Date(s) - January 25, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
LSC 310, Lory Student Center
Disappointing Seeds: A Feminist Political Ecology of NGO-funded Seed Banks and Smallholder Farmers’ Resilience to Climate Change in Northern Ghana
Department of Geography & the Environment, University of Denver
Over the past three decades, community seeds banks have emerged as one major strategy for building seed systems resilience to climate change. Often initiated and funded by NGOs, seeds banks have grown prolifically, but questions remain concerning their long-term sustainability. Despite their precipitous rise and effectives during initial years, many seed banks cut back on activities or collapse altogether once external NGO funding is withdrawn. This raises three critical questions worthy of examination: (1) What factors shape the sustainability of community seed banks? (2) Do community seed banks function as they are designed to be? (3) How well do seed banks target farmers based upon true underlying need? Drawing upon a feminist political ecology perspective, I examine these questions with empirical evidence collected over a six-year-period in drought-prone northern Ghana. The empirical research includes participant-observation; 144 in-depth interviews; participatory geospatial data analysis by farmers; four gender-disaggregated data validation workshops; and analyses of seed bank inventory, lending, and payment records. Contrary to previous work emphasizing the role of drought and crop failure, I highlight the centrality of rural politics in the sustainability of seed banks. Specifically, my findings show that the politics of valuing indigenous knowledge, pseudo seed borrowing, and local elite capture, all work together to undermine the sustainability of seed banks. When seed banks do not meet farmers’ needs, my findings also demonstrate how farmers covertly resist such projects by either defaulting seed loans, or diluting repayment seeds with lower quality look-alikes. Finally, I show how through gender politics, village men undermine seed banks’ vision of ensuring equitable and democratic access to seeds. Based upon these findings, I discuss how to better improve seed bank projects to enhance smallholder agriculture, rural livelihoods, and climate change resilience. I also show how participatory geospatial techniques could be deployed to deepen the analysis of politics in feminist political ecology.
About the Speaker:
Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography & the Environment, University of Denver, Denver, CO. His research interests focus on the human dimensions of global environmental change, and sustainable agriculture and food systems. His regional concentration is sub-Saharan Africa, with ongoing projects in Ghana and Malawi. Some of his most recent publications have appeared in Global Environmental Change, Journal of Peasant Studies, Geoforum, Social Science & Medicine, Agriculture & Human Values, and Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.