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Petrol pumps and the making of modernity along the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya

Paul Hebinck
Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; paul.hebinck@wur.nl

Luwieke Bosma
MetaMeta Research, ’s Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands; lbosma@metameta.nl

Gert Jan Veldwisch
Water Resource Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; gertjan.veldwisch@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: This paper explores how pump irrigation has evolved along the Kenyan shores of Lake Victoria. Over the past two decades access to petrol pumps has allowed small-scale horticultural enterprises to start up and then transform the size, intensity and nature of their production. We analyse the spread of petrol pumps as the assimilation and wider use of a modern device along a mutated trajectory of change. We argue that it was not led by external actors but is a local and self-organised process driven by actors who negotiated interfaces between themselves and those operating at the macro level. The assimilation unfolded not as a temporally and spatially linear process but through its embeddedness in complex and dynamic social relationships that structure access to the key resources required for vegetable production. This in turn has given rise to a range of strategies in which the pumps' performance is adjusted to fit with various socially differentiated contexts.

KEYWORDS: Horticulture, farmer-led irrigation, mutant modernity, farming strategies, pump irrigation, Lake Victoria, Kenya