Re-conceptualising food security : interlocking strategies, unfolding choices and rural livelihoods in Kisii District, Kenya

M. Omosa

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>This study argues that achieving food security is a process and one that shifts and swings. Points of stability mark the food security position of households and this depends on people's day-to-day practices. These undertakings draw on how households conceptualise their life chances and this is situated in larger livelihoods, a framework that consists of both commodity and non-commodity relations. Discussions throughout this thesis are therefore directed towards understanding what goes on at the rural household level, during the search for food and, in particular, how adequate food is gained by some and not by others.</p><p>Chapter 2 strives to locate answers to the research question within the existing literature. Using both the entitlements approach and the various perspectives emerging from the commoditisation process, I show how the search for adequate food is perceived as likely to come about. In addition to bringing out some of the major shortcomings within these positions, I indicate how this study intends to proceed.</p><p>In Chapter 3, I discuss Kenya's food policy. By looking at the country's gricultural activities under colonial rule and the philosophy behind Kenya's food policy, I show how the country's policy position is likely to impact on food entitlements, and therefore, the kind of challenges that this position portends at the rural household level. The overall aim of the chapter is to highlight how food security is conceptualised at the policy level and, how the search for adequate food is envisioned. Noting that command over adequate food may have eluded many at the rural household level, in spite of the country's food policy, I go 'back in time' to look at the transformations that have taken place (or failed to take place) in one agriculturally endowed region, Kisii District.</p><p>Chapter 4 therefore places the study question in a historical perspective. Several agricultural interventions, transitions and transformations that took place among the Gusii are traced to the points where they start impacting on food security. How the Gusii struggled with and sometimes accommodated apparent contradictions in agricultural strategies is the central focus. I conclude the hapter with an account of some of the major food shortages that have afflicted the Gusii.</p><p>Chapter 5 dwells on the strategies that households employ to secure food. The aim is to understand how households work towards meeting their food needs but in a diverse and yet inter-related manner. Among the salient features is that these strategies are characterised by contestations and trade-offs, most a result of a struggle to reconcile the real with the expected. Given the central role that cultivation occupies both at the policy and household levels, I take up food cultivation for further analysis. In Chapter 6, I discuss the production process by looking at the interrelatedness in farm practices, the incongruity in approach and the ideology underlying the choices that are manifest in people's everyday lives. I conclude the chapter with a discussion on the future of cultivation as a source of food.</p><p>And, in Chapter 7, I delve deeper into people's livelihoods. I look into the potentiality of the possibilities that are open to rural households once they face food shortages arising from a shortfall in harvests. I mainly focus on the kind of social and economic networks that households develop to meet their food needs, namely, seeking assistance or making purchases. I also explore the social transformations taking place in the specific relationships in which these possibilities are embedded and how shortfalls continue to be accommodated in people's everyday lives.</p><p>The complexity of household food security is pursued further by looking at how some succeed while others fail in the search for adequate food. In Chapter 8, I focus on the relationship between obtaining and failing to obtain adequate food supplies and several of the factors that are assumed to constitute food entitlements. In addition to the variations that emerge in food security positions, I strive to bring out some of the discrepancies that continue to dominate the search for food at the rural household level. Finally, I revisit key discussions throughout the thesis with the aim of synthesising the search for food in the context of my study. Hence, in Chapter 9, I pull together the various ways in which food security is conceptualised and practised. By separating what is real and therefore practised from what is imagined but nevertheless important, I come to the conclusion that attaining food security is the outcome of a constantly negotiated process.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Long, N.E., Promotor
    • Hoorweg, J., Promotor, External person
    Award date26 Oct 1998
    Place of PublicationNairobi
    Print ISBNs9789054859659
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


    • food policy
    • food supply
    • agricultural situation
    • economic situation
    • agriculture
    • sociology
    • agrarian reform
    • farm management
    • rural society
    • markets
    • social change
    • rural communities
    • kenya

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