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GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
CARIBBEAN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
P. 0. Box 971,
St. Lucia, West Indies.
FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH IN THE EASTERN CARIBBEANt
An Attempt at Intra-Household Dynamics
A paper presented at the Conference on Sender
Systems Research and Extension, held at
Florida, Sainsville, "lorida from February 25
Issues in Farming
the University of
to March 1, 1986
The objective of this paper is to describe and discuss the
attempts of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development
Institute (CARDI) at Intra-Household Dynamics in Farming Systems
Research in the Eastern Caribbean.
CARDI was established in 1975 to serve the agricultural
research and development needs of the twelve (12' member
countries of the Caribbean community. In 1993 with USAID
assistance CARDI initiated a Farming Systems Research and
Development Project (FSR/D).
CARDI's FSR/D project is designed to facilitate the growth
of a more diversified agriculture consistent with the changing
political and economic requirements of the Eastern Caribbean
States. The project is particularly concerned with developing
technologies appropriate to the circumstances of target groups of
farmers. The direct beneficiaries of the project are typically
the small fare household, i.e. the farm family is the unit of
analysis. Unfortunately, however, as is typical of traditional
Farming Systems Research CARDI has until very recently, been
placing a great deal of emphasis on understanding Farmer
Circumstances at the expense of understanding the nature of the
dynamic interactions that exist within the farm family.
A number of studies carried out in the Caribbean (Buvinic et
its 1978; Ellis 1982; Knudson and Yates 1981;) have shown that
the different roles of household members in producing food for
income generation and for household requirements, directly affect
the farming system of which they are part. Women in the
Caribbean because of their multiple work roles in agriculture,
childcare, home maintainance within the farm household, and
because of stereotypic notions of these roles confront special
problems in becoming more efficient food producers (Narendran,
1983). Although a substantial number of women are negaged in
farm work, women farm operators on the average receive less
income than men and many of the women classify themselves as
'housewives' rather than 'farmers'. Women also receive less
attention from the extension service than do male farmers.
Furthermore the data also reveals that there are distinct areas
of farm decision making in which women play an important role.
In many Eastern Caribbean farming systems, adult sales have
primary responsibility for deciding about the timing and nature
of operations related to the cultivation of bananas, (Windward
Islands)1, sugarcane and/or cotton (Leeward Islands )2 and other
cash crop (spices, citrus, root crops, fruits and vegetables for
export) and the maintainance and sale of livestock. While women
contribute much of the labour in such activities as planting,
weeding, harvesting and marketing (domestic and/or regional
markets only) the allocation of labour is determined by the
husband or by a male relative. The wife generally has virtual
autonomy, however, in decisions pertaining to the cultivation of
legumes, vegetables and root crops for home consumption and for
sale in domestic markets. Moreover, decisions about family food
' Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica.
2 Antigua, St. Christopher/Nevis, Montserrat.
consumption and nutrition lie solely within the domain of women.
Given the above knowledge of women in small farm agriculture
in the Eastern Caribbean and given its own experiences CARDI has
now embarked on refining its methodology to include an
understanding of intra-household dynamics. It is felt that
assuming that the male farmer makes all decisions or accurately
represents the interest and intentions of other members of the
fare household may yield the wrong answers.
AREA FOCUSED STUDY
As its first attempt at intra-household variables in the
design of appropriate technologies, CARDI conducted an Area
Focussed Study (AFS) in the Mabouya Valley in St. Lucia. This
AFS was set up as an organised way of gathering original micro-
level data at the level of a number of closely situated
communities. The goal of the AFS was to provide information for
designing and testing improved production systems and documenting
and evaluating the improved production systems. Thus close
attention was placed on analysing the farm household in terms of
its patterns of labour allocation, decision making and resource
Following the recommendations of McKee (1984) a couple of
issues were highlighted in the analysis:
a. definition of the household. The household was defined in
terms of its composition and in terms of its of its
production and consumption functions. Such a definition
was useful for the formulation of household typologies
which in turn were used as one fo the criteria in
selecting the sample for on-farm trials.
b. definition of farming system. The farming system was
defined in terms of. the overall household
production/consumption system. This helped to identify
the appropriate decision markerss, the different sources
of labour available to the farm family, the allocation of
resources, and consequently, the major areas for
THE MABOUYA VALLEY
The Mabouya Valley was selected as the research site because
the valley represents a wide range of farming systems found in
St. Lucia; it encompasses a number of agroecosystems; and its
agricultural and political history has been influenced by a large
plantation and numerous small holders with varying forms of
tenure. In addition this valley has traditionally been an area
which has experienced male migration and which in turn has
resulted in matrifocal residue, and the strong incentives the
need to work coupled with their low levels of education for the
women to take jobs in the marginal sectors which are
characterized by low paid labour. Finally, in 1984 the
Government established the Dennery Basin Advisory Committee to
advise on an integrated development proposal for the valley. One
of the many proposals includes the subdivision of approximately
100ha of hillside lands into small farms to be leased to local
The Habouya Valley is located in the centre eastern part of
the island and it contains the largest expanse of flat fertile
land on the windward side of St. Lucia. It comprises 4,043 ha.
Dennery Farm Company (FARMCO) a Government owned estate,
constitutes approximately 26% of the valley. The present land
use in the most easterly and driven parts of the catchment is the
intensive cultivation of slopes with banana and root crops. In
many cases this has led to the complete removal of top soil.
A rapid appraisal of the Valley was carried out by CARDI and
personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture. At the same time
linkages were set up with the Central Planning Unit and the
Organisation of American States, both of which provided us with
relevant background information on settlement patterns in the
Valley and with recently drawn land-use maps. Discussions were
also held with officials of the Dennery FARMCO the Government
owned estate who provided information on the agricultural
history of the valley. This information was further
substantiated with a number of prominent farmers in the area.
The rapid appraisal identified three agroecosystems:
a) a lower valley/central valley area* from sea level to an
altitude of not more than 300 feet. The rainfall is between
1751 and 2450mm and there are at least 2 to 4 dry months.
*The lower Saline Valley of 0 feet to 50 feet altitude and the
Central Valley of 50 feet to 300 feet.
The soils are predominantly alluvial;
b) upper valley area lying between 300 feet and 800 feet
c) forest reserve area above 800 feet.
As one moves from sea level to the forest reserve area the
annual rainfall increases and the number of dry months decreases.
The soils in areas (b) and (c) are predominantly Latosolics and
Polysolics with the Latosolics tending to be more common in the
forest reserve area.
Beyond 800 feet altitude, rainfall increases to more than
2400 am; there are no dry months. Soil erosion is severe because
of deforestation by small scale subsistence farmers.
There are 12 communities in the valley but only 8 were
included in the AFS. Tables 2,3 and 4 describe the
agroecological and socio-economic characteristics of each of the
Out of the population of 810 households, a sample of 155
households a stratified sample of 19 per cent were interviewed.
Seven of the 155 questionnaires had to be discarded because of
either inconsistent or incomplete data. 62.2 per cent 1'2) of
the sample interviewed were male farmers while the remaining 37.8
per cent (56) were female.
With reference to Table 2 the settlements in the Central
Valley margin have larger populations. This in turn is reflected
in the sample size, even when it is disaggregated by sex of
farmer. 67.8 per cent (38) of the female farmers in the sample
lived in the central valley margin; this compares with the 41.8
per cent (63) of aale farmers in the same zone.
Basic demographic and farm data revealed no significant
gender differences. Even when labour utilization by agricultural
activity was compared by gender the variation was significant for
only specific cultural practices. The percentages of respondents
who utilized family labour for planting was 89 per cent females
and 43 per cent sales.
In-depth discussions to ascertain the reasons for this
variation reveal the following.
i) Capital resources available to the female farmer are
limited. Every attempt is therefore made to use family
ii) In many instances the entire land available to the female
farmer is not always planted with crops. At least 75 per
cent of the female respondents claimed that they
cultivated only that amounts of land which the family
labour could maintain.
iii) Although the survey results show no difference in types of
crops cultivated, the female farmers claimed that they
tend to emphasize more on short term crops (roots and
vegetables). It is their contention that these crops can
be easily maintained by family labour only.
iv) Forty per cent of the female respondents said that they
had fairly regular access to a pool of family labour.
This labour pool was made up of an assortment of
relatives, all of whom not necessarily lived in the same
While still on the subject of labour utilization by gender
it is interesting to note the variation that was observed in the
lower valley where nearly all the holdings (including FARMCO) are
more than 25 ha. All these holdings are owned by males. The
seven female respondents who were interviewed in this zone are
all estate labourers who cultivate small parcels of land (either
within the boundaries of the estate in which they work or higher
up the valley). The produce is primarily for farm family
consumption and for sale within the community. In the lower
valley 58 per cent of the females used family labour while only
44 per cent of the male farmers used family labour. Be that as
it may some of the male farmers claimed that their utilization of
hired labour would have been high had it not been for the fact
that most of their holdings were already established to bananas
and other tree crops. This meant that labour was only being
utilized for the maintainance and harvesting of the cops. The
female farmers, on the other hand, claimed that their utilization
of labour was high because family labour was either not available
at all or not available on time for land clearing and land
Other than labour the variables which flushed out gender
Farm management female farmers felt that although they grew
the same crops as their male counterparts, outputs were markedly
lower. This they attributed to their low level of literacy,
their difficulties in obtaining capital for farm improvement,
poor extension information and their inability to carry out
profitable market transactions, primarily because of a lack of
The findings of the AFS are much more detailed than what is
outlined above but due to the lack of space it would suffice to
mention here that while a formal survey revealed no gender
differences, in-depth informal discussions and case studies
The implications of the AFS for technology generation to
CARDI's agricultural and livestock specialists were many. One of
the recommendations that stands out distinctly is that of the
Integrated Backyard System. The prepondence of root crops grown
in the area, the limited livestock numbers, the very low
porudction of vegetables and laum-es, and the absence of cereal
production suggests that there may be nutritional imbalances in
the valley. It is CARDI's opinion that this nutritional
imbalance could be corrected by introducing backyard gardens
which would encompass both plant and animal husbandry in
relatively confined areas close to family dwellings. The
backyard systems have been designed to be small-scale, clearly
defined, controlled by women, and unaffected by broader market
trends which renders them an area for development that offers
highest pay-offs for limited inputs. The major function of the
backyard system will be to produce food and essential nutrients
on a dav-to-day basis for immediate family consumption.
CARDI's decision to include nutrition in one of its
recommendations for the valley stems from the realization that a
number of its programmes to improve the productivity of small
farmers have had little impact on the nutritional status of their
Agricultural development projects largely deal with male
farmers and field production. Traditionally female dominated
aspects of farming systems has gone without much attention.
CARDI has decided to work with the female members in the farm
household because the data reveals that women make decisions
pertaining to family consumption and food preparation. They are
also the ones who have expressed concerns over family nutrition.
On the subject of additional labour that might be needed to
maintain the vegetable backyards CARDI was assured by the women
themselves that if the backyard system provides for the kitchen
and is therefore an integral part of the kitchen than the labour
utilization in the backyard will be regarded as labour utilized
in normal household chores.
The technology that has been designed include the following
a. a fenced-in vegetable plot (the size depends on land
availability and farm size);
b. preparation of a compost heap as a source of organic
c. preparation of pens for small livestock designed to
facilitate easy feeding, watering and collection of pen
manure and other livestock products e.g. eggs.
d. design of simple irrigation systems to collect rain water -
from roofs of pens using bamboo guttering and oil drums;
e. planting of small fodder pests as feed banks for livestock,
particularly, particularly rabbits.
Once the system has been introduced to a sample of not more
than 15 households the system will be closely monitored to
a) The changes in consumption patterns.
b) The changes in household expenditure.
c) The types of gender differentiation that might result from
the different activities activities needed to set up the
system (the Dominica experience has shown that the men do
the heavier tasks of land preparation and pen construction
while the women do the remaining tasks).
d) Which of the genders places closer attention to the
maintenance and continuity of the system.
e) The types of gender differentiation that migh result from
the different components crop and livestock in the
As part of the Technology Transfer phase CARDI will prepare
simple leaflets on:
i) How to establish an Integrated Backyard System;
ii) How to maintain the continuity of the system;
iii) How to process and preserve the surpluses from the system;
iv) The nutritive value of the crop and livestock in the system;
v) How to prepare food from the outputs of the system.
An important component of this phase will be the development
of simple record keeping methods.
Finally, the evaluation of the technology will be monitoring
of the farm household before and after the introduction of the
a) changes in consumption patterns;
b) changes in labour utilization of the different genders in the
c) changes in farm family savings through:
i. reduction in food purchases, and
ii. sale of surpluses from the system.
BUR:NIC, Mayra, Nadia Youssef and Barbara Von Elm
197;. Women Headed Households: The ignored Factor in
Development Planning. Washington D.C.
1982 Agricultural Extension Services and the Role of Women in
Agricultural Development in the Eastern Caribbean. St.
KNUDSON, Barbara and Barbara Yates
1981 The Economic Role of Women in Small Scale Agriculture in
Eastern Caribbean St. Lucia. Barbados.
1984 "Methodological challenges in analysing the Household in
Farming Systems Research: Intra-Household Resource
Allocation". In Cornelia Butler Flora (ed) Animals in the
Eily!iq Sgstpmq Kansas State University, pp 593-603.
1982 Agricultural Decision Making in the Eastern Caribbean.
Table 1: Land Use in the Mabouya Valley
(ACS) (HA) %
Forest 1853 750 18.5
Sec. Forect 1408 570 14.0
Scrub Forest 840 340 8.5
Open Woodland 37 15 0.5
Commercial Agriculture 1915 775 19.0
Intensive Small Farming 1841 745 18.5
Mixed Small FArming 1519 615 15.5
Settlements 556 225 5.5
Table 2: Communities in the Mabouya Valley
Table 3: POPULATION AND
Source: CPU/OAS/Ministry of Health/Ministry of Agriculture
= Playing Field
= Police Station
= Public conveni=cce
= Infant school
= Primary School
All those with (*) marked next to them represent communities within
Dennery Farms boundaries.
COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES POPULATION
Derniere Riviere/Belmont E,W,T,P,C,PF,PUC,E1 1,785
Gadette E, W, 530
La Ressource E,W,T,P,C,CC,HC,PF,CM 405
Aux Lyons/Despinoze E,W,T,P,C,PF,PUC 1,333
La Perle/Lumiere* E 138
La Caye* E,W,C,PF, PS,PUC 666
Rich Fond* E,W,T,CC,HC,PUC,E1 528
Grand Ravine* E,W,PF,PUC
Grand Riviere E,W,T,P,PF,PUC 714
Table 4: AREA AND POPULATION OF SETTLEMENT IN MABOITYA
Appox. Average Density
Area house- Popula- (pop/ Settle-
(Acres) Houses hold tion Acre ment
Derniere Riviere/Belmone 168 388 4.6 1785 10 D
Gadette 64 109 4.6 500 8 L
La Ressource 23 88 4.6 405 18 N
Aux Lyon/Despinoze 109 290 4.6 1333 12 N
La Perle/Lumiere 57 30 4.6 138 2 L
Richefond 32 115 4.6 528 17 D
Grande Ravine 42 83 4.6 381 9 N
Grande Riviere 50 155 4.6 714 14 N
N Nuclear settlement
L Linear settlement
D Dispersed settlement
SOURCE; OAS/MOA, CPU 1983