Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 147–157 | Cite as

‘The Tides Rhyme with the Moon’: The Impacts of Knowledge Transmission and Strong Spring Tides on Rice Farming in Guinea-Bissau

  • Joana Sousa
  • Ana Luísa LuzEmail author


Mangrove rice farmers in Guinea-Bissau are facing climatic changes (i.e., seawater flooding and decreasing rainfall) that threaten their livelihood. In addition, cultural transformations (e.g., abandonment of bush initiations) have affected inter-generational knowledge exchange and elders’ control over youth. Our ethnographic research documents the construction of a dam in a village in southern Guinea-Bissau to protect rice farms from seawater flooding. In a struggle for increased access to land, the youth of the village formed an association to ensure the availability of labor and promote knowledge exchange. Inter-village expert knowledge of mangrove rice farming is disseminated through networks of reciprocity that exist alongside village, household, and age-based knowledge transmission. Farmers’ capacity to experiment with technological solutions and expand the connections in regional knowledge networks is crucial to ongoing adaptation. Multidimensional rural development strategies are of importance to respond to changing climatic and socio-cultural conditions.


Knowledge Technology Climate change Spring tides Mangrove rice Guinea-Bissau 



We are deeply thankful to the people in Guinea-Bissau who welcomed us, received us in their homes, and were keen to take part in our interviews. We are also thankful to Margaux Dauby, Gonçalo dos Santos, and Miguel Carmo who commented on this manuscript. Thanks are due to Liam Carney for the English revision, comments, and proofreading. We also acknowledge the two anonymous reviewers who commented on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal) under the grant SFRH/BD/45109/2008 and Future Agricultures Consortium.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Agrawal, A. (1995). Dismantling the Divide Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge. Development and Change 26: 413–439. Scholar
  2. Bateson, G. (2008). Effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation. In Dove, M. R., and Carpenter, C. (eds.), Environmental Anthropology. A Historical Reader, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Oxford, Victoria, pp. 457–461.Google Scholar
  3. Batista, M. M. (1948). Problemas Agrícolas Coloniais. A Guiné Desconhecida. Boletim Cultural da Guiné Portuguesa III: 881–932.Google Scholar
  4. Berkes, F., and Berkes, M. K. (2009). Ecological Complexity, Fuzzy Logic, and Holism in Indigenous Knowledge. Futures, Futures of Indigenous Knowledges 41: 6–12. Scholar
  5. Berliner, D. (2005). An “impossible” transmission: youth religious memories in Guinea-Conakry. American Ethnologist 32(4): 576–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bivar, M., and Temudo, M. P. (2014). Rice, Cows and Envy: Agriculture and Change Among Young Rice Producers in Guinea-Bissau. Working Paper - Future Agricultures 17.Google Scholar
  7. Crowley, E. L. (1990). Contracts with the Spirits: Religion, Asylum, and Ethnic Identity in the Cacheu Region of Guinea-Bissau, PhD Dissertation, Yale University.Google Scholar
  8. Curtis, M. Y. (2013). A la Recontre des Nalu. Arts de la Côte de Guinée, l’Harmattan, Paris.Google Scholar
  9. Dai, A., Lamb, P. J., Trenberth, K. E., Hulme, M., Jones, P. D., and Xie, P. (2004). The recent Sahel Drought is Real. International Journal of Climatology 24: 1323–1331. Scholar
  10. Davidson, J. (2010). Cultivating Knowledge: Development, Dissemblance, and Discursive Contradictions Among the Diola of Guinea-Bissau. American Ethnologist 37: 212–226. Scholar
  11. Davidson, J. (2016). Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in Rural West Africa, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Embaló, G. B. (2008). Population Vulnerability to Agroecological Changes. A Case Study in Pirada, Gabu region, Guiné-Bissau (Masters). Instituto Superior Técnico, Universide Técnica de Lisboa.Google Scholar
  13. Eyssartier, C., Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2008). Cultural Transmission of Traditional Knowledge in Two Populations of North-western Patagonia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 4: 25. Scholar
  14. FAO (ed.) (2007). The world’s mangroves 1980–2005, A thematic study prepared in the framework of the Global Forest Rources Assessment, FAO Forestry Paper 153. ed, FAO, Rome.Google Scholar
  15. Fields-Black, E. L. (2008). Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  16. Gonçalves, M. (1998). A Study of Bolanha Salgada, A Traditional Farming System in Caboxanque, Guinea-Bissau, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.Google Scholar
  17. Hewlett, B. S., and Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. (1986). Cultural Transmission Among aka Pygmies. American Anthropologist 88: 922–934. Scholar
  18. Hinkel, J., van Vuuren, D. P., Nicholls, R. J., and Klein, R. J. T. (2013). The Effects of Adaptation and Mitigation on Coastal Flood Impacts During the 21st Century. An Application of the DIVA and IMAGE Models. Climatic Change 117: 783–794. Scholar
  19. Ingold, T. (1992). Culture and the Perception of the Environment. In Croll, E., and Parkin, D. (eds.), Bush Base: Forest Farm. Culture, Environment and Development, Routledge, London, pp. 39–56.Google Scholar
  20. Ingold, T. (2008). Globes and spheres: The topology of environmentalism. In Dove, M. R., and Carpenter, C. (eds.), Environmental Anthropology. A Historical Reader, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Oxford, Victoria, pp. 462–469.Google Scholar
  21. IPCC (2013). Summary for Policymakers, Climate change 2013: the physical science basis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Lamp, F. (1988). Heavenly bodies: menses, moon and ritual od license among the Temne of Sierra Leone. In Buckley, T., and Gottlieb, A. (eds.), Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation, University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  23. Latour, B. (2009). Politics of Nature, Harvard University Press, Paris.Google Scholar
  24. Lundy, B. D. (2009). Making a Living in Kassumba, Guinea-Bissau (PhD). University at Buffalo, State University of New York, New York.Google Scholar
  25. Lundy, B. D. (2012a). Playing the Market: How the Cashew “Commodityscape” is Redefining Guinea-Bissau’s Countryside. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 34: 33–52. Scholar
  26. Lundy, B. D. (2012b). Ethnic Encounters and Everyday Economics in Kassumba, Guinea-Bissau. Ethnopolitics 11: 235–254. Scholar
  27. Lundy, B. D. (2012c). Spiritual spaces, marginal places: the commodification of a Nalú sacred grove. In Lyon, S., and Wells, C. (eds.), Contested Economies: Global Tourism and Cultural Heritage, Altamira Press, Lanham, MD, pp. 121–142.Google Scholar
  28. Lundy, B. D. (2016). Rïm’s Unrest: Issues of Secrecy and the Multivalent Use of a Nalú Traditional Shrine Piece. African Arts 49: 70–79. Scholar
  29. Luz, A. L., Braima, I., Dabo, A., Sousa, J., and Zauad, Z. (2015). Maboan - notes on the construction of a dam. Documentary film, Cabasane Biteraune & Chao-de-Gente, Bissau & Lisboa.Google Scholar
  30. Marius, C., and Lucas, J. (1991). Sedimentary and Diagenetic Dynamics of Continental Phanerozoic Sediments in Africa Holocene Mangrove Swamps of West Africa Sedimentology and Soils. Journal of African Earth Sciences Middle East 12: 41–54. Scholar
  31. McGranahan, G., Balk, D., and Anderson, B. (2007). The Rising Tide: Assessing the Risks of Climate Change and Human Settlements in Low Elevation Coastal Zones. Environment and Urbanization 19: 17–37. Scholar
  32. Mendes, O. (2018). Indicadores das mudanças climáticas no leste da Guiné-Bissau e adaptação camponesa. 1: 108-139.Google Scholar
  33. Murphy, W. P. (1980). Secret Knowledge as Property and Power in Kpelle Society: Elders Versus Youth. Africa 50: 193–207. Scholar
  34. Nygren, A. (1999). Local Knowledge in the Environment–Development Discourse: From Dichotomies to Situated Knowledges. Critique of Anthropology 19: 267–288. Scholar
  35. Pandey, S., Byerlee, D., Dawe, D., Dobermann, A., Mohanty, S., Rozelle, S., and Hardy, B. (2010). Rice in the global economy: strategic research and policy issues for food security, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Baños (Philippines).Google Scholar
  36. Pons-Ghitulescu, N. (1986). Livret guide de l’excursion en Guinée-Bissau. In Troisième Symposiem International Sur Les Sols Sulfate-Acides. Presented at the Troisième Symposiem International sur les Sols Sulfate-Acides. La Direction des Recherches Agricoles e Agro-Industrielles de République du Senegal, Dakar, Senegal, p. 60.Google Scholar
  37. Raygorodetsky, G., and Green, D. (2010). Indigenous Knowledge of a Changing Climate. Climate Change 100: 239–242. Scholar
  38. Ribeiro, O. (1947). Cadernos de Campo. Guiné 1947, Experiências de África. Húmus. Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto, Famalicão.Google Scholar
  39. Ribeiro, R. C. (1989). Causas da Queda da Produção de Arroz na Guiné-Bissau. A Situação do Sector de Tite, Região de Quínara. Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos 10–11: 227–265.Google Scholar
  40. Richards, P. (1985). Indigenous Agricultural Revolution: Ecology and Food Production in West Africa, Hutchinson, London.Google Scholar
  41. Saenger, P., and Bellum, M. F. (1995). The Mangrove Vegetation of the Atlantic Coast of Africa: A Review, University of Toulouse Press, Toulouse.Google Scholar
  42. Scantamburlo, L. (1999). Dicionário do Guineense. Introdução e notas gramaticais, vol. 1, Colibri e Faspebi, Lisboa.Google Scholar
  43. Scantamburlo, L. (2018). 30º aniversário da grafia “oficial” do crioulo guineense. Sintidus 1: 54–79.Google Scholar
  44. Sousa, J. (2014). Shape-Shifting Nature in a Contested Landscape in Guinea-Bissau (PhD), Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.Google Scholar
  45. Sousa, J., Dabo, A., and Luz, A. L. (2014). Changing Elderly and Changing Youth: Knowledge Exchange and Labour Allocation in a Village of Southern Guinea-Bissau. Working Paper - Future Agricultures 17.Google Scholar
  46. Sousa, J., Ainslie, A., and Hill, C. M. (2017a). Sorcery and Nature Conservation. Environmental Conservation: 1–6.
  47. Sousa, J., Hill, C. M., and Ainslie, A. (2017b). Chimpanzees, Sorcery and Contestation in a Protected Area in Guinea-Bissau. Social Anthropology 25: 364–379. Scholar
  48. Temudo, M. P. (1998). Inovação e Mudança em Sociedades Rurais Africanas (PhD). Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa.Google Scholar
  49. Temudo, M. P. (2008). From “People”s Struggle’ to “This War of Today”: Entanglements of Peace and Conflict in Guinea-Bissau. Africa 78: 245–263. Scholar
  50. Temudo, M. P. (2011). Planting Knowledge, Harvesting Agro-Biodiversity: A Case Study of Southern Guinea-Bissau Rice Farming. Human Ecology 39: 309–321. Scholar
  51. Temudo, M. P. (2012). “The White Men Bought the Forests”: Conservation and Contestation in Guinea-Bissau, Western Africa. Conservation and Society 10: 354–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Temudo, M. P., and Abrantes, M. B. (2013). Changing Policies, Shifting Livelihoods: The Fate of Agriculture in Guinea-Bissau. Journal of Agrarian Change 13: 571–589. Scholar
  53. Temudo, M. P., and Abrantes, M. (2014). The Cashew Frontier in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa: Changing Landscapes and Livelihoods. Human Ecology 42: 217–230. Scholar
  54. Temudo, M., and Abrantes, M. (2015). The Pen and the Plough: Balanta Young Men in Guinea-Bissau. Development and Change 46: 464–485. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Uni Carl Vogt, Université de Genève, Faculté des Sciences de la Société, Département de Géographie et EnvironnementGenève 4Switzerland
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversidade Lusófona da GuinéBissauGuinea-Bissau
  3. 3.Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de LisboaCentro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais – CICS.NOVALisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations