Accepted paper:

Rice Going Wrong and On - Realizing Burkina Faso's Rice Promise in Bagré


Janine Hauer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork in Bagré, I examine the role rice plays throughout changing political regimes and project conditions. I argue that the notion of the boundary object provides a useful lens to grasp the temporal dimension of rice-associated transformations of lands and livelihoods.

Paper long abstract:

Rice is the most rapidly growing food source in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, countries across the region depend on imports. Increasing the production thus is a priority on political agendas, especially since the global food price crisis in 2007/08. Realizing Africa's rice promise (Wopereis et al. 2013) constitutes a joint venture that challenges people and places, individuals and institutions etc. I draw on research in Ouagadougou and the Bagré region - a major rice producing area that has been undergoing massive transformations since the construction of the Bagré dam in the 1990s - in the South of Burkina Faso where land is converted into irrigated rice fields. I conducted fieldwork among rice farmers and processors, in cooperative offices and government institutions. In this paper I grapple with the puzzle of why and how rice simultaneously goes wrong - meaning that despite considerable efforts the actual success lacks behind expectations, projections and calculations - and goes on - across shifting political regimes and project conditions 'rice stays in place', serving and linking various global discourses and associated strategies such as accelerating growth, pushing sustainable development, fighting poverty, adapting to climate change, etc. as well individual hopes and struggles for making a living. I suggest to conceptualize rice as boundary object (Star & Griesemer 1989) to account for the diverging perceptions and practices that mark current realities in Bagré as well as the sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff & Kim 2009) of the future under way. I argue for the concept's usefulness to grasp the temporal dimensions of rice farming across the region.

panel P033
Moving on: food futures and reimagining uncertainty [Anthropology of Food]