Fragmented markets, fragmented lives
(University of Gastronomic Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores the structure of food market in Kenya and the experience of small-scale farmers. It suggests the fragmentation of the value chain limits farmers' professionalization and links with internal and international migrations.
Paper long abstract:
The paper explores the economic and geographical structure of food market in Kenya and links it with the datum of internal and international migration from the rural areas of the country. The ethnography was conducted in Nakuru district in 2018 in the context of the international research project "SASS: Sustainable Agri-food System Strategies". The research was based on multi-sited ethnography and life story method. It detailed the value chain of food commodities in the area and its production and exchange practices. A particular focus was on the cultural biography of agricultural products and neglected and underutilized species. The research highlighted the high degree of fragmentation of the value chain pointing out at the peripheral role of small-scale farmers in the market. The life stories collected among farmers suggest this marginality affects the way they approach agriculture. In particular, it limits professionalization and keeps farming activities as a secondary field of enterprise, largely limited to subsistence. The biographies of farmers and traders, though, bring to the fore experiences of migration, mostly linked with a change of jobs and field of work. Thus, the paper reads migration as a form of entrepreneurship of the self deeply connected with the very structure of the market and the possibilities offered to local producers. In a context in which Western public debate raises the questions about how to limit migration, the paper suggests the key question is how to redirect entrepreneurial spirit to local development.
Unsteady food in a migrant Africa [Anthropology of Economy Network]