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Investigating Cultures of Food Security: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Gender in Rural Kongwa, Tanzania Open Access


Other title
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Indigenous Knowledge
Local Knowledge
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mason, Ryan F
Supervisor and department
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Parkins, John (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Parlee, Brenda (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
Rural Sociology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
This thesis examines two cultural components of food security in rural Tanzania, specifically gendered mobilities and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in the District of Kongwa. Drawing on critical and focused ethnographic principles, intra-household data was collected from 27 households in two communities using participant observation, cognitive maps, and multiple rounds of semi-structured intra-household interviews (61 interviews in total). Gendered mobility is analyzed using Cresswell and Uteng’s (2008) trifold framework (movement, meaning and potential mobility), which provides the opportunity to study physical and socio-cultural components of movement. Results demonstrate that women in Kongwa have different access to mobility than their male counterparts ultimately limiting their comparative access to food during the hunger season. Men have the ability and expectation to: A) leisurely move around the communities to visit other households to share in their meals, and B) migrate to seasonally food secure regions of Tanzania in order to work or find food during the hunger season. In contrast, narratives of femininity, expected labour roles of women and child rearing activities generally limit the mobility of women to household activities. Moreover, women’s relative immobility means that they have more difficulty accessing casual labour and long term food stores than men. However, women have access to short term emergency food stores during the hunger season, which men cannot access. In the second half of the thesis, Berkes’ (2008) three layers of knowledge (knowledge, practice, belief) are used to analyze Traditional Ecological Knowledge on food security that exists in Kongwa. Efforts were made to collect conscious knowledge as well as tacit knowledge embedded in practices, social institutions and collective attitudes using participant observation and interviews. Findings indicate that a knowledge paradox exists within Kongwa whereby local peasants possess TEK seen through agricultural practices and coping strategies for hunger and drought, but this knowledge is locally devalued resulting in a lack of collective efficacy for development. Additionally, outsiders with development interests (government, NGOs, etc.) do not challenge the self-perception of inefficacy in Kongwa, thus exacerbating the local desire for different knowledge for development and enhanced dependence on outsider knowledge. These findings about Traditional Ecological Knowledge combined with those on gendered mobility in Kongwa demonstrate the importance and complexity of addressing cultural components of food security research and development.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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