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How social organization shapes crop diversity: an ecological anthropology approach among Tharaka farmers of Mount Kenya

Labeyrie V., Rono B., Leclerc C.. 2014. Agriculture and Human Values, 31 (1) : p. 97-107.

DOI: 10.1007/s10460-013-9451-9

The conservation of in situ crop diversity is a key issue to ensure food security. Understanding the processes that shape it is crucial for efficiently managing such diversity. In most rural societies, crop diversity patterns are affected by farmers' practices of seed exchange, transmission, and selection, but the role of social organization in shaping those practices has been overlooked. This study proposes an ecological anthropology approach to investigate the relation between crop diversity patterns and the social organization of Tharaka farmers in Kenya. The Tharaka are organized in neighborhood-groups, clans, and age-sets. We quantified the influence of these three major social institutions on crop diversity patterns, for both crop species and sorghum landraces. General linear models were used to test the relations between crop species richness and each social factor, while the crop species and sorghum landraces compositions of cropping systems were compared separately through a between-class correspondence analysis. Crop species and sorghum landraces are not randomly distributed among farms, and neighborhood-groups constitute a significant factor organizing crop diversity at both specific and infraspecific levels. Adjacent neighborhood-groups present significantly different crop richness and composition. The results for species were consistent with those obtained for sorghum landraces, confirming that crop diversity was socially structured. The influence of social organization on seed networks and selection processes is discussed.

Mots-clés : plante de culture; sorghum; kenya

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