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"The land is sleeping" : local stories of hunger, food and fertility in southeastern coastal Tanzania Woo, Mai Lei Margaret


Theoretical developments in the study of hunger and famines are largely grouped into two schools, one emphasizing environmental factors and the other, social factors. However, narratives from Sinde village in Southeastern Tanzania blur the environmental/social divide to describe an interconnected social landscape. Local food narratives reveal that landscapes embody power that determines where people can or cannot farm and fish. Drawing on participant observation of everyday life in the village of Sinde, as well as 14 in-depth interviews and a focus group discussion with members of the community, the study provides insights into the social impact of the recent implementation of the Mnazi Bay Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park and the Mtwara Development Corridor and the processes of displacement and deepening poverty. Subsequently, increased constraints on livelihoods have intensified the outmigration of young men in search of work in urban centres or along the East African coast. Structural violence is revealed as inequality becomes embodied in the higher likelihood of suffering from hunger and malnutrition-related diseases. Social suffering is vividly expressed in the lament that the land has lost its fertility, where the land is connected to social relationships and social reproduction, such as in the increasing concern that children are too hungry to pay attention in school. Local food narratives describe the interconnectedness between the fertility of the soil and the social fertility of families to raise healthy children with viable livelihoods. This thesis explores the processes behind increasing food insecurity in Sinde to complicate stereotypes of a “poor” and “starving” Africa. It suggests that food insecurity is neither timeless nor the result of “backwards”, unsustainable practices but rather exacerbated by two large-scale conservation and development projects implemented in the region that have intensified a vicious cycle of deepening poverty and inequality.

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