Flour Martyrs? Fighting Food Insecurity from within the Urban Moroccan Home
Katharina Graf (SOAS, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
In urban Morocco, socioeconomic uncertainty and especially food insecurity are engaged with and fought in daily life by women, especially mothers, whose daily practices of breadmaking reveal the hidden nature of poverty and precariousness in a rapidly liberalising economy.
Paper long abstract:
On 19th November 2017, 15 women - mostly mothers - died in a stampede in a small Moroccan town trying to obtain privately distributed food aid in the form of flour, cooking oil and sugar. It hadn't rained in most of Morocco for nearly six months and producers and consumers feared that another year of drought would diminish cereal availability and critically raise the prices of grains, flour and bread - the unchallenged staple of the Moroccan diet and (food) culture. Although this event fits into the larger picture of civil society filling the gaps left by liberalising governments, the Moroccan government still controls the production, distribution and price of wheat and increasingly relies on imports to feed the rapidly growing population. However, since the global food prices spikes in the last decade, the import of wheat has become more costly for the government, threatening the collapse of its historical social contract to provide food security especially to its urban poor. Whereas in neighbouring countries poverty, unemployment and a lack of political representation manifested themselves in the form of protests largely driven by young men, the deaths of these mothers seeking free flour is symbolic of the different form that precariousness and food insecurity take in Morocco - they are hidden within the domestic sphere and appear disconnected from governmental policies. Through exploring the daily preparation of bread in this context, I consider poor urban women, especially mothers, as key actors in engaging with poverty and everyday socioeconomic uncertainty.