Front Cover
 Title Page

Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Technological domains of women in mixed farming systems of Andean peasant communities
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081676/00001
 Material Information
Title: Technological domains of women in mixed farming systems of Andean peasant communities
Series Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Fernandez, Maria E.
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Farming   ( lcsh )
Agriculture   ( lcsh )
Farm life   ( lcsh )
University of Florida.   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081676
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
    Title Page
        Title page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
Full Text

at the niveres" --it r Flona-=^ -- 5
--. -fat -S OF l -- --
Conference on



Maria E. Fernandez

This research is being carried out as part of the Title XII

Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program under

Grant No. AID/DSAN/XXII-G-0049 in collaboration with the

Peruvian Instituto Nacional de Investigacion y Promocion

Agraria. Additional support is being provided by the

University of Missouri-Columbia.

Conference on: Gender issues in Farming Systems

Research and Extension

February 26 March 1, 1986

Gainsville, Florida


Extension and social science literature recognize that a

division of labour by gender is common to most peasant

production systems. In the Andes, women are attributed the

tasks of grazing, collecting supplementary fodder for

animals, curing, seed selection planting and weeding among

others. Although men are attributed tasks such as

ploughing, shearing, purchase of supplementary inputs and

harvest, it is common to argue that they make the decisions

related to production.

We propose however, that in mixed cropping and livestock

systems there is a constant in the division of labour such

that men have greater responsibility over crops and women

over animals, or vice versa. This responsibility implies not

only a division of tasks, but control over technological

knowledge related to that specific area of production and

consequently the right and ability to make decisions over

the product itself.

In Andean mixed farming systems, women are the principal

herders. In similar systems in many parts of Africa, women

are the principal cultivators. The division of labour among

family members by gender does not necessarily imply specific

biological reasons for one or the other to assume certain

production activities. The distribution of responsibility

and tasks is basically a functional one.

given farming system, are often assigned tasks and

responsibilities which are compatible with the care of small

children. "Women's tasks do not take them far from the

home, and frequently require less concentration than men's.

....the division of labour is informal and flexible." Men

can and do cook, carry water, clean the house, wash clothes

or graze sheep when the women are away or are busy at

another task. (Harris: 1985 p.28)

Depending on the society, roles (productive and

reproductive) become less flexible as the power structure

begins to impose systematic categories upon its members.

These roles are not negative initially, but become so when

one or another category (eg. gender) is excluded from

production decisions (relegated to reproductive activities).

It is in the realm of production decisions that economic

independence (within an interdependent unit) is maintained.

Not only do male and female members of a social group carry

out certain tasks, but they control bodies of technical

knowledge and skills needed for the management of the areas

of production for which they are responsible. This control

over knowledge and skills is related to the decision-making

power men and women have over the production process itself,

as well as over the ultimate disposal of the product. This

is not to say that within a family unit a man or a woman has

Women, within a

complete liberty to make decisions, even over the areas of

their principal responsibility.

The village family might be compared to a management unit of

a firm where the adult members form a sort of a board of

directors. Decisions made by this "board" are made for the

good of the unit as a whole. Just as in a firm however,

specific areas of production are run as sub-divisions of the

company and the section managers have a great deal of

liberty as to the production decisions that he/she makes.

The same men and women carry out specific tasks in the

other's production unit as a means of maintaining checks and

balances. The village farm is a multi-crop, animal, task

and responsibility unit. The members of the family

(nuclear/extended) and community take on various roles at

different times under different circumstances--from "board"

member to simple labourer.

Task allocation, responsibility for production area

decisions and production unit decisions then, are overlayed

and interacting as are the biological parts of the system.

For example: oxen are used as farm equipment (ploughing), as

sources of fuel (manure), for reproduction and as financial

reserves. Llamas are used for transport, sources of manure,

fiber, meat, shoes and ropes (hides and intestines). The

donkey carries seed, farm implements and manure to the field

and brings back the harvest to the family patio. Sheep

graze on the weeds of allowed lands or on the stubble of

recently harvested crops. Women do the seed selection and

planting where men are responsible for agriculture. Men do

the shearing and care for the suplementary feeding of oxen

where women are responsible for livestock production.

The interaction of tasks along gender lines and between them

has broad implications for the transfer of knowledge and

technology. The ways by which technological knowledge is

passed on from one generation to another and who has control

over it within specific farming system is closely linked

with the gender division of labour and decision-making


The organization of the Highland Communities

Aramachay is a community of 120 families situated on the

southern side of the Mantaro Valley at an altitude above

3,500 meters above sea level. The soil varies from

clay-like to sandy and from black to red with capacity for

water retention increasing with altitude. Natural

vegetation is mainly native grasses, while shrubs are more

common than trees. The rainy season lasts from September to

March and crops are planted between October and December in

staggered fashion. Between one and two-thirds of

agricultural land is allowed at any given time. Fallowing

periods range from three to seven years depending on

altitude and soil quality (Mayer: 1981).

Livestok includes cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, guinea

pigs, and donkeys. Grazing is done on fallowed and/or

communal range land, the use of which is governed by the

community assembly. The total number of animals held by

each family is associated with its wealth and is determined,

in part, by the relation between agricultural and pastoral

activities. On an average, a family maintains 25 sheep.

Most of the livestock is either criollo (breeds adapted

during and just after the spanish conquest) or criollo

crossed with recently imported breeds (eg. Corriedale).

Crop and livestock production interact. Most households

raise sheep and cattle and plant potatoes, barley,

broad-beans, wheat, peas, olluco, mashua and quinua

(traditional Andean crops). As a rule, historical

cultivation techniques are used, although fertilizers and

pesticides are applied to improved varieties destined soley

for market. A given household plants an average of eight

crops per growing season, on a variable number of dry

farming-plots (sometimes more than 40), making up a total

area of not more than three hectares and most often less

than one.

Labour is shared by all active members of the family.

Livestock production is the responsibility of women and

children aid in the grazing. Men are responsible for

dipping and sharing activities. Agricultural activities are

the responsibility of men, although women are responsible

for seed care, selection and planting and food processing.

They also share cultivation and harvesting activities with

the men. Older men and women take over household chores and

grazing activities. The family labour force averages four

to six adults depending on the degree of extensiveness of

the family and the fase of its cyclical development. By the

age of 15, a youth is considered capable of an adults work

load although he/she continues to work under the advisorship

of a more experienced member of the family, usually of the

same gender. It is not uncommon for family heads (women and

men) to work seasonally outside the community either in

mining or as agricultural day labourers.

The communal assembly is made up of all male heads of

households, together with' widows and single women who are

family heads (Swindale 1985). Production for the market is

a flexible endeavour. "It is the flexibility of the

relation between the capitalist and subsistence sectors of

the economy that is crucial to village autonomy, as well as

household (and interhousehold) viability. The relative

complementarity of these two economic sectors (means

that)....the impact of fluctuations in one of the sectors is

buffered by the successful outcome of economic activities in

the other (Lund Skar: 1984 p.84)".

The Women's Livestock and Crop Production Committee of


The National Institute for Agricultural Research and

Extension (INIPA), of Peru and the Small Ruminant

Collaborative Research Program (SR-CRSP) began working in

the Community of Aramachay in 1983. The community was

chosen for its representativeness of highland mixed farming

systems where the majority of Peru's rural population and

small ruminants are concentrated. Aramachay is the hub of

11 similar communities.

The objective of the project is to look for technological

alternatives based on small farmers knowledge and on an

understanding of the historical production system. This

information, which takes into consideration, ecological,

economic and organizational constraints, is being used to

select, together with the farmers, recovered or introduced

technologies which will improve production. Although the

project aims at sheep production (in this case), research on

alternatives encompasses the crop component of the system

due to it's complementary interaction with livestock


The methodology proposed includes multi-disciplinary (the

team includes an animal science specialist, an agronomist,

and an anthropologist participatory-action-research, based

on organized groups within the community.

The project began activities after making a joint agreement

with the village assembly to work on production problems

which the farmers (men and women) would themselves identify.

The assembly appointed a committee of 10 members whb would

work more closely with the research/action team and who

would serve as a link with the larger population. In spite

of the team's request and the recognition by the male

members of the assembly that women are as active in the

production process as men, none were included in the

committee formed. Although the thrust of the project was in

the direction of livestock production, the problems posed by

the committee were centered on agriculture. Work was begun

on these problems while a concern remained that women--the

principal livestock producers--were at the margen, although

they had been the .active voice in the original signing of the

agreement. (Fernandez: 1986)

In an attempt to solve the impasse, an International Labour

Organization (ILO) project, oriented toward research and

action on women's labour and use of fuel, was invited to

join forces in the construction of an organization which

would provide a channel for productive action with women.

The project, in the person of a sociologist in the village,

decided that the basis for organization existed in the

mother's health committee--a recognized support organization

for the local health center. The leadership of this

committee was made up of wives of family heads. The men,

whose wives would take on the leadership of the committee,

were appointed by the village assembly. Nearly two years

were spent supporting this organization. In spite of the

enthusiasm of a small number of women, things never seemed to

get off the ground. Neither the small animal production,

food processing or bread-making projects (proposed by the

ILO project) nor the attempts at forming a stable

organization were successful.

After a careful joint team evaluation it was decided that a

different approach must be taken. All of the women (above

the age of 15), married or not, would be invited to a

meeting to discuss production problems. Twenty-three women

(from the 120 families') attended the first meeting. Twenty

of them participated actively and posed their production

priorities in the following order:

1. Control of internal and 'eternal parasites in sheep

2. Provision of fodder during the dry season

3. Improved management of communal rangelands

4. Improved seed selection and conservation techniques

5. Knowledge of seed density criteria

They expressed their desire to work as a group and decided

to call themselves "The Women's Livestock and Crop

Production Committee of Aramachay". Three weeks later, an

on the spot meeting was called to discuss the possibility of

on-farm research which entailed the planting of legumes on

fallowed lands to increase fodder capacity as well as to

improve soil quality for the following rotation cycle.

Thirty women attended this meeting and twenty signed up to

plant 1/4 to 1/2 of vuqada (the area an ox-team can plough

in one day) of land for the experiment. Only two of the

women left the meeting place to consult with their husbands

on the feasibility of designating the plots for this use.

The discussion on improved animal nutrition included a group

analysis of the possibility of improving the communal

rangelands. The women decided that they would make a formal

request to the community assembly for two hectares of

natural pastures for the purpose of experimenting with

improved techniques. They would organize themselves to

oversee this land which means building a hut nearby (the

area is 45 min. walking time from the village center) and

would sleep on the site by turns. All agreed that one of

the main problems of improved communal range management and

conservation is associated with boundary disputes with

neighboring communities. They suggested that it would be

imperative to resolve these disputes and stated that if the

community assembly itself did not take action on a

short-term basis, they would take the initiative to

stimulate a settlement.

When the pasture specialists visited the community one week

later, the experimental lands had been ploughed and four

plots were used for demonstration of planting and

fertilization techniques. Fourteen women participated in

the group training effort and received the seed necessary to

plant the parcel each had allocated. Simple registry sheets

were designed on which each woman could set out data on

plant growth over time. The design of the sheets took into

consideration that some of the women are functionally

illiterate and that most have very little experience with

written material. Ten days later the twenty plots had been


At the following meeting, after reporting that the community

assembly had ceded the requested communal range land for

improvement tests, the women decided that this effort could

be better guaranteed if it were initiated at the beginning

of the 1986-87 agricultural year. They felt that more time

was needed for planning and organizing among themselves and

with their husbands. They decided to request a veterinarian

from the nearby livestock experimental station to instruct

them on types of parasites in sheep and their influence on

production. These discussions are underway at present.

Case Study Analysis

Althouth this case study allows for an analysis of project

and team methodology, for the purpose of this paper we would

rather concentrate on the community organizational aspects

it demonstrates.

The fact that women were not included in the collaborating

committee did not seem to show a desire on the part of men

to exclude them. Rather it seems that within a mostly male

group (community assembly), it is "natural" to appoint

members from the group itself. Although men did make an

effort to think of women who could act on the committee,

they did not have much success. This may be due to a lack

of cross-gender groups within the village as well as to the

absense of women's limited previous participation on formal

committies. It appears to be an example of the imposition

of inflexible roles as a result of community organizational

factors rather than of a conscious exclusion of a given

category of community members.

The organization of the village mother's health committee,

on the basis of household head (male) apointeeship, would

seem to have another rationale behind it. In the community

assembly, the family spokesman, generally the husband or

elder male member, is charged with the obligation of

speaking in the family unit's interest. If this charge is

not carried out well, the man or the assembly's decision can

be modified in a subsequent assembly. No one doubts that

this public change in opinion is due to consultancies or

pressures exercised upon him/it, when the decision made is

considered to be contrary to the interests of the group or

its members.

When a man accepts an appointment for his wife, he is

acting as spokesman for the production unit. There is a

tendency however, to charge women with reproduction related

(rather than production related) public responsibility.

This practice can not be attributed to the local social

system alone, because it is the Ministry of Health which

encourages that the health support committy be made up of


The ability of a large number of women to prioritize their

production interests at an initial meeting suggests that

they are not task oriented. The five priorities listed are

problems directly related to the quality of production.

Only the second priority, provision of fodder in the dry

season, might be interpreted as a request for a solution.

The other four, express a need for broader technological

knowledge. The women are conscious of their responsibility

for making decisions within the production unit in specific

areas. It is also evident that the area of greatest

responsibility is that of livestock production, although

their is concern for agricultural production as well. It

might be worth mentioning that the woman who suggested point

five is a household head. In any case the interaction

between crop and livestock production spheres is evident..

When the women signed up for the experiment on allowed

lands, not only the team but the principal researcher

herself was surprised. None of us expected that the women

could make unilateral decisions concerning "farm lands".

Upon further inquiry however, it was explained that allowed

lands revert to communal use for grazing. This is clear

evidence that women make decisions over livestock

production. It would appear that because of the type of

interaction between private and communal use rights, it was

not necessary to ask for assembly approval as it was in the

case of the communally managed rangelands.

In the case of the discussion of boundary problems, it

becomes clear that women publicly accept the right to

influence their production unit representatives (male heads)

in the resolution of broader political problems. Not only

that but when stating that they will initiate action in the

event that the assembly is not effective, they recognize

that they can be active members of the family as well as of

community bodies.

The implementation of the totality on the experimental plots

and the request for formal training on the relationship

between parasites and sheep production, only reinforce our

analysis of women's decision-making power. This is only one

case study and on its own proves nothing. It was chosen

however, not for its singularity, but because it seems to

unify a series of observations made during the past three

years. It is unique because it is a group experience.

In terms of research conclusions, the information

illustrated here is only one more step in our comprehension

of what the interactions between the organizational and

biological components of the system are. The limits of

women's technological knowledge and skills as well as the

spheres over which they have decision-making control are

still to be defined.


The result of this analysis then is not that women's tasks

should be alliviated, or that understanding of women's work

load be built up among other members of the society (men).

We propose that if women can build a space for increased

production decisions (or at least not have their present

position undermined), social change will take place from

within the production system. Women will be able to demand

equality from a position of strength and not beg for it from

a position of weakness.

In a farming system where activities of all kinds, social

and productive are divided along gender lines it is logical

that outside agents will cause less damage to the power

balance within the community if they respect this division.

When a male animal science specialist enters a village where

the women are responsible for animal husbandry, he still

tends to find contact with male counterparts easier. He

therefore unconsciously reinforces the right of men to give

information and make decisions regarding animals which can

later be reflected by the men themselves in the respect they

show toward their wives' productive efforts. The same

specialist could feel that little is known- about animal

health, management, breeding and grazing, therefore deeming

the peasant ignorant, when in truth a great deal of

knowledge exists, but among the women and not among the men.

It is quite possible that either a complete balance between

male and female decision-making in village production units

never existed or that the influence of other more

male-oriented societies has created or reinforced an

imbalance. The fact is that in most situations, women are

now at a disadvantage. They have had less access to formal

schooling as well as to contact with outside agents and

institutions which often make them put themselves

voluntarily into secondary positions when communication with

researchers and extensionists is needed. This means that if

research and validation is to be carried out with the

producers themselves, when these producers are women, much

more time must be given to the process of building

participation and channels for the expression of ideas and

knowledge by them.


Fernandez, Maria

1986 Participatory-Action-Research and .the Farming

Systems Approach with Highland Peasants (in

press). Columbia: University of Missouri.

Harris, Olivia

1985 "Complementariedad y Conflicto: Una Vision Andina

del Hombre y la Mujer. Allpanchis. Vol. XXI

No.25. Cusco: Instituto Pastoral Andina.

Lund Skar, Sarah

1984 "Interhousehold Coopertion in Peru's Southern

Andes: A case of multiple sibling group marriage".

In: Family and Work in Rural Societies:

Perspectives on non-wage labour. Norman Long

(ed.). London: Travistock Publications.

Mayer, ,Enrique

1979 Land Use in the Andes: Ecology and agriculture in

the Mantaro Valley of Peru. Lima: International

Potato Center.

Swindale, Anne J.

1985 Diagnostico de las Comunidades Alto-andinas del

Valle del Mantaro. Lima: IVITA/SR-CRSP.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs