‘Gone to Their Second Husbands’: Marital Metaphors and Conjugal Contracts in the Gambia’s Female Garden Sector

Over the past twenty years, hundreds of women’s communal gardens along the Gambia River Basin have replaced the male peanut crop as the primary source of cash income in many areas, reshaping marital relationships and responsibilities in the process. Focusing on several Mandinka-speaking communities in one of Gambia’s premiere garden districts along the northern Gambia-Senegal border, the author outlines two phases of political engagement between gardeners and their husbands. Discursive politics played a prominent role in the first phase, comprising the early years of the garden boom. Men claimed that the gardens dominated women’s lives to such a degree that the plots themselves had become the women’s ‘second husbands’. The women retorted that the gardens now supported them financially as husbands should have. The focus of conflict in the second phase, which extends into the mid-1990s, is related to the use of cash crop income and the amount of time gardeners allocate to their horticultural enterprises. The author documents the wide range of tactics gardeners and their husbands have used to try and control household budgets. The product of the lengthy intrahousehold negotiations brought on by the garden boom has been a new, carefully crafted autonomy for women that carries with it obligations and considerable social freedoms. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.

Title: ‘Gone to Their Second Husbands’: Marital Metaphors and Conjugal Contracts in the Gambia’s Female Garden Sector
Author: Schroeder, Richard A.
Year: 1996
Periodical: Canadian Journal of African Studies
Volume: 30
Issue: 1
Pages: 69-87
Language: English
Geographic term: Gambia
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/486041
Abstract: Over the past twenty years, hundreds of women’s communal gardens along the Gambia River Basin have replaced the male peanut crop as the primary source of cash income in many areas, reshaping marital relationships and responsibilities in the process. Focusing on several Mandinka-speaking communities in one of Gambia’s premiere garden districts along the northern Gambia-Senegal border, the author outlines two phases of political engagement between gardeners and their husbands. Discursive politics played a prominent role in the first phase, comprising the early years of the garden boom. Men claimed that the gardens dominated women’s lives to such a degree that the plots themselves had become the women’s ‘second husbands’. The women retorted that the gardens now supported them financially as husbands should have. The focus of conflict in the second phase, which extends into the mid-1990s, is related to the use of cash crop income and the amount of time gardeners allocate to their horticultural enterprises. The author documents the wide range of tactics gardeners and their husbands have used to try and control household budgets. The product of the lengthy intrahousehold negotiations brought on by the garden boom has been a new, carefully crafted autonomy for women that carries with it obligations and considerable social freedoms. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.