Shady practice: Gender and the political ecology of resource stabilization in Gambian garden/orchards

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Clark University

This article discusses gender dynamics of gardens and orchards along the North Bank of the river Gambia: rivalry between men and women's crops, competition over women's labor when trees are introduced for the environmental stabilization, and how the shade canopy undermines women gardeners' rights and keeps the lands under male control. The author conducts an ethnographic study in the North Bank of the river Gambia in 1989 and 1991. Because of two decades of drought that changed this area' ecology, there was competition between men and women's crop production systems over low-lying and groundwater resources. Men and women have separate places, specific crops, time and different product value for production. Men grow mainly cash crops and women grow food crops. However, two decades of drought led to women's groups increasing fruit and vegetable production in low-lying communal gardens and adopting a new type of shorter-duration production systems. Women's labor sustained men's irrigated cash crops. These changes with infrastructure development and government policies attracted many funds and development project in this area that motivated women to expand their garden production of cash crops. This cash income gradually made women a major financial contributor within their household. However, conflict developed with male construction of orchards and subsequent demands for women's labor in the same locations.

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Groundwater, Drought, Cash crops, Sustainable development, Women, Conflict, Water, Gender, Irrigation, Sustainability, Environmental stabilization, Political ecology, Allocation, Strategies, Competition, Unpaid female labor, Negotiation, Households, Horticulture, Transformation, Women's groups, Orchards, Canopy, Usufruct land rights, Customary land laws, Ethnographic study, Case studies, The Gambia, Farm/Enterprise Scale Field Scale
Economic Geography 69(4): 349-365