Panel 9

Rural change and the ‘new’ resource frontiers in Africa

Panel organisers: Atakilte Beyene and Terje Oestigaard, The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden.


On one hand, poverty, food insecurity and governance of natural resources continue to be major challenges for many countries in Africa. On the other, these countries are also undergoing rapid processes of changes. During the last fifteen years, a confluence of economic growth, urbanization and growing demands for food, fiber and feed has brought a renewed interest for African’s crucial natural resources. Driven by motives to accelerate economic growth and modernization of the economies, the roles of the states in Africa, which was on retreat in the 1980 and 1990s, have increasingly become proactive in promoting the private- and public-driven large-scale investments in water and land in particular and agriculture in general.

Thus, this panel calls for research papers that address one or more of the following topics:
1) Legal and institutional contexts pertaining investments in water and land investment
2) Impacts of the private sector on rural/local economic dynamics
3) Prospects of rural change and transformation
4) Theoretical and conceptual reflections on the framing of the ‘rural’ in contexts of global resource competition.

The session will conclude with a book launch of four Current African Issues publications.

Approved abstracts panel 9

1. Traditional custodianship, state dispositions and governance of sacred water spaces in Lagos megacity

Author: Adebayo E. Akinyemi, Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Topic 3: Prospects of rural change and transformation

Water embodies deep sacrality and physicality that underscore its privileged place in human imagination and engagement (Strang 2004; Oestigaard, 2009). Its metaphorical fluidity and sacred agency accommodate a sense in which we can explore the governance tension eventuated by its diminution and urban spatial encroachment. This presentation derived from ethnographic study of communities surrounding two spotlighted sacred water bodies, namely the Odo Etunrenren (a spring) and Odo Ota (a river) in the Ikorodu town of Lagos megacity. Based on primary data collected through oral and life history accounts with 10 informants, including the Oba (Ikorodu monarch), chief priest of Odo Etunrenren, chief priestess of Odo Ota, four members of traditional council of chiefs, and three community members, the study raised questions about custodianship and general management of the historically revered water sites, and about the physical changes observed in them. Findings revealed that encroachment into water spaces implicated influx of people in Ikorodu town and indiscriminate state urban development activities. The construction of canal by the local government council through the sacred Odo-Ota course was implemented in spite of protest from traditional custodians. Also, indiscriminate refuse dumping threatened the pristine and revered status of Odo Etunrenren. However, preservation efforts of its priest, a returnee from the US and Canada, combined lobbying and ritual invocation of the water deity to persuade state actors to turn the space into a tourist site. A preliminary conclusion is that understanding the dispositions and involvement of traditional custodians and state actors is insightful in making sense of how governance tension over community water spaces intersect with other contextual issues to drive transformation in African cities and indigenous rural communities. 

2. Plantations, Practices, Climate Mitigation and Development: Contrasting assemblages of knowledge connected to carbon plantations, Uganda.

Author: Erlend Eidsvik, Department of Pedagogy, Social Sciences and Religion, Faculty of Education, Arts and Sports, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

This paper examines contrasting assemblages of knowledge that concerns a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) plantation project in Uganda. Disputed issues include land-use, water, biodiversity, expropriation, marginalization – and climate mitigation. The paper is based on field studies in local settlements within the plantation site, analysis of documents from the plantation owner - a private European corporation, and documents from an environmental justice research consortium.

The plantation corporation establishes a knowledge base where afforestation through plantations are seen as the key solution for local and national economic development, as well as fighting the global climate crisis by trading carbon credits through CDM-certification, in line with the Kyoto-protocol.  

A contrasting knowledge base established by the justice research consortium concludes that monoculture plantations are a charade without confirmed climate effect, and with negative local implications (marginalization, dispossession) in addition to environmental consequences (loss of biodiversity, water use).

The two narratives – purported from contrasting platforms of knowledge, hence constitute two opposing sets of ‘ecoknowledges’. These knowledge platforms will be seen in relation to local responses and how the local population establish their knowledge concerning plantations and development.  

The paper will first identify the components that constitute the different assemblages of knowledge (e.g. property lease, political support, international certification, funding regimes). Secondly, the analysis concerns how the diverse components are stabilizing or destabilizing factors in the respective assemblages.

The paper will argue that applying an assemblage framework can be an expedient way of studying how knowledge is constructed and maintained into hegemonic understandings of development – and knowledge. Vital to the findings of the analysis is to identify and understand how components are re-assembled to either strengthen or territorialize the assemblage, or weaken and deterritorialize it, and how specific assemblage converters – strong components that holds the assemblage together – become the key in purporting and maintaining a hegemonic knowledge of development.

3. POWERING THE POWERLESS: The Economic Impact of Rural Electrification in Ghana

Authors: George Adu, John Bosco Dramania and Eric Fosu Oteng-Abayiea, Department of Economics, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

This paper examines the causal impact of rural electrification on household income and welfare, using the last two waves of Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS 5 and 6). Our identification strategy relies on exploiting temporal and spatial variation across rural households to measure their exposure to electricity. We find that rural households connected to electricity have significant improvement in their incomes and welfare compared with those without electricity. This effect is found to be significant at the 25th, median, and 75th quantiles, with the magnitude of the effect increasing as one moves up on the income distribution. We further explore the mechanisms through which this effect may occur. We conclude that education, ownership of non-agricultural enterprises, and income from non-agricultural enterprises are some of the important channels through which electricity access affects income and welfare of rural households.

4. Economic and Gendered Livelihood Impacts of Climate Change Vulnerabilities: Volta Delta and Non-Delta Realities and Responses

Authors: Prince Osei-Wusu Adjei1, Patrick K. Ofori-Danson2, Emmanuel E. Asmah3, Joseph K. Asenso4

1 Nordic African Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, 1Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, 2University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, 3University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana, 4Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ghana Corresponding Author’s Details:


In the light of the rapid pace of climate variability and change globally, the need to reflect and act on how different climate scenarios affect the economic and general livelihood options of vulnerable regions is very necessary. This paper examines the influences of climate change on the economy of the Volta Delta and the nature of responses of the local inhabitants. A non-survey method was used to collect data which were analysed following the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) framework version 9. Input-Output tables were then generated for comparing the economic characteristics of the Volta Delta under surge of climate change and the Non-delta region. This procedure was supported with local experts’ socio-economic projections for the short-to-medium term future of the study areas. The results indicate that contributions from the major sectors of the Volta Delta, specifically agriculture including fishing and the services sector including trade and transport to GDP would experience decline in the short-to-medium term future partly but significantly due to climate change.  It is concluded that, the Volta Delta economy could suffer a major loss to prolonged climate variability and change due to the climate sensitive nature of the major sectors of the economy, which could undermine local livelihoods and well-being of both men and women, and trigger out-migration. Hence, participatory interventions to promote climate-smart agriculture, sustainable fishing and farming practices and alternative livelihood empowerment against poverty programmes will be necessary to ameliorate out-migration flows, reduce livelihood vulnerabilities and ensure the sustainability of the Volta Delta.

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