Managing Insecurity in Rural Burkina Faso. Women’s Access and Use of Land as a Social and Economic Value
Social Anthropology with focus on Africa
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hans Peter Hahn
Current processes of climate, political and economic change in West Africa are gaining the attention of several international development agencies, whose main interest lies in the improvement of rural people’s livelihood. This approach frequently converges to the fulfillment of large-scale programmes, which rarely acknowledge the relevance of local actors in defining both material and symbolic use of natural resources. Within this landscape, women’s roles and actions are often framed paradoxically: on the one hand, they are celebrated as emerging actors in rural economies; on the other, the standardized vision of most aid programmes often ends up inscribing women into pre-defined roles, failing to consider the gendered value chains which regulate agricultural production.
This study will focus on land access and use through a gender perspective, by investigating the practices and meanings put into play by different key actors locally involved in land management. In these terms, I seek to explore how the value of land is economically and socially shaped by villagers and political environments, in order to explain how this interpretation might condition women’s access to land and economic strategies to cope with the costs of ordinary subsistence.
My analysis will specifically concentrate on the ethnographic case of béolga, a small individual plot mostly farmed by women, which represents one of the most common agricultural models among the Mossi of Burkina Faso. Using this framework, I attempt to demonstrate that béolga not only represents a tool apt to build resilient economic strategies in rural areas, but is also a ‘gendered space’ crossed by political and economic dynamics. This carries significant repercussions on the woman and the household, both involved into a dense social network.
Understanding the local definition of land and its inner value will significantly contribute to the body of research on the domestic economy in the Mossi area, by pointing at the transformative factors affecting domestic livelihood, and how those elements are managed by women to cause household adaptation to insecurity.