Scientific Publication

Local gender contract and adaptive capacity in smallholder irrigation farming: a case study from the Kenyan drylands


This paper presents the local gender contract of Sibou, Kenya: a smallholder irrigation farming community. Women’s role in subsistence farming in Africa has mostly been analyzed through the lens of gender division of labor. In addition to this, we used the concept of ‘local gender contract’ to analyze cultural and material preconditions shaping gender-specific tasks in agricultural production, and consequently, men’s and women’s different strategies for adapting to climate variability. We show that the introduction of cash crops, as a trigger for negotiating women’s and men’s roles in the agricultural production, results in a process of gender contract renegotiation, and that families engaged in cash cropping are in the process of shifting from a `local resource contract’ to a ‘household income contract.’ Based on our analysis we argue that a transformation of the local gender contract will have a direct impact on the community’s adaptive capacity climate variability. It is therefore important to take the negotiation of local gender contracts into account in assessments of farming communities’ adaptive capacity