-- -^-- L
at the UniversityffT onia*
GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
An Integrated Pest Management Approach in Farming Systems Research
and Extension: The Role of Women
During the period of reconstruction following the earthquake in 1976, I was
employed by a U.S. based private development agency working in the highland
region of Guatemala. My role as an agricultural extension agent involved
designing appropriate pest management strategies for local food crops, with
emphasis on the main crops of maize and beans. Characteristics of the project
area, structure and shortcomings of the agency and project are discussed in
relation to the gender issues in local farming systems.
Agro-socio-cultural Profile of Project Area
The project area encompassed a small town and nine surrounding villages in
the western highland (Altiplano) region of Guatemala (6,000 to 7,000 ft.).
Climate ranged from subtropical to tropical in areas of lower elevation with a
marked dry season of four to seven months. Local lateritic soil types were
referred to as low in fertility, but in comparison with the poor Florida soils
of my experience, I was unable to draw this conclusion based on their sub-
stantial yields without the use of fertilizer. The most fertile soils in
Guatemala occur in the Peten jungle area and along the Pacific coast where
plantation culture of non-food crops has claimed valuable land suitable for
staple food crops.
Guatemala is reported to have a 55% indigenous population (45% Ladino) but
in the western region, the figure averages 70%. It has been estimated that
approximately 87% of Guatemalans are subsistence farmers controlling only 6% of
the agricultural capital. All of the project target population were Cachiquel
Mayan with limited resource farming operations.
Rainfed hoe culture predominated in agricultural operations. Terrace
culture was evident but steep slopes were often cultivated; deforestation and
erosion were problems in the area. Prior to the arrival of my employer, agri-
chemical inputs were not utilized by the target group. During evaluation of
existing agricultural pest management the dichotomy of practices between those
farmers involved and those not involved in the development agency's projects was
noted. A wide array of traditional practices, including intercropping, the use
of plants and plant parts as repellants or attractants constituted the main
program for those outside the project. Cultural practices, including crop
rotations and hand removal of insects, were also employed. Those farmers
working in projects were utilizing a range of chemical pesticides and fer-
tilizers with varying rates of application.
In a study on indigenous highland agricultural practices, Gladwin (1983)
states that 60% of the farmers sampled planted a cash crop (potatoes, wheat,
coffee, vegetables) only if they could first meet their consumption needs for
maize. Family compounds literally existed amidst "a sea of maize" with
plantings extending from the doorstep to the borders of their land holdings.
Staples, such as maize, beans, and squash were found on all farms. Other cash
crops included strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Land holdings were
small, with regional averages of 2.5 hectares. The colonial legacy inherited by
indigenous populations had established a mixed land tenure system: some
communal land, some titled land but generally, prescriptive rights (no title)
were held by the target group. With the national import substitution policies
enacted in the late 1950s and early 1960s to encourage industrialization, cult-
ivation into marginal lands was increased, not totally in response to a need for
increased food crops due to population growth, but rather in response to a need
to generate cash. In addition, the lack of sufficient cash income had also
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created among men and some women on several farms an increased need for seasonal
out-migration to the coastal plantations (cotton and tobacco). Stavenhagen
(1969) elaborates: rural Indians are directly exploited to provide labor for
the export-oriented enterprises and indirectly exploited (through the mani-
pulation of domestic market terms) to provision a parasitic, urban Ladino elite.
As more and more people entered into wage labor, peasant farming was no longer
organized communally as it was in the past; rather each domestic unit had to
meet its own needs by hiring labor or hiring it out as the situation demanded
Given the constraints of time and resources, I was able to note the fol-
lowing brief socio-cultural descriptors in my target group. An extended family
structure, which usually consisted of grandparents (on only a few farms),
parents, sons and daughters, wives of the sons and their children, resided in
compounds generally made of chipped board (Canadian relief agency materials
following the earthquake) and any remaining adobe blocks.
A stable marketing system had been retained in the highlands. Goods from
the surrounding villages or aldeas were sold in the town on the main market day
on the weekend and another minor market day during the week. Vendors from areas
outside the region were also present on the main market day. Several women in
the target group also marketed food crops in other towns and participated in the
resale of more tropical crops (mangoes, tomatoes, and watermelons), pottery, and
household items from the Guatemala City market. The majority of women in the
target group also were involved in the production and marketing of non-food
items: textiles (weavings, cloth), metates (stones for grinding), baskets and
Since in many Latin American countries women's participation in agriculture
has often gone unrecorded (Ferguson and Horn, 1984), the project team,
consisting of four indigenous male farmer-extensionists and a Ladino team
leader, did not identify any specific roles for women. Women's roles in the
production, harvest and post-harvest practices in grain, fruit and vegetable
crops, however, were clearly evident during my investigations. The majority of
production work in the larger fields (maize, beans and wheat) was performed by
men, but women constituted the greatest labor sector in home vegetable and fruit
production and in the daily collection of native vegetable greens, herbs and
medicinal plants. Women were also involved in the care of limited livestock
(dairy cows, goats, chickens, other fowl and pigs) utilized for food, manure and
cash income. Because indigenous women were excluded from the planning stage,
valuable input regarding labor strategies and allocations, and family
decision-making processes was left to be collected through personal contacts
outside of official agency meetings.
Donor Structure and Attitudes
A farming systems approach was emphasized by the donor administration but
despite their attitude toward addressing issues of the whole farm, the "field
production/surplus market orientation bias" (Niez, 1985) dominated project
decision making. This bias evolved in part from the Green Revolution paradigm
then espoused in the land grant colleges where the U.S. administrators had been
trained and in the international research centers: higher yields through
greater inputs with scant consideration for their total effect on a culture.
Greater logistical and financial support from the international research center
(whose primary focus was the breeding of high-yielding maize and beans for the
surplus cash market) was achieved through cooperative variety trials. In
addition, prior to my arrival, the exclusion of women from the project team and
the administration precluded a thorough diagnosis of gender issues and the
implications of this surplus market thrust on women in the communities.
A laudable component of the development agency's project involved hiring a
core group of indigenous farmers as extensionists. These men were responsible
for setting up on-farm trials with volunteer cooperators. Much success had been
achieved in the areas of soil conservation (terraces, contour planting) and home
hygiene. Female participation in the agricultural development project was
neither planned nor achieved on a formal level. Women were invited to attend
classes on family hygiene and nutrition but the correlation with agricultural
systems was never introduced.
The Integrated Pest Management Project
Since World War II, the tremendous increase in use and dependence upon
synthetic organic pesticides has created inherent drawbacks:
A significant amount of pests have evolved a genetic resistance to
pesticides, creating additional problems of ineffective or
increasingly higher dosages; the result has been the "pesticide
treadmill" now seen in many crop systems.
*Despite the 10-fold increase in chemical pesticides on U.S. cropland,
annual crop losses from all pests have remained the same.
With the petroleum-based pesticides, costs of control have increased
significantly in recent years.
SEnvironmental and health hazards have been reported with many
long-term effects still awaiting evaluation.
SAlthough, it is assumed that pesticides are thoroughly tested for
safety and health effects, many products remain on the market with
invalid tests supporting their registration, and the vast majority
have not been tested for cancer, genetic damage or birth defects.
Third World countries became major testing sites and "dumping" grounds for
illegal pesticides during the 1950s and 1960s (Weir and Schapiro, 1980).
Guatemala ranked among the world's largest user of pesticide because of the
extensive use in cotton plantations. Mothers milk in the coastal areas has been
reported to contain some of the highest levels of DDT in the world.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the selection, integration, and
implementation of pest control based on predicted economic, ecological, and
sociological consequences. IPM seeks maximum use of naturally occurring pest
controls, including weather, pathogens or disease agents, predators, and
parasites (Bottrell, 1979). Physical and cultural controls are also utilized;
chemical controls are imposed only when the pest surpasses the economic
threshold (the point where the cost of control can be realized in a higher
yield/returns of a crop) in the presence of the aforementioned control factors.
The general orientation of IPM should be to prevent outbreaks by improving the
stability of the crop systems rather than coping with pest problems once they
occur (Altieri, 1979).
When I arrived in Guatemala, I conducted an informal survey of pesticide
usage in the state where I was employed. Closest to the state capital, larger
fields under cultivation were experiencing considerable infestations of insect
pests. Farmers cited their weekly application of insecticide, which signaled my
immediate concern for a problem of resistance to the chemicals in the pest
species. In the project town and villages, I was told that prior to the arrival
of the development agency, pesticides were not utilized in production systems.
According to several women in the town, during the first year of chemical use a
high incidence of livestock deaths and human poisonings occurred. The classical
symptoms of organophosphate (the predominant class of insecticide supplied the
project cooperators) poisoning were described: extreme loss of motor
coordination, uncontrollable shaking and severe headache. Methyl parathion, a
main insecticide in the project, is a replacement for DDT on many crop pests,
discovered by the Germans in their search for human nerve gases in World War II.
Less persistent in the environment, methyl parathion and certain related
organophosphorous insecticides are even more broadly toxic than DDT to insects
and other animals, including humans (Bottrell, 1979). Resistance in Mexico of
pests to methyl parathion is also a problem (Adkisson, 1973). The men were not
as prone to discuss this problem, and with the team, the subject was virtually
stifled by the project leader.
One could not ignore the economic benefit derived from the sale of
pesticides in the project area. A visiting entomologist, viewing the array of
chemical pesticides displayed within reach of children in a former project
cooperator now saleman's home, said, "There's enough poison in this arsenal to
kill this entire town." One pesticide that was cited in the agency's technology
transfer manual was banned in the U.S.
With this background, I began to evaluate the pest situation on maize, beans
and other local crops with the objective of developing of an Integrated Pest
Management strategy suitable for small farmers. In addition, I was interested
in evaluating the agroecosystem in a multidisciplinary vein, regarding the
multiple use capacity of the habitat (weeds and borders as host sites for
natural pest enemies, weeds as fodder and food, and possible beneficial effects
in intercropped systems). Wilken (1977) had reported on the variety of crops
with different growth habits grown by farmers in Central America as imitating
the structure and species diversity of tropical forests.
Acceptance of the IPM project, however, was a formidable task facing an
administration conditioned by a U.S. based social and economic environment which
emphasized yield maximization rather than stabilization of yield. This was
demonstrated by their "tech-pak" approach: a low cost supply of agrichemicals
to the project cooperators, variety trials and hybrid seed dissemination with
the international research center which encouraged monoculture and an emphasis
on surplus market yields in place of the traditional intercropped maize and
beans, and ignoring women's roles and needs in household gardens and other
agricultural operations. As a consequence of this simplistic and
discipline-oriented approach, the development agency had identified a single
species of beetle as the main pest in beans, and I was directed to concentrate
my efforts on this pest.
As it was the dry season and beans were not under cultivation, I accepted
their presupposition and set out evaluating potential natural enemies for the
pest. The project target population had previously been identified as small
scale indigenous farmers in 9 villages and the town. The following tactics were
completed before the beginning of the rainy season:
With the help of U.S. and Guatemalan entomologists, obtained permits
and organized the rearing of a parasitic wasp for release against the
Began a series of pest management classes at the agency center, with
emphasis on sampling and beneficial pest insect identification;
Established commitments from cooperators for on-farm trial sites in
four locations, and established trial size at approximately 10% of
the farmer's field;
SInitiated two garden trials utilizing local inputs of manure,
compost, raised beds with mulch, and natural insect controls
Located sources of native botanical pest controls (rotenone and
Located sources of an insect virus for control of a pest in maize;
And initiated individual training of an indigenous counterpart
assigned to the project.
Women's Participation in the Project
Ironically, the species of beetle at the center of the project was not a
pest once the growing season commenced and support for alternative IPM efforts
was not sustained. The diagnostic and design phases of the project, however,
afforded certain insights into the role of women in an IPM/Farming Systems
project and the overall need for an IPM approach in FSR/E was established.
Although there was no encouragement by the other members of the project team
to communicate with women on farms, every effort on my part was made to
establish cooperation and receive their input in the area of on-farm trials.
Without the benefit of a social scientist, ethnographic, labor allocation and
household decision-making aspects of the target population were not categorized.
Instead, an open-minded attitude presided: farm women were approached for their
participation in all pest management projects with positive results. Women were
involved in the construction of raised beds, compost piles, seeding, garden
maintenance, and the collection of natural control agents (native plants). The
preparation of food for team members, an important component of the project, was
conducted by farm women. Although it has been stated by some experts that many
Third World subsistence farmers cannot realize the long-term dangers of
pesticide overuse, women in the project area discussed at length the toxic
effects of pesticides they had seen and expressed interest in the cumulative
effects. .Curiosity about pests and their natural enemies was also evident.
Barriers to Adoption of IPM Practices
It has been stated that because of technical, economic, attitudinal and
other barriers, ecologically sound pest control has not been used for a wide
variety of pests and resources. It is particularly ironic that pesticides are
introduced by agricultural development agencies with little investigation into
their profound effect on the health of the population and the land, whereas with
the suggestion of implementing an IPM program, any possible negative effect is
well articulated. Knowledge voids on the part of the donor administration and
project teams have precluded full investigation of the viability of IPM systems
in many projects. The complexity of comprehending the economic threshold level
for given pests to signal the need for action has been cited as a barrier to the
adoption of IPM (Goodell, 1984). Norgaard (1976) states, however, that the
introduction of new knowledge into agriculture is always more difficult than the
introduction of new materials. The institutional constraints, emphasizing
high-yielding, blemish-free crops and often linking credit with adherence to
spray schedules (Bottrell, 1979), can be traced to limited support for viable,
ecomonic alternative pest controls in U.S. research and industry (Turpin and
York, 1981). In the late 1970s, the U.S. Agency for International Development
established guidelines to "help develop infrastructures of developing countries
for pest and pesticide management" (Altman and Collier, 1983) but according to
some authorities, the future of these efforts have been dampened by the U.S.
administration's emphasis on basic research. The persistent bias in most Third
World policy makers is towards investing in expensive research rather than in
those presently available IPM controls that require good extension. (Goodell,
Another problem inherent in the criticism of IPM projects is related to the
discrepancies between the theory and practice of IPM. Most programs today are
limited to the use of shorter-maturing varieties and a delay in the first
application of pesticides based on scouting efforts. A true multi-pest
integrated approach utilizing biological and cultural controls is rarely
attempted. Many fail to realize IPM strategies should be different for each
pest complex in each agroecosystem. Criticisms of IPM programs are often
criticisms of the problems arising from the use of chemical pesticides:
adulteration of contents through dilutions (by government, dealers and farmers),
inadequate labels, sublethal doses, inadequate safety in spray equipment and in
storage, and high costs. The lack of infrastructure in the logistical and
financial support for research and extension projects could account for a major
portion of the problem. Often, however, there is no extension service to teach
pesticide safety, no poison control center, and few medical personnel to treat
cases of pesticide poisonings. Because of these reasons, chemical pesticides
are presently impractical and inappropriate for many farmers in the developing
countries (Bottrell, 1983). In addition to the numerous risks, there are num-
numerous examples in Third World agricultural development projects where
increased inputs did not affect yield (Litsinger, Price and Herrera 1980;
Caldwell, 1982, Altieri 1984).
Problems with organizing large groups of farmers in regional IPM projects,
including their resistance to regimentation, have also been cited as barriers to
adoption. Litsinger et al. (1981) note the success of a rice IPM project in
areas where community organizers could work with technicians and farmers on a
routine basis, contrasted with problems in adoption in areas where organizers
were regarded with suspicion. In Nicaragua, Swezey and Daxl (1983) attribute
the success of an IPM program to an economic and political system which promotes
IPM programs do not exist in a scientific vacuum. Agriculture production
scientists tend to immerse themselves in technical details which shield them
from the political and social issues of underdevelopment (Rau, 1985). The issue
of risk-benefit analysis is rarely addressed in designing pest management
programs. Shrader-Frechette (1982) makes a case for the long-term consequences
of pesticide use to equity and the issue of consent/helplessness. Although one
might argue all inequitably distributed risks associated with pesticide use are
not avoidable, good reasons do not support continued acceptance of serious
pesticide-related injuries against which people are unequally protected.
Plant protection is an integral component of farming systems research and
extension. Integrated agroecosystem and pest management constitutes the sanest
approach, toward plant protection, emphasizing stewardship of human and
environmental resources. Often IPM programs are ineffective because of the
error in the transfer of technology. The full agroecological, socio-economic
and cultural interactions among people, plants and pests must be addressed in
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the planning and design of IPM projects in FSR/E. Distinctions should be made
early in the diagnostic phase concerning the potential design of an IPM project
and its relation to the target group. Are traditional systems sustaining yields
- is intervention appropriate, or have all farmers adopted pesticides
indiscriminately with problems of resistance and resurgence already in place?
These questions will dictate which system (profit maximization vs. risk
minimization) should be developed.
Traditional farming systems represent centuries of accumulated experience of
interacting with the environment (de Janvry, 1981). An understanding of the
effects of interactions of traditional practices, such as use of lower-yielding
varieties, which provide an additional harvest as opposed to the one harvest
date of hydrids, is vital to the prescreening of new technological components
appropriate to the farm family's circumstances (Altieri, 1984). With the Green
Revolution, the change from polyculture to monoculture interrupted many natural
insect control processes and the genetic uniformity of the high-yielding
varieties provided an ideal ecological environment for pathogens to evolve and
severely attack these genotypes (Barfield and Stimac, 1980 and Frankel, 1971).
Consideration should be also placed on the multiple use of "weeds" (i.e.
native plants) in cropping systems as livestock feed and food sites for natural
enemies of crop pests. In Guatemala, for example, women supplement the
incomplete protein content of maize-tortilla dough with high lysine Crotalaria
longirostrata, (Bressani, 1983) a native plant often found in cultivated areas.
Several IPM and agroecological projects in developing countries have
experienced great success (Altieri and Anderson, 1985). The cotton IPM project
in Nicaragua (Swezy and Daxl, 1983) has made significant progress toward
decreasing the use of pesticides by utilizing cultural practices such as trap
crops, stubble plowdown, periodic releases of beneficial insects (parasites of
cotton pests) and sampling prior to any insecticide application. Another IPM
tactic employed in the project the application of a naturally-occurring,
non-toxic bacteria against mosquito larvae has been integrated into district
campaigns against malaria. Reduced pesticide use in cotton will also allow the
reestablishment of staple cnrn and grain agriculture. These crops had declined
from increasing resistance in the grain pests to the chemicals (and the
mortality of natural pest enemies) created from the high concentration of drift
from cotton plantations. Women participate in the project and are also direct
recipients of the benefits realized from lower pesticide residue in meat and
By involving women in IPM projects, the chances for a successful program are
increased. With support from both sides of the family, the potential for full
project integration is strengthened. IPM scouting efforts by women involve them
in agricultural data collection, which has been cited as a need in agricultural
development projects. Women on farms should be an integral part of the diag-
nostic process. By encouraging women to participate in educational activities,
including workshops, extension programs and on-farm trials, greater insight into
traditional methods will be gained by researchers and extensionists.
Encouraging training for and employing female researchers and extensionists in
state, national and international agricultural agencies can influence the
male-dominated extension services that may be reluctant to cooperate with women
farmers (Bottrell, 1983).
Limited attention has been placed on women's roles in agriculture and
despite the persistence of expressed norms in traditional societies, gender
roles are in flux. Knowledge of gender and age roles or other intra-household
variables enriches an understanding of the constraints and incentives inherent
in farm management decision-making and therefore, will contribute to improved
research and extension (Feldstein, 1985). As economic returns iniqht better be
expressed in caloric or nutritional terms rather than in monetary terms for
subsistence farmers (Reichelderfer and Bottrell, 1985), including women in IPM
programs will facilitate ease of assessment of when the total system
productivity has increased: the true success of rural development projects.
Greater emphasis should be placed on home fruit and vegetable crops, a crucial
day-to-day source of food. Traditionally a female domain, backyard gardens with
plant-pest interactions that have evolved in these systems deserve increased
attention. The goal of IPM within a FSR/E project must be active participation
of all members of the farm family and an emphasis on the utilization of local
resources to achieve agricultural development in terms of social and economic
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