Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hot off the press: Is it possible to survive on a deserted farm?



Finally published: A long term project covering a long period.  Investigating deserted farms in Sweden to understand tenure, lordship, social relations and farming systems during the Middle Ages:

Is it possible to survive on a deserted farm:  Manors, tenants and farming systems during the Middle Ages in the Lägerbo area, Östergötland.

This study approaches the late medieval farm desertion from a landscape perspective. It focuses on the area of a former medieval estate in southern Östergötland, Sweden. Based on a retrogressive analysis of cadastral maps and historical records the medieval settlement is reconstructed. In this process three formerly unknown deserted farms were identified, with abandoned field systems and building remains.  The volume provides the archaeological documentation of field systems and settlements at these sites. These data provide the background for investigating the shifting social and ecological circumstances that once made it possible for tenant families to survive on these farms. During the height of the manorial system the small farms were specialised units in a redistributive system.  In the late 14th century the estate and all tenant farms were donated to the convents of Vadstena and Vreta.  Rents were no longer paid in labour but in butter.  In the fifteenth century several farms were abandoned and turned into meadows under the surviving farms. The new tenurial relations prevented the recolonization of the farms. The study is the result of an interdisciplinary project involving medieval archaeology, historical geography, palynology and medieval history.

Buy the book (in Swedish)  http://vitterhetsakad.bokorder.se/sv-se/shop/book/2861?slug=kan-man-leva-pa-en-odegard

Or read a very preliminary (and old) report from the project in The Archaeology and Anthropology of Landscape

Thursday, May 26, 2016

End of road for EcoEnergy?


Remember the Swedish company Sekab that cheated three public energy companies in northern Sweden into investing substantially in ethanol production in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, some fifteen years back? The company secured vast tracts of land, which allegedly was unused. However, it turned out that people were in fact living on the land, and cultivating it, and that it also was important grazing land for pastoralists who had been forced off their grazing areas in Hanang District by commercial grain production.
The ethanol project never got off ground and the Swedish tax payers’ money went down the drain.
Sekab’s Tanzanian wing reappeared as a new company EcoEnergy. Now ethanol was no longer on the agenda. Instead EcoEnergy wanted to start conventional sugar production in Bagamoyo, promising increased land productivity, sustainable livelihoods, and a growing local economy.  However, soon reports appeared (from ActionAid, Oxfam and others) that local farmers lost land and water without being aware of what was happening and that they did not understand the loan agreements they became tied to. Despite considerable criticism against the company’s plans EcoEnergy managed to get Sida to issue a bank guarantee for this project at 120 000 000 SEK.
The Tanzanian daily The Citizen (20 May 2016) now reports that Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has told Parliament that the government has shelfed the plans for the sugar plantation project in Bagamoyo to safeguard Wami River and the Saadani National Park, which borders on the proposed 20 000 ha sugar project.
Is this the end of EcoEnergy’s decades of attempts to exploit the disputed land in Bagamoyo? Will their investors, now that no incomes for the company are to be expected, secure their money by claiming Sida’s bank guarantee? This would mean that Swedish tax payers have once more lost very substantial sums to a project that from start was heavily criticised by Tanzanian and international researchers and by environmental organisations.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PhD defense "Ecosystem Services and Disservices in an Agriculture–Forest Mosaic: A Study of Forest and Tree Management and Landscape Transformation in Southwestern Ethiopia"

On May 20, 2016 from 10:00 Tola Gemechu Ango will defend his PhD thesis titled: Ecosystem Services and Disservices in an Agriculture–Forest Mosaic: A Study of Forest and Tree Management and Landscape Transformation in Southwestern Ethiopia

Opponent Tobias Plieninger, Associate Professor

Supervisor Lowe Börjeson, Associate Professor
Venue: De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Frescati, Stockholm

Abstact

The intertwined challenges of food insecurity, deforestation, and biodiversity loss remain perennial challenges in Ethiopia, despite increasing policy interventions. This thesis investigates smallholding farmers’ tree- and forest-based livelihoods and management practices, in the context of national development and conservation policies, and examines how these local management practices and policies transform the agriculture–forest mosaic landscapes of southwestern Ethiopia.

The thesis is guided by a political ecology perspective, and focuses on an analytical framework of ecosystem services (ESs) and disservices (EDs). It uses a mixed research design with data from participatory field mapping, a tree ‘inventory’, interviews, focus group discussions, population censuses, and analysis of satellite images and aerial photos.


The thesis presents four papers. Paper I investigates how smallholding farmers in an agriculture–forest mosaic landscape manage trees and forests in relation to a few selected ESs and EDs that they consider particularly beneficial or problematic. The farmers’ management practices were geared towards mitigating tree- and forest-related EDs such as wild mammal crop raiders, while at the same time augmenting ESs such as shaded coffee production, resulting in a restructuring of the agriculture–forest mosaic. Paper II builds further on the EDs introduced in paper I, to assess the effects of crop raids by forest-dwelling wild mammals on farmers’ livelihoods. The EDs of wild mammals and human–wildlife conflict are shown to constitute a problem that goes well beyond a narrow focus on yield loss. The paper illustrates the broader impacts of crop-raiding wild mammals on local agricultural and livelihood development (e.g. the effects on food security and children’s schooling), and how state forest and wildlife control and related conservation policy undermined farmers’ coping strategies. Paper III examines local forest-based livelihood sources and how smallholders’ access to forests is reduced by state transfer of forestland to private companies for coffee investment. This paper highlights how relatively small land areas appropriated for investment in relatively densely inhabited areas can harm the livelihoods of many farmers, and also negatively affect forest conservation. Paper IV investigates the patterns and drivers of forest cover change from 1958 to 2010. Between 1973 and 2010, 25% of the total forest was lost, and forest cover changes varied both spatially and temporally. State development and conservation policies spanning various political economies (feudal, socialist, and ‘free market-oriented’) directly or indirectly affected local ecosystem use, ecosystem management practices, and migration processes. These factors (policies, local practices, and migration) have thus together shaped the spatial patterns of forest cover change in the last 50 years.


The thesis concludes that national development and conservation policies and the associated power relations and inequality have often undermined local livelihood security and forest conservation efforts. It also highlights how a conceptualization of a local ecosystem as a provider of both ESs and EDs can generate an understanding of local practices and decisions that shape development and conservation trajectories in mosaic landscapes. The thesis draws attention to the need to make development and conservation policies relevant and adaptable to local conditions as a means to promote local livelihood and food security, forest and biodiversity conservation, and ESs generated by agricultural mosaic landscapes.

Link to the thesis is available here

A new publication on human-wildlife conflict

Crop raiding by wild mammals in Ethiopia: impacts on the livelihoods of smallholders in an agriculture–forest mosaic landscape 

 

Tola Gemechu Ango, Lowe Börjeson and Feyera Senbeta 

Oryx, May 2016, full paper available at doi: 10.1017/S0030605316000028


Abstract 

We assessed the impacts of crop raiding by wild mammals on the livelihoods of smallholding farmers in south-western Ethiopia. Data were generated through participatory field mapping, interviews and focus groups. The results indicated that wild mammals, mainly olive baboons Papio anubis and bush pigs Potamochoerus larvatus, were raiding most crops cultivated in villages close to forests. In addition to the loss of crops, farmers incurred indirect costs in having to guard and cultivate plots far from their residences, sometimes at the expense of their children’s schooling. Raiding also undermined farmers’ willingness to invest in modern agricultural technologies. Various coping strategies, including guarding crops and adapting existing local institutions, were insufficient to reduce raiding and its indirect impacts on household economies to tolerable levels, and were undermined by existing policies and government institutions. It is essential to recognize wild mammal pests as a critical ecosystem disservice to farmers, and to identify ways to mitigate their direct and indirect costs, to facilitate local agricultural development and livelihood security, and integrate wildlife conservation and local development more fully in agriculture–forest mosaic landscapes.
 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

SIDA criticised by National Audit for their EcoEnergy support




The events around  Sidas involvement in the Swedish sugar plantation in Bagamoyo continues  to surprise. I thought I know much about the formal aspects of the SIDA support to these plans. But when I recently checked the web address of a document I wanted to refer to in a future publication I was surprised.  I was looking for the decision from early 2014 to support the project with a loan guarantee. The Swedish television had made that document public in connection with an investigative programme in August 2014. And here it is – the decision to support Eco Energy:


The document says that SIDA shall support the company with a guarantee (säkerhet)  for a maximum of 120 million Swedish Crowns for loan that EcoEnergy has got from the Standard Bank South Africa. 

But when I googled for that document I was using the official number 13/000545 and did find another document, that I had never seen before and that, to my knowledge has not been mentioned in the press. 



In this document from 2014 the Swedish National Audit Office openly criticises SIDA not for the decision but for their  book keeping of the economic flows emanating from the decision. According to the auditors the money sent for this project should be registered in the books as a claim (fordran) rather than as a grant (bidrag) since it was only a guarantee for a loan the company had got from a commerical bank and which should never be used if the project was successful. But SIDA recorded it as a grant (bidrag) on the basis that "risks were deemed so high in the project that the chance that SIDA would get money back is very low" . But as the National Audit Office says "this reasoning is not part of the background material for the decision".   Anyhow it is embarrasing to see that SIDA already then realised they were not just guaranteeing a loan (as they said in the document) but actually planned to give money away.

The National Audit Office recommended SIDA to ask the government for permission on how this has been handled. I do not know how SIDA responded to this . Since then the money flow has (temporarily ? ?) stopped but as Development Today wrote recently The Bagamoyo saga drags on.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Seminar on A research assistant´s perspective: challenges and opportunities of a power loaded research process 8th March 1pm X308

A research assistant´s perspective: challenges and opportunities of a power loaded research process

The speaker is Florence Jemutai Cheptum

Florence is Martina Angela Caretta’s research assistant from Kenya who is visiting our department! She will be giving a presentation on the work that she has been carrying out with Martina since 2011. Florence will focus first on the challenges related to gatekeeping, assistance and translation both in relation to Martina’s and study participants’ expectations and secondly present the opportunities that the research has created both for her and study participants.

Spread the announcement!


Room X308 Geohuset Stockholm University March 8th at 1pm.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Qualitative special issue introduction is now out!

The introduction prefacing the Qualitative Research special issue I co-edited with Dr. Yvonne Riaño from the University of Neuchâtel is now available online. 

Published in Qualitative Research, February 2016, 1468794116629575. doi:10.1177/1468794116629575

Feminist Participatory Methodologies in Geography: Creating Spaces of Inclusion
Martina Angela Caretta[1] and Yvonne Riaño[2]

Abstract
This introduction prefaces a special issue on the topic of feminist participatory methodologies in geography. Drawing upon the experiences of the contributors in developing new tools and methods to facilitate interaction with participants and working with groups that tend to be forgotten, subordinated and/or alienated, we argue for the methodological significance of instating a feminist perspective to participatory research. Although much theoretical debate has taken place among feminist and post-colonial scholars on unequal research relationships between “researchers” and “research subjects”, the literature on how to operationalize greater equality remains quite limited. We attempt to fill this research gap by bringing together scholars working in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres in order to illuminate the multifaceted ways in which these methods can be used not only to debunk hierarchical research relationships, but also to produce new scientific insights with greater validity.  



[1] Human Geography Department., Stockholm University, Svante Arrhenius väg 8, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden, martina.angela.caretta@humangeo.su.se   
[2] Institute of Geography, University of Neuchâtel, Espace Louis Agassiz 1, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland, yvonne.riano@unine.ch