Negotiating an uncertain future: a multi-study of narratives of Kenyan agricultural climate change adaptation

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Whitfield, Stephen (2014)
  • Subject: SB191.M2 | QC0981.8.C5

This research addresses the following question: ‘In the context of climate change, how do different actors narrate the uncertain, ambiguous and risky future of maize agriculture, and what are the implications?’ A multi-sited and institutional ethnography approach was adopted in order to look critically at how knowledge and narratives of future change in Kenyan maize agriculture are constructed by a variety of actors. The thesis describes: contested narratives of climate change and climate change impacts (through an analysis of the global climate impact modelling endeavour); contested narratives of change on smallholder farms (based on two case study sites in Kenya); contested narratives of pro-poor technological interventions (including the development of genetically modified drought tolerant maize); and contested narratives of technology regulation (with a focus on Kenyan biosafety policy). It is shown that narratives are contested in multiple sites and by a variety of actors and, although the resolution of these contestations often fall along familiar lines of power and elite capture, there are examples in which alternative perspectives find agency. This is the case not only in national policy-making arenas and the board-rooms of international development initiatives, but also in the fields and communities of smallholder farmers, the offices of national research centres, and the operations of civil society organisations. It is argued that, within these diverse settings, critical analysis of the constructed nature of knowledge is a necessary foundation on which to open up the negotiation of Kenya’s agricultural future to multiple alternatives.
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    Chapter Two: Background: Climate Change, International Agricultural Research and GMOs... 19 Climate Change and Maize Agriculture in Kenya ....................................................................... 19 Climate Change in Kenya........................................................................................................ 21 Drought and Vulnerability...................................................................................................... 25 Agricultural Policy and Climate Change Adaptation .............................................................. 27 New Philanthropy and International Agricultural Research ...................................................... 28 The DTMA and WEMA Initiatives........................................................................................... 33 Genetically Modified Crops: Risk and Regulation ...................................................................... 36 Conclusion.................................................................................................................................. 42

    Uncertain Future.................................................................................................................. 43 The Nature of Knowledge and Risk............................................................................................ 44 Understanding Incomplete Knowledge ..................................................................................... 51 Whose (Incomplete) Knowledge Counts?.................................................................................. 55 Politics, Power, and Learning ..................................................................................................... 56 Social Relationships and Risk ..................................................................................................... 59 Risk Governance and the Role of Knowledge Brokers............................................................... 61 Conclusion.................................................................................................................................. 67

    Chapter Four: Methodology: A Multi-Sited and Institutional Ethnographic Approach............. 69 Methodological Approach.......................................................................................................... 69 Literature and Secondary Data Review and Actor Mapping...................................................... 73 Research Sites ............................................................................................................................ 78 Details of Data Collection........................................................................................................... 81 Participatory Scenarios and Stakeholder Workshops................................................................ 83 Iteration and Cycles of Learning ................................................................................................ 86 Conclusion.................................................................................................................................. 87

    Chapter Five: Climate-Crop Modelling: Complexity Logic and the Negotiation of Evidence ..... 88 The Context of Climate-Crop Projections .................................................................................. 88 Producing Climate-Crop Projections.......................................................................................... 93 Identifying Model Uncertainty............................................................................................... 97 Ignorance about Complex Agro-Climatic Systems ................................................................. 99 Methodological Choices and Ambiguous Decisions ............................................................ 105 Communicating Incomplete Climate-Crop Projections ........................................................... 111 Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 115

    Chapter Six: Smallholder Farming: Experiencing Risk and Internalising Knowledge .............. 116 Contextualising Smallholder Farming ...................................................................................... 116 Pathways of Change and the Nature of Knowledge in Smallholder Farming .......................... 119

    Uncertain Future................................................................................................................ 141 The Institutional Context of WEMA and DTMA ....................................................................... 141 The DTMA/WEMA Narrative.................................................................................................... 145 The Science and Incomplete Knowledge of DTMA and WEMA............................................... 147 Uncertainty in Crop Trialling ................................................................................................ 148 Ignorance about Socio-Economic Impacts........................................................................... 154 Ambiguity and Values in Crop Breeding .............................................................................. 157 Advancing the Narrative: Farmers, Consumers and Regulators.............................................. 160 Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 163

    Chapter Eight: Biosafety Regulation: Contested Narratives and the Kenyan 'GM Debate'..... 166 The Context of Regulatory Debate and Policy Making ............................................................ 166 The History of Biosafety Regulation......................................................................................... 168 Negotiating Incomplete Knowledge in Biosafety Policy .......................................................... 173 Uncertain Evidence Bases and GMO Health Risks ............................................................... 173 Paternalistic Regulation in Response to Public Ignorance................................................... 175 Value Bases and the Ambiguous Nature of Regulation ....................................................... 177 Participation in Regulatory Policy Making ............................................................................... 181 Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 185

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