Local Gender Contract and Adaptive Capacity in Smallholder Irrigation Farming: A Case Study from the Kenyan Drylands


Caretta, Martina Angela, and Lowe Börjeson. 2015. “Local Gender Contract and Adaptive Capacity in Smallholder Irrigation Farming: A Case Study from the Kenyan Drylands.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 22 (5): 644–61.

Authors: Martina Angela Caretta, Lowe Börjeson


This article presents the local gender contract of a smallholder irrigation farming community in Sibou, Kenya. Women’s role in subsistence farming in Africa has mostly been analyzed through the lens of gender division of labor. In addition to this, we used the concept of ‘local gender contract’ to analyze cultural and material preconditions shaping gender-specific tasks in agricultural production, and consequently, men’s and women’s different strategies for adapting to climate variability. We show that the introduction of cash crops, as a trigger for negotiating women’s and men’s roles in the agricultural production, results in a process of gender contract renegotiation, and that families engaged in cash cropping are in the process of shifting from a ‘local resource contract’ to a ‘household income contract.’ Based on our analysis, we argue that a transformation of the local gender contract will have a direct impact on the community’s adaptive capacity climate variability. It is, therefore, important to take the negotiation of local gender contracts into account in assessments of farming communities’ adaptive capacity.
Este trabajo presenta el contrato local de género de una comunidad de pequeños agricultores de agricultura de riego en Sibou, Kenia. El rol de las mujeres en la agricultura de subsistencia en África ha sido mayormente analizado con una óptica de la división generizada del trabajo. Además de esto, utilizamos el concepto de “contrato de género local” para analizar las precondiciones culturales y materiales que dan forma a las tareas específicas de cada género en la producción agrícola, y consecuentemente, las diferentes estrategias de hombres y mujeres para adaptarse a la variabilidad del clima. Mostramos que la introducción de cultivos comerciales, como disparador para la negociación de los roles de las mujeres y los hombres en la producción agrícola, resulta en un proceso de renegociación del contrato de género, y que las familias que participan del cultivo comercial se encuentran en el proceso de cambio de un “contrato local de recursos” a un “contrato de ingresos del hogar”. Basado en nuestro análisis, sostenemos que una transformación del contrato local de género tendrá un impacto directo en la capacidad adaptativa de la comunidad a la variabilidad del clima. Es por lo tanto importante tener en cuenta a los contratos de género locales al evaluar la capacidad adaptativa de las comunidades agricultoras.

Keywords: local gender contract, climate variability, East African drylands, smallholder irrigation farming, gendered adaptive capacity, contrato de género local, variabilidad climática, tierras secas del África Oriental, agricultura de riego a pequeña escala, capacidad adaptativa generizada, 在地性别契约, 气候变异, 东非旱地, 小农灌溉农作, 性别化的调适能力

Topics: Agriculture, Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2015

© 2020 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.