Political economics of gender relations in information and communication technologies in agricultural development. The case of knowledge-based platforms for farmers in Kenya

Abstract : Low-income sub-Saharan African countries are confronted with demographic explosion since the last 60 years. Consequently, agriculture plays a key role in ensuring food security. The agricultural sector is also the main source of employment in this region. Women are the major contributing labour force in agriculture in these sub-Saharan African countries. Connected to their key role in the agricultural sector, women farmers are prioritised in policy intervention. Moreover, agricultural extension services are necessary to adapt to different constraints in these countries. Transfer of knowledge is also required to guarantee farm yields and consequently improve small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. Lately, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have enabled the development of new tools, aimed at improving the scope and the effectiveness of advisory services. Policy makers in sub-Saharan African countries are nonetheless confronted with critical questions regarding the impact of these tools, which can also contribute to a ‘digital gender gap’. These issues particularly concern women farmers.This PhD research analyses how ICT tools take into account gender relations, and the situation of women farmers. The thesis is based on the case of Kenya. The dissertation particularly focuses on the development of knowledge-based platforms in agriculture, an ICT policy instrument used by the Kenyan Government to achieve public policy objectives. This country is emblematic because it believes in the assumption that platforms can be inclusive of women farmers’. To answer to this research question, the work is based on three different institutional economic research approaches: feminist economics, the French regulation theory, and economics of services. A conceptual and methodological framework is presented to analyse the inclusion of gender equality in knowledge-based platforms at macro-, meso-, and micro- level.The results provide evidence that gender equality objectives is a fundamental guiding principle to the Government of Kenya. The analysis show that platforms are considered as new tools of inclusiveness in farm advisory services innovation. Observations from a developed platform typology framework show however that platforms can be source of gender inequality. It especially concerns women farmers unequal access to these instruments and the standardised services that they offer. This is essentially related to the institutional nature of the platform. Indeed, as it turns out, a high number of these instruments are based upon complex partnerships, and financed by multi-national corporations and/or foundations from the agrifood industry based in the Northern hemisphere. Combining institutional economic approaches allowed to bring out critical points of inclusion to be considered by policy makers and platform developers. Disregarding these specificities may make these platforms into new vectors of exclusion. Recognising and taking into account the conditions for inclusion can bring to light powerful levers for improving the efficiency of platforms.
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Madeleine Jönsson. Political economics of gender relations in information and communication technologies in agricultural development. The case of knowledge-based platforms for farmers in Kenya. Economics and Finance. Université Paris-Saclay, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018SACLA018⟩. ⟨tel-02117380⟩

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