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Geographica Helvetica
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Volume 72, issue 2
Geogr. Helv., 72, 243-254, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-72-243-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Geogr. Helv., 72, 243-254, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-72-243-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Standard article 13 Jun 2017

Standard article | 13 Jun 2017

Interpreting mega-development projects as territorial traps: the case of irrigation schemes on the shores of Lake Chad (Borno State, Nigeria)

Marina Bertoncin and Andrea Pase Marina Bertoncin and Andrea Pase
  • Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Geografiche e dell'Antichità, Università di Padova, via del Santo 26, 35123, Italy

Abstract. From the colonial era up to the present, mega-irrigation projects for agriculture have played a key role in the production of state space in Sahelian Africa. Transferring a concept proposed by Agnew (1994) onto a different scale, it is possible to interpret these mega-projects as territorial traps. In fact, they set up boundaries (physical, relational, cognitive and operative) that force evolutive trajectories of the areas involved along rigid pathways. In the aftermath of the systematic failure of the mega-projects, farmers are faced with constraints determined by the trap imposed, without having any of the promised benefits in terms of productive growth, i.e. income. In many situations, the farmers have identified a means of escape from these catastrophes by transgressing the boundaries imposed by the territorial traps and reintroducing parts of the infrastructure to a common use. The case study traces the crisis, and ultimately the failure, of the mega-irrigation projects constructed in the 1970s along the shores of Lake Chad in Nigeria.

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From the colonial era up to the present, mega-irrigation projects have played a key role in Sahelian Africa. It is possible to interpret them as territorial traps: they set up boundaries (physical, relational, cognitive and operative) that force evolutive trajectories along rigid pathways. After the failure of the mega-irrigation projects, farmers are faced with significant constraints. They identified a means of escape from these catastrophes by transgressing the boundaries imposed.
From the colonial era up to the present, mega-irrigation projects have played a key role in...
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