"Once a peasant, always a peasant"
: socio-ecological resilience of Ndiémane's food system in Senegal (West Africa)

  • Carla Sarrouy Kay

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Climate change research remains focused on the perception of and adaptation to geoclimatic phenomena, oversimplifying livelihood decision-making processes. To address this gap, I explore the relevance of broadening research to the notion of socio-ecological resilience of food systems. This research aims to provide insights into the understanding and construction of socio-ecological resilience as a dynamic and holistic process affecting all spheres of everyday life.

    For this analysis, the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework was adapted into a Resilient Food Systems Framework. This structures and presents the historical context of the food system, the community resources’ control, access and use, and the intended and achieved outcomes toward socio-ecological resilience. Through a Feminist Political Ecology analysis, this thesis demonstrates that distinct intersectionalities – I focus here on gender and age – lead to challenges being perceived and acted on differently. Moreover, the emphasis given to Traditional Ecological Knowledges enables the consideration of endogenous knowledges, mainly vehiculated by elders, and their relevance in the construction of a community’s identity.

    The village of Ndiémane in Senegal, West Africa, was the case study for this research because of its colonial and postcolonial link to the emblematic production of peanuts and its nationally renowned peasant-to-peasant agroecological training centre. Five field experiences were conducted between February 2017 and March 2020 for durations ranging from two to twelve weeks. Participatory Action Research with female and male, young and elderly peasants provided new empirical data to co-construct the concept of resilience. Data was collected through mixed methods, including archival research, interviews, focus group discussions, participatory video and participant observation. Data was analysed participatively and using NVivo.

    The analysis reveals that climate, social and environmental changes have led to the gradual commodification of the food system, the disempowerment of peasants and to tradition loss. However, villagers, female and male, young and old, consider that their resilience revolves above all around ethnic identity and its preservation and contestation. It is through their enduring connection to the land (and, to varying degrees, the activity of farming) that all villagers feel they continue to belong to the Seereer Siin ethnic group and therefore believe in their socio-ecological resilience.

    These findings show that to better understand and address climate change perception and adaptation, research must embrace the complexity and interconnectedness of food systems and livelihoods. Far from being ignorant or dismissive of the climate change phenomenon, peasants consider it as but one of the challenges they face in their daily struggle for resilience enhancement and identity permanence.
    Date of AwardDec 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMichel Pimbert (Supervisor) & Stefanie Lemke (Supervisor)


    • food system
    • socio-ecological resilience
    • intersectionality
    • knowledges
    • identity
    • Senegal

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