University of Sussex
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Negotiating an uncertain future: a multi-study of narratives of Kenyan agricultural climate change adaptation

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posted on 2023-06-08, 18:01 authored by Stephen Whitfield
This research addresses the following question: ‘In the context of climate change, how do different actors narrate the uncertain, ambiguous and risky future of maize agriculture, and what are the implications?’ A multi-sited and institutional ethnography approach was adopted in order to look critically at how knowledge and narratives of future change in Kenyan maize agriculture are constructed by a variety of actors. The thesis describes: contested narratives of climate change and climate change impacts (through an analysis of the global climate impact modelling endeavour); contested narratives of change on smallholder farms (based on two case study sites in Kenya); contested narratives of pro-poor technological interventions (including the development of genetically modified drought tolerant maize); and contested narratives of technology regulation (with a focus on Kenyan biosafety policy). It is shown that narratives are contested in multiple sites and by a variety of actors and, although the resolution of these contestations often fall along familiar lines of power and elite capture, there are examples in which alternative perspectives find agency. This is the case not only in national policy-making arenas and the board-rooms of international development initiatives, but also in the fields and communities of smallholder farmers, the offices of national research centres, and the operations of civil society organisations. It is argued that, within these diverse settings, critical analysis of the constructed nature of knowledge is a necessary foundation on which to open up the negotiation of Kenya’s agricultural future to multiple alternatives.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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