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

  • Author / Creator
    Mason, Ryan F
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.