Category: General HORTINLEA, SP 13, PhD & Master theses
Lost and Found: Qualitative Field Research
From the beginning, it felt like a great opportunity to travel to Kenya and investigate smallholders’ role from a value chain perspective. I was long considering whether smallholders can obtain their ‚autonomous’ operations in certain sectors or whether they are trapped by the possible and historical exclusion from the market by the entrance of bigger players. This question sheds light on the future of agriculture as such and is not just relevant for Kenya, but for other countries like Turkey, where I come from.
My particular interest is to understand the supply-related transitions led by the commercialisation of African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs). Since I was a stranger to the Kenyan agricultural and educational politics and their implementations on everyday life, I chose to write my thesis in the HORTINLEA Master’s Thesis Programme. My research focuses on the transition of AIVs and the role of academia for the empowerment of women, subsistence and small-scale farmers (WS/SSFs). Thanks to the support of academics and students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), I started my research with academics, continued with interviewing farmers and ended with the students. This was not only a methodological choice but a strategic one to understand the current situation.
Me and two fellow students from the programme - Manon and Sergio - stayed in JKUAT’s Campus in Juja. The campus was huge and full of nature. The first two weeks of my stay there was relatively calm. It took some days to figure out how to organise daily life and plan the research process. All the local coordinators and scholars participating in HORTINLEA welcomed us very warmly and we became friends with some locals including Samson who later drove us to some interviews. After a while more students from Germany and Uganda arrived. I was especially excited to meet Esther, a PhD student from Kampala and mother of five children. She only started her PhD thesis after turning 40. Her story, her education career is an empowering story for all women.
After the second week I started to interview academics from JKUAT. As I am working qualitatively, my research was still evolving at the time. I was attending a workshop on the campus related to curriculum development. There, I decided to deal not only with curriculum-related aspects but also discussing the role of a certain groups’ perspectives in the agricultural studies. This changed my focus from educational politics to individuals’ perspectives.
Western Kenya, the “food basket of the country” was always a theme while I was collecting data about AIVs. These vegetables are traditionally grown in this part of the country. Due to high precipitation, Kakamega is called ‘God’s bathroom’ and AIVs are cultivated mainly without irrigation. At Kakamega, I managed to get in touch with 4 different farmers organisations thanks to Linda (also a student in the programme) and SOFDI (Sustainable Organic Farming and Development Initiatives). Linda was our greatest support back there. by organising contacts and translators. Since I was interviewing mainly women farmers, Linda’s help was extra helpful for me. I am looking forward to meeting her again some day and remember the time we spent together as I appreciated every moment of this journey and what people shared with me.
© Izem Günyakti