Fellowship for Karen Rignall: Doctoral Disseration Research: Expanding cultivation, land, and livelihood transformations in southern Morocco

Grants and Contracts Details


Doctoral dissertation research: Expanding cultivation, land, and livelihood transformations in southern Morocco Karen Rignall, PhD Program in Anthropology, University of Kentucky Project summary * Problem statement: In the arid lands of southern Morocco, households maintain a commitment to agriculture despite formidable ecological and economic constraints. In recent years, one of the ways they have done this is to expand cultivation into communally owned rangelands. The proposed study will examine rangeland conversion as a contested social process. The research questions are: how do farmers acquire rangelands for cultivation and how do their strategies affect their own livelihood security - and the livelihood security of other households? The research will examine expanded cultivation as embedded in the larger phenomena of livelihood diversification and changing land tenure. The study hypothesizes that livelihood diversification has enabled households to expand cultivation through the commodification of land. Secondary hypotheses detail how livelihood diversification contributes to the commodification of land, the links between expanded cultivation and tenure regimes, and the differential impacts of expanded cultivation on household livelihood security. * Methods and analysis: This research is an ethnographic study of how expanded cultivation affects household livelihood security in southern Morocco. After conducting a demographic census, I will follow the livelihood strategies of six households over the research period to compare their experiences with expanded cultivation and changes in livelihood security. Semi- structured interviews, plot-level research, budget surveys, and other contextual data will shed light on the six households' decisionmaking processes, specifically as they relate to expanded cultivation. The goal is to establish empirical relationships at the household level between livelihood diversification, commodification of land, expanded cultivation, and livelihood security. I will also conduct forty-five semi-structured interviews in the same region to test the broader applicability of the hypotheses. * Intellectual merit: This study will contribute an anthropological understanding of how expanded cultivation relates to broader processes of agrarian change. It Will use the Morocco case to reverse the standard interpretation of the relationship between land commodification and livelihood diversification, which holds that market integration - and the commodification of land that usually accompanies it - are primary drivers of diversification. In southern Morocco, the phenomenon of expanded cultivation indicates that livelihood diversification may be stimulating the commodification of land. An ethnographic focus on the cultural context of land tenure, social stratification, and changing livelihood strategies will shed light on how expanded cultivation may be creating new forms of vulnerability among households with reduced access to land. The proposed research will trace these emerging forms of stratification to explain how livelihood diversification and land commodification interact with one another with varying results for household livelihood security. * Broader impacts: Current research and policy emphasize livelihood diversification as a central feature of rural livelihoods in arid lands. The scholarship represents diversification as a shift away from agriculture, with positive implications for livelihood security. However, this research will explore how some households use diversification to maintain cropping as a core livelihood activity, with potential negative effects for the livelihood security of others. The study argues that understanding how people expand cropping will clarify the differential impacts of this expansion on livelihood security. This is a key step for crafting policies that account for households' decisionmaking processes and the equity impacts of those processes.
Effective start/end date11/1/092/28/12


  • National Science Foundation: $5,606.00


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