Making “Climate Smart” Farmers and Fields in Tanzania

Authors: Laura Lawler*, University of Wisconsin
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Environment
Keywords: climate smart agriculture, carbon governance, Science and Technology Studies, performativity, food sovereignty
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Cabinet Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


‘Climate smart agriculture’ (CSA) has become widely celebrated as a new means to mitigate climate change and increase resilience consistent with the global shift toward multidimensional landscape-level carbon governance (see Peasant Studies 2018). While CSA is presented as a consistent object on its way to commodification, what counts as ‘climate smart’ is highly geographically differentiated. While farmers in California earn offset payments for practices like early rice paddy drainage, in Tanzania ‘climate smart’ farmers use patented ‘climate ready’ seeds in high-input commodity production. CSA has brought together seemingly disparate powerful conservation, scientific, development, and agribusiness actors to set CSA norms for farmers in the Global South, enabling certain forms of CSA while obscuring others. I use CSA in Tanzania under a new National CSA Policy to ask: How do farmers and farm fields become ‘climate smart’ subjects and places? I use a hybrid STS-political ecology approach (Goldman and Turner 2011) to examine how CSA does political boundary work to produce ‘smart’ farmers (e.g. ‘early adopters,’ high-yielding commodity producers) in relation to their not-smart counterparts (e.g. ‘resistors’ of CSA programming, ‘slash and burners,’). I focus on discursive and visual representation in CSA policies, reports, and promotional materials and political-economic performativity and governmentality in CSA programming to produce climate “sensitized” farmers amenable to thinking of carbon responsibilities and to enable productivist mitigation investments. I then consider the potential to perform a food sovereignty oriented CSA and address obstacles to a more just CSA that many smallholders in Tanzania are working to overcome.

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