chapter  8
‘One doesn’t sell one’s parents’: gendered experiences of shifting tenure regimes in the agricultural plain of the Sais in Morocco
Pages 17

In 2006, the government of Morocco decided to privatize the land of the former socialist-inspired collective state cooperatives because the restrictions on their transferability were seen as hampering their profi tability. The resulting shift in land control is happening alongside, but is also provoking, wider processes of agrarian change, manifested among others things in the introduction of new high-value crops, the use of new technologies (such as tubewells and drip irrigation) and alterations in labour relations. In this chapter we want to explore what the shift from a collective to a private tenure system means for gender relations. We base our analysis on one year of in-depth ethnographic fi eldwork done in 2011-13 in the former cooperative of Ait Ali, which is situated in the agricultural plain of the Sais in Morocco. Our fi ndings suggest that the privatization of land results in the disarticulation of land rights from wider kinship-based relations of dependency and reciprocity and erodes the historical, territorial and family values land used to embody. The disarticulation of land rights from wider kinship-based relations happens in tandem with and through a renegotiation of gender relations and subjectivities. By tracing the history of the state cooperative, we show how land-use rights used to epitomize post-colonial collective struggles against the colonial regime and later against the Moroccan state. In the state cooperative, land was used through gendered family, kinship, and community relations based on the institutions of inheritance and marriage, with farms and families being deeply intertwined through labour arrangements and how land was used. Conversely, gendered subjectivities and institutions importantly manifested themselves, and became enacted, through how land was used and managed. Today, farming increasingly is becoming a professional activity and identity, premised on a growing division between a private family domain associated with women and a public professional domain associated with men. This opens up new possibilities for becoming a modern farmer to some rural male youngsters, but makes it increasingly diffi cult for many women to negotiate and justify their farming activities and subjectivities. Changes in the monetary value of land, as well as changes in the inheritance system, are symptomatic of the changing meanings of land, something that may provoke protracted

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intra-family negotiations over land in which the position of women is particularly weak. In sum, our analysis shows how the current privatization of land in the region of the Sais is shaped and in turn shapes existing identities and institutions, transforming the gendered spaces and subjectivities in often constraining ways for women.