Can climate interventions open up space for transformation?

A new study investigates the ways in which climate change-related interventions such as climate-smart agriculture (CSA) may open up—or close down—spaces for transformation.

The authors explore the interface between worldviews, power relations and policy interventions, focusing in particular on the way that asymmetric gender and expert-farmer relations may be reinforced or contested through climate-smart agricultural interventions.

It has been argued that fundamental changes required in the face of climate change can only take place through transformation across the personal, practical and political spheres. In particular, it is in the interaction between these spheres where spaces for transformation lie; for example, in the contesting of subjectivities casting farmers as passive recipients of expert advice, in the assumptions regarding what constitutes 'good development', and in how worldviews frame the way we see human-nature relations.

Nevertheless, interventions like CSA are often focused on changes to practices or technologies, rather than on how power relations or worldviews shape practices, food security and inequity. Through a case study of Hoima, Uganda, the authors examine the ways in which the implementation of climate-smart agriculture reinforces existing subjectivities and authority relations or opens up for new (and potentially more emancipatory) subjectivities.

First, food security and social inequality are described, drawing on survey data from Hoima. Next, the authors examine how social actors such as farmers, project workers, local leaders, and government officials position particular farmers or practices as good/progressive or problematic/traditional. The authors then analyze how these subjectivities reflect authority relations, and the ways in which CSA reinforces or creates space for contesting these.

The authors argue that a focus on commercial agriculture as 'good' by many social actors also persists within CSA activities, and is intertwined with asymmetric gender and expert-farmer relations.

Commercialization takes place within the need to increase agricultural production to feed growing urban populations. However, commercialization for the case of Uganda has also entailed state attempts to govern farmers through farmer associations, the institutional set-up through which CSA often works.

A closer attention to these dynamics could potentially help create deeper transformational change through climate-smart agriculture and related climate change interventions.

[Source: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems]

Read more in Frontiers of Sustainable Food Systems: 
Can climate interventions open up space for transformation? Examining the case of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Uganda
By Siri Eriksen, Laura Cramer, Ingvild Vetrhus & Philip Thornton

Published 24. January 2020 - 14:16 - Updated 4. February 2020 - 11:03