farmers can respond to beginning land-scarcity in a number of ways. Through migration, through diversification of livelihoods, or through changes in their farming system. Which solution is chosen, depends not only on the land-situation, but on a totality of circumstances, with other important factors being marketing and external support. It is difficult to single out population growth as an independent cause. Nevertheless, in much public debate, population is held to be the root cause of food-shortages and environmental degradation. Yet, it may as well be argued that a certain population density is a contributing cause of development and agricultural change. The thesis discusses three themes in relation to small farmers : dynamics of livelihood and production, social differentiation and sustainability of production. At household level, the important factor in explaining what households do, is "uwezo ", i.e. ability or power, defined as having capital in all forms. Uwezo is a wider and more dynamic concept than wealth or poverty. Village level differences seem less important. Nevertheless, natural conditions, market access, external stimuli and population pressure all influence what farmers can do and choose to do. These factors are most conducive in "Centre villages" where synergies can be obtained. Circumstances at national level, political and market conditions, are probably of greater significance, but in this thesis they are mostly treated as a common background to the effect of village and household level variables. However, the importance of economic and political circumstances for agrarian development and resource use are shown in a chapter on historical changes. The thesis further endeavours to show how the "Matthew principle" of differentiation works at ground level : those that have, gain, while those that have not, lose. It also discusses diversification of livelihood and de-peasantisation, and finds that this is not a pronounced tendency, but that it is again the most able who seize opportunities and so add to their resilience to risks and to their capacity, while the powerless tend to rely still more on wage-work. This leads to differentiation, but only of the extremes. The large middle group remains constant. Over generations, accumulation seem rarely to be in any one "household-enterprise", but perhaps within a family or kin-group, the members of which then can draw on this "family-capital". In terms of sustainability, it is shown that yields decline on average, but most in the smallest and least able households. It is concluded that uwezo , in its interrelation with circumstances, primarily market and land, is what determines household dynamics and land use, within the environment of natural, socio-economic and cultural circumstances. On population, the conclusion is that population pressure is not a decisive factor for land-use, and that the indirect effect of population is of more significance, i.e. through concentrations with markets for farm-produce, infrastructure and extension. Land and labour are not decisive factors on their own either. What matters is an empowering combination of capitals. At village level a conducive combination of centre village features. Farmers’ behaviour is generally opportunistic, they try to make the most of circumstances and uwezo .

Mots clés : Malthus, Social changes, Boserup, Tanzania, semi-arid Africa, Iringa, conservation, sustainability, soil fertility, degradation, population, Matthew principle, social differentiation, farmerisation, de-peasantisation, livelihood diversification, rural change, agrarian change, agricultural change, small farmers, dynamics, theory of social work, Sociala förändringar, teorier om socialt arbete


Page publiée le 13 février 2004, mise à jour le 11 mars 2019