Ambivalences of collective farming: Feminist political ecologies from the Eastern Gangetic Plains uri icon

abstract

  • Collective farming has been suggested as a potentially useful approach for reducing inequality and transforming peasant agriculture. In collectives, farmers pool land, labor, irrigation infrastructure, agricultural inputs and harvest to overcome resource constraints and to increase their bargaining power. Employing a feminist political ecology lens, we reflect on the extent to which collective farming enables marginalized groups to engage in smallholder agriculture. We examine the establishment of 18 farmer collectives by an action research project in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, a region characterised by fragmented and small land-holdings and a high rate of marginalised and landless farmers. We analyze ambivalances of collective farming practices with regard to (1) social relations across scales, (2) intersectionality and (3) emotional attachment. Our results in Saptari/Eastern Terai in Nepal, Madhubani/Bihar, and Cooch Behar/West Bengal in India demonstrate how intra-household, group and community relations and emotional attachments to the family and neighbors mediate the redistribution of labor, land, produce and capital. We find that unequal gender relations, intersected by class, age, ethnicity and caste, are reproduced in collective action, land tenure and water management, and argue that a critical feminist perspective can support a more reflective and relational understanding of collective farming processes. Our analysis demonstrates that feminist political ecology can complement commons studies by providing meaningful insights on ambivalences around approaches such as collective farming.

publication date

  • 2019
  • 2019