PhD Working Title: Food Security Policy and Pastoralism: Governing Pastoralists through the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia’s Somali Region
Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork and drawing on the theory of governmentality, my PhD project explores how Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) has unexpectedly become a tool to govern/control Ethiopia’s Somali pastoralists. PSNP is a “transformative” food security programme, coupled with social security. It marks a shift from direct food aid to an integrated food security programme focusing on poverty reduction and livelihood enhancement by prioritizing the interests and realities of local communities. This, in a pastoralist context, means helping pastoralists to make their livelihoods resilient to climatic shocks without violating their economic and cultural rights within a mobile-based pastoralism. In this view, PSNP is distinct from Ethiopia’s government broader (anti-)pastoralist development policy which is informed by conventional views of pastoralism as irrational, unviable and traditional way of life and (re)production. In the broader context of a sedentary agrarian governmentality that characterizes the Ethiopian State and that shaped the thoughts and practices of bureaucrats, PSNP has been, however, locally and in practice, become an “effective” technology of extending a sedentary agrarian state power to pastoral peripheries and of (re)producing socio-political intelligibility. PSNP has, unintendedly, contributed to this in four ways that this PhD project scrutinizes. First, PSNP has, with counterproductive consequences, become a tool and readily available resource for translating the government’s conventional (anti-)pastoralist development policies of sedentarization and agriculture into practice. Second, PSNP-induced social infrastructures (mainly primary village schools) have, socio-spatially, reorganized pastoralists. Primary village schools, where pastoralists must send their children as a condition for PSNP transfers, have also become centres where PSNP (re)targeting and transfers are made and have become meeting halls. As a result, sedentarization has evolved around schools. Third, PSNP has created and/or consolidated local governments at the village level and hence intensified state bureaucratic power that, in turn, helped the state to “effectively” implement its conventional (anti-)pastoralist development policies. Fourth, PSNP has become an “effective” technology of governing Somali pastoralists because of its capacity to mobilize and redeploy the vectors and forces of clanship – ‘government through clanship’. Finally, the pastoralists’ perspective of PSNP’s governing practices are framed by their metaphor: “Sirta Dawlada Iyo Isha Quraanjo lama carko”, which is literally in Somali language means the eyes of a sugar ant and the secret of the government are not visible.