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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Ambivalences of collective farming: feminist political ecologies from Eastern India and Nepal

Leder, Stephanie; Sugden, Fraser; Raut, Manita; Ray, Dhananjay; Saikia, Panchali

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.

Keywords

Agriculture; collective action; collective farming; commons; feminist political ecology; FPE; gender; India; irrigation; land; Nepal; water

Published in

International Journal of the Commons
2019, Volume: 13, number: 1, pages: 105-129
Publisher: IGITUR, UTRECHT PUBLISHING & ARCHIVING SERVICES

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG5 Gender equality
    SDG10 Reduced inequalities

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Gender Studies
    Agricultural Science

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.917

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/100613