--------1 --- A------- _
'~~ Ai --- ------ if-- W---C--id --I~i-II.T--
GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
INTEGRATION OF WOMEN INTO FSR/EXT
FOR TASTER TECHNOLOGY CHANGE
A PAPER PRESENTED TO
THE SEMINAR ON GENDER ISSUES ON FSR AND EXTENSION,
ORGANISED BY WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE PROGRAM AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA GAINESVILLE.
FEBRUARY 26TH TO MARCH 1ST 1986
M.A. AYIEKO (MRS)
HOME ECONOMICS DEPARTMENT
African women are greatly involved in agriculture and
farming. Therefore the need for technical and vocational
training in developing countries cannot be over-emphasized.
Seclusion of women from research and certain training and
extension programmes often result into technology failure and
rejection of certain farming recommendations. Unfavourable
agriculture policies for women put them at disadvantage in the
performance of their farming taskss. Furthermore, the womengs
socio-economic status, traditional roles and domestic chores
affect adoption of certain farming practices. Women should
therefore be involved and be encouraged to participate at all
levels of FSR in order to facilitate study to overcome these
barriers for faster technology change.
This is a version of a paper present to the
Regional Farming Systems Research Workshop held at
Egerton College Njoro, Kenya in August, 1985.
The main concern of the present action oriented studies
are the problems facing the rural woman in the third world.
In Africa particularly women play a crucial role in
agriculture and farming. Women, who are more than half the
rural population, spend more than two thirds of the time in
food production. However, Africa is still experiencing
stagnation and negative growth in the food and agriculture
sector. The low production, precipitated by inadequate
technological capacity to improve agriculture in partly
attributed to the inadequate attention accorded to women in
all areas of agriculture programmes. This has increasingly
stagnated world food production.
Women's participation in agricultural production is not
a new phenomenon. Bauman (1) in a review study as early as
*1928, found out that women worked on the farm all year round
producing food crops while men performed only preplanting
tasks that occupy small part of the agricultural year, and
are involved in cash crop production that is mainly market
FAO (13) found out that of all the hours worked throughout
the world, women contribute about two thirds. Much of the
work is done by women living in rural areas. They grow at
least 50% of the world's food and upto 90% of the rural food
supply in some parts in Africa.In return they receive only
ten percent of world income and own less than one percent of
world property. Even in Islamic countries where religion
discourage women participation in activities outside the
home, 50% of Pakistan rural women cultivate and harvest wheat,
and 60% of the Jordenion women weed crops.
Women's involvement in agriculture cannot be over
emphasized. It is therefore imperative to identify, analyse
and highlight some-of the undertakings and contributions
women have made and can make in the field of agriculture,
especially as agents of change and innovators of technology
generation and utilization. There is therefore, a need for
technical and vocational training for women in developing
countries to promote agricultural activities.
One of the areas being studied extensively and from which
various recommendations emerge is agriculture. It is an
area in which adoption of technology innovations and change
should be critically examined in relation to the needs and
capabilities of the womenfolk who dominate it.
F.A.O (4) points out that farmer managed trials are
particularly important because they allow farmers to participate
in testing new technologies. In doing so, farmers reveal
their reactions to the technologies, enabling the researcher
to make modifications and adjustments to suit the farmers
'circumstances. Thus, on-farm trials and research would
realise even better -results if the women on the farm are
actively involved from the beginning.
Education and training, both formal-and non-formal, are
among the-critical factors influencing the effectiveness of
woments participation in rural development. Therefore, as
many forms of training as possible should be encouraged to
meet the ultimate objective of development, defined by the
United Nations as to bring about sustained improvement-in
the well-being of the individual and to bestow benefits on
all" (t). "FSR as an approach to technology change in developing
countries, needs therefore to pay more attention to the
womenfolk to achieve its goal.
The United Nations (is) records that during the women
Decade (1975-1985), many obstacles were encountered in
developing women's access to agricultural education, training
and extension services. These included customs, traditions,
low level of school education, logistic support, infrastructure
and finance. One of the measures suggested for tackling the
obstacles is to train rural women in the process of project
identification, planning and preparation, monitoring and
evaluation: to seek out the opinion of women's groups, and -
involve women at all decision making levels and to introduce
- 3 -
wider concepts of women's and men's roles in general education.
This paper therefore tries to point out several reasons
why more women should be encouraged to participate in FSR
and extension programmes for faster technology change.
Women in Production
As stated earlier, women play a significant role in the
production of both cash and food crops in many developing
countries. However, the development of agricultural technology
for developing countries still tends to favour large scale
farming and emphasises farm mechanization and commercial
productions. This seem to favour men than women and thus
ignoring the women's dominant role in food production for the
whole family. This is partly attributable to the old
paradigm of promoting the productivity of men and prefering
men to women for commercial agriculture. Women, millions
of whom still till the land using labour intensive tools
and underdeveloped techniques are generally left unconsidered.
This does not only encourage less food production which is
Africa's main concern but also undermines the concept of
economic growth with equity.
Most development authorities and policy makers continue
to pay more attention and offer better technical training
facilities to men than women. (J2,14). This is probably due
to the wrong assumption that men are the only decision makers
and managers in farm work. This leads to retardation of
technological know-how and subsequent work overload in the
performance of their agricultural and other farming tasks. A
United Nations Development Programme (TV) noted in a case
study in Gambia that women's working hours in agriculture rose
from 19 to 20 hours when improved methods were introduced,
but men's working time fell from 11 to 9 hours. Traditionally,
division of labour in farming activities has categorically
left the women with more farming operations than men.
- 4 -
For example, other than helping the men to open up land in
preparation for planting, it is mostly women who do the
planting, weeding, harvesting, storage, marketing and food
preparation for ultimate consumption by the whole family.
Definitely, if these farm operations are not correctly and
effectively carried out, the emphasis placed on correct methods
of land cultivation, improved seeds, fertilizers and other
agro-chemicals is of no importance to anyone. There is,
therefore, a need to integrate the technical and mechanical
innovations for both men and women at the farm level, and pay
attention to women's tasks. This can be done through on-farm
research and testing with the practical involvement of those
for whom the change is intended.
Sex Bias on Technology
The world conference on the United Nations Decade for
women in Copenhagen, pointed out that technological changes,
in most cases, led-tO'concentration of women in domestic roles
such as subsistence food production, household maintenance,
child care, and non market activities.(do) This indicates
that the new options of technologies may exist for the
priviledged few only. For the larger majority of women
particularly in the rural areas, development has not brought
change for the better but rather the opposite. Often new
technology cannot be fully adopted unless adjustment in its
utility are made. Janelid(S) records one of these technology
failure in Nigeria oil-palm fruit industry as lack of
considerations of the intended users. She says:-
When a hydraulic oil press was to be introduced in one
community, the farmers were informed of the advantages
and benefits of its use. In one village, a piece of
land was allocated by the village head. When the oil
press had been installed, 72% of the people used it,but
after a year the figure dropped to 24%. Although they
knew about the benefits, they withdrew from the use of
the oil-press for several reasons; the by-products of
the pressing pit were lost, i.e. the fibre was used
as a source of heat, the daily time schedule for using
the oil press did not coincide with that of the women;
the size of the mortar was designed for men and women
could only use it with an increased labour force; during
peak season, the woman had to wait for the use of the
press, all oil from it belonged to the men, and the
women did not benefit from the increases of oil per unit
of fruit processed".
Another typical case (17) is recorded in Senegal when
Chinese instructors from Taiwan failed in their efforts to
introduce better techniques in paddy production. The Chinese
taught only men who took no notice since their wives were the
cultivators. The wives being untaught, continued in the old
way subdividing the carefully improved field into small
These cases show the outcome of technology innovations
where the users' interest was not considered. Women's role
in decision making was overlooked while the work of oil
pressing and rice production were traditionally a woman's job
In many rural areas women need to be involved in making
contributions pertaining to formulation of any technology
affecting them. In any case they are, in the majority, the
users whose performance is most affected in the final analysis.
As mentioned above, when women's work is displaced by
the introduction of new technologies, they retreat to the
domestic responsibilities of which they perform with very
meager financial support. In many areas where mechanization
is introduced for female task, it becomes men's work.
Roodkowsky(13) noted that mechanized milling for higher
yielding rice varieties in Indon&sia and Bangladesh became mens
work as soon as it was introduced. Another study of Mwea
Irrigation Rice Scheme in Kenya (11) shows that the introduction
of commercial crops and commercialization of food staples
can increase men's ability to procure an equitable share of
family produce and cash income and reduce women's control
over the family's purchasing power
- 6 -
Introduction of technologies without due consideration
of women's interest deprive the women of land for growing
certain subsistence crops. Women have been found to drop
out growing certain subsistence crops like pumpkins, squashes
and other local vegetables for new crops or new method of
cultivation that does not favour the former crops. Such crops
face the danger of extinction in the hands of researchers
and extension agents. Involving local females more in FSR
and extension services could save such crops better.
In certain homes in the rural areas, women still use
some traditional implements that are labour intensive resulting
into poor performance, despite the fact that there exist
similar but improved implements in the market.
In some parts of Coastal region, Nyanza and Western
Provinces, Macakos and Kitui districts in Kenya, women use a
short handled traditional hoe that requires very low bending
and simply scratches the ground during use. This hoe commonly
known as "rapur" in Nyanza, and "Kanzimbi" in Machakos and
Kitui districts, is preferred for work on constantly used pieces
of land and weeding. One would wonder why such implements
are still being used by women while there are more efficient
ones. Interesting enough, men are reluctant to use this hoe
because it is called a women's hoe". The question is:-
1. How was the new hoe introduced that only men have
completely adopted it while women still cling to
the old one?.
2. What is so special about this traditional hoe that
makes the women prefer it to the more modern and
3. How can this hoe be improved such that the woman
will not feel that the new hoe is just another one
for the men?
What level of achievement would be expected from a woman
preparing land using such a hoe to plant crops to feed a
family of 5 for one year? The results of such land preparations
are that less land will be prepared in time, poor land
- 7 -
preparation, poor seed germination, poor weeding and subsequently,
very poor yields.
The above questions can be answered if the users of
the inefficient implements are engaged in a research to find
out the answers, and at the same time, enable them to take part
in designing and modifying farm implements and tools by them
The Bajuni women of Faza Island in the coastal region
of Kenya tend to have a perculiar socio- economic dominance
over the man though this relationship is not outwardly
exhibited. The men till the land using inefficient traditional
hoes, do all the fishing and marketing to earn money to feed
the women with their children, while the women remain indoors
at home. This is because it is unbecoming for a woman to
be seen in "public". Should the men be inefficient, they
are liable to divorce or simply be chased away.
Here is a group where a man plays the role of what
would be called a "womanes role" as far as many ethnic groups
are concerned, except for the fishing which is mainly a male
job in many societies. It is a case where researchers need
to work with the men as tillers of land. The reason why they
use the traditional hoes while their counterparts in other
communities use the improved hoes should be investigated.
Maybe there is a relationship between the implements and tools
used and the social status of the users. This may help
researchers find out why the women use certain tools despite
their inefficiency. Women may not have been keen in using
certain tools and implements due to social rather than
technical and economic reasons.
In a certain area in Kenya, women use a certain traditional
donkey or ox-pulled plough, which is likely to loose its
popularity among women due to modifications being carried
out on it.
- 8 -
During a tour in the area in 1982, to one home where an
improved plough was being tested, it was learnt that the
woman in the hone was not satisfied with the improvements
being introduced to this traditional plough by the Engineering
Department of the Nairobi University. She lamented the need
for her son or husband to accompany her to the field whenever
she was going to use the implement. The introduction of heavy
metal parts and other modifications made the implement a bit
too heavy for the woman to handle alone.
Traditionally, all the parts of this plough were made of
wood. Gradually, the natives introduced some metal parts
that were made by traditional blacksmiths at the area. The
plough was improved but was not unacceptable to the women.
With further improvement by the University researchers, the
women cannot easily or conveniently use the plough. Such and
many other cases of introducing and improving farm tools and
implements that women are likely to use should be given fair
consideration in research systems.
Socio-economic and Traditional Roles
Natural (weather and topography) and socio- economic
factors affect the productivity of farmers in general, but
the socio-economic factors like lack of production resources,
inherited traditional values and some domestic factors do
impinge more on female farmers than male. Women for instance
often have less control over the utilization of family income
even if they have generated it themselves (8). Although
women have been found to influence certain/extent family /to
decision making they are subservient to men in family decision
making on many issues and further, they are burdened with
other family responsibilities which inhibit their full
participation in farming activities at the right time (3).
Although these traditions and customary law often create a
barrier to women exercising certain rights it has been shown
in nearly every African country that traditional patterns of
food production can be effectively and economically transformed
and become more viable and productive through the modest
application of improved technology, organizational and
institutional change (18). Moreover, this can be done in
a way which fits African social patterns and values. when
the plight of women is realized and treated seriously, simple
and comparative inexpensive equipment to reduce women's work
burden could be introduced to suit different cultural,social
and ecological patterns.
Even though women have some degree of economic independence
from the husbands under whose authority the social orders
place them, they are still the main victims of socio-economic
conditions that inhibit the adoption of new technology among
the rural poor. Most of them have undefined financial
obligations to their children, husbands, and their husbands'
lineage. They use different tactics to respond to the
devastating economic changes of the time. When the menfolk
take off to the urban centres, women are forced to support
themselves, their children and frequently tha men whose labour
wages are below subsistence for even one person. The women
will therefore readily respond to agricultural innovations
and trials for greater output to improve their economic
situations. To lessen their other heavy domestic burdens
and responsibilities, women will also welcome and heartily
contribute towards farm trials and innovations that are
labour and time saving.
In some African societies, the procedures of starting
and maintaining work in the farm are guided by certain
customary laws, some of which impinge upon the individual
women's readiness to tackle farming problems earlier. An
example is the extended and polygnous families of some
communities in Kenya. There exist some taboos which control
who should plant first at the onset of rains, whose garden
Should be first attended to, etc. Usually
the first wife of a polygynous home or the oldest member
of the extended family is bestowed with certain rights and
obligations which need to be considered by all change agents.
As stated earlier, such traditional rights can, through
modest manipulation during research trials, be made
productive rather than barriers to agricultural production.
Religious expectations have some impact on farmers over
growing certain crops. Like in almost all churches,women
are the majority in the 7th Day Adventist Church in Kenya.
This faith organization in a certain district of Kenya,had
a negative impact on the government's effort to grow more tea
and Ltobacco. More attention was being given to men while
the women were the farmers. The women did not pay much
attention because the church teachings are against drinking
tea and smoking, this discouraging their growing of the crops
by the church followers. FSR and extension services should
therefore pay more attention to women even on religious matters
for fast achievement.
In a strong Islamic society, some women are discouraged
from participating in outdoor activities and mixing with other
men outside the home. This inhibits them from receiving first
hand information from change agents, who are predominantly
men, causing programme failures. Similarly, they cannot easily
participate in decision making at local level on matters
affecting them. Giving them female workers would solve some
of these problems.
Domestic chores like raising the children, fetching water
and firewood for domestic use, plus looking after the husband,
among many responsibilities and activities of the rural women,
are enough to take all her 24 hours in a day. Together with
the farm work, a woman needs more than the 24 hours a day to
do a fair job on both tasks. For instance, Hafkins (7) blames
government bureaucrats and their expatriate advisors for
their insensitivity to women's needs in development in the
Ujamaa villages in Tanzania. He observed that women are
expected to put in same amount of time in communal farm work
as men, and at the same time continue with all their other
domestic responsibilities. Obviously one side of the work will
suffer low performance, or both activities will be done only
to their half capacities. These factors and others of socio-
economic significance need to be investigated thoroughly if
on-farm research is going to be useful to the majority of
women who till the land. Perhaps there is adequate justification
in involving more women in FSR so as to use their natural
understanding in order to reveal factors which would minimise
women's difficulties in agricultural production.
Women are also more involved in food processing and
storage than men. They process food for family consumption,
with few or no modern aids at all. The processing work include
airing, threshing, cleaning, dusting for storage, grinding
and cooking. It can take hours to process grains for cooking.
These are some of the areas where farming system research could
aliviate a lot of burdens for women.
In Kenya, other than the rountined preparation of grains
for family feeding, women constitute the major part of labour
force in drying coffee beans at the local cooperative societies.
They are the majority along the lake shores preparing fish
for drying, smoking and sun drying both day and night.
More than 30% of fresh fruits and vegetables get spoiled
during storage and transportation due to inadequate processing
and storage facilities. The Home Economics Department of the
Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya has continuously tried to
teach the local women how to process fruits and vegetables
for storage but without a lot of success. The failure is
partly due to the expenses that are involved and the unaccept-
ability of the change in taste and smell after the conventional
methods of food processing. In any case, these methods do
not apply to large scale food processing. More and better
methods can still be researched on to suit the rural conditions
of developing nations.
The extension service, in many countries in Africa, also
seem to favor men and pay more attention to the male farmers
than female, even in areas where they do much of the work.
Less than 10% of the extension workers are women (15). Many
such a bias has continuously retarded women 's endevaour in
development in the rural areas. It is more evident now that
women's problems manifest themselves to planning,education and
training, extension services and technology change.
United Nations' Secretary General (15) reports that through-
out the Women's Decade, most of the developing countries
revealed a discouraging information on women's access to
agricultural education, training and extension services. He
reports "only 3.4% of the total number of trained agricultural
personnel reported from 46 countries are women. Only Swaziland,
Lesotho and Zambia reported 10%". The subsector found to be
employing the most women is agriculture, which has 82% total
employment. There was no mention of the gender category in
agricultural extension except home economics.
The pace of rural development would be much faster than
it is currently if more women could be encouraged to participate
in farming systems, training and extension. Figures show that
60-80% agricultural labour in Africa is women's work and
70%.of the rural population is female. For example, a survey
conducted by FAO in Bukoba, Tanzania (18) estimated that men
work 1800 hours while women work 2600 hours in agriculture.
Similarly in the whole of Africa, women contribute 70% in food
production and 50% in domestic food storage.
In some parts of Kenya where cotton is being grown in
plenty, women not only help their husbands grow this cash crop
but dominate all the work in the cotton fields in some areas.
When this crop was being introduced all men were forced to
plant it. And thus, the extension agents were bound to pay
more attention to the men. The same pattern was followed
when introducing most other cash crops. Because of this type
of biased communication, subsequent extension workers tend
to follow it up to the present time without due considera-
tions to its effect on women farmers. Partly because most
of the extension and farming systems personnel are men. They
recognize that land belongs to men and accept the dominance
men have decision making in homes. They therefore tend to
pay more attention to the men than women.
The main pattern of approach in extension work in rural
areas involves small women's groups and this is often
successful so long as the leadership remains among the women
ft exclusive women group in Kwale district in Kenya
.-initially found it quite difficult to work with a male officer
after the female officer left. When they learnt that she was
about to be transferred to another district, they expressed a
negative feeling about being led by the incoming male officer.
As soon as she moved out of the area and the new officer took
over, the group gradually dispersed. There could have been
many factors that might have contributed to the breaking of
the group, but most likely leadership was a prominent issue as
had been forseen by the women.
In another experience in Embu district women's groups
developed rapidly and became strong with the posting of a
female officer to the area. The administration of the location
soon expressed their satisfaction with the work of the new
female technical assistant because of the many improvements
they had been seeing within the women groups since her arrival
in the area. This case also indicates to us that the women
are happier with fellow women as leaders and guardians of their
In any case, women generally want to avoid taking risks
that might endanger their social status in their homes and
the community as a whole. There is therefore adequate reasons
to encourage more female to work with women in agricultural
So far, in many forms of farm investigation, women become
extremely handy. They can give information on farm data which
is useful for feasibility studies and evaluation. However, it
is common to see data collectors discriminately questioning
- 14 -
a male counterpart in the farm, yet it is the woman who has
actively been doing most of the operations. Most of the time
the man is expected to give an account of the whole farm and
as the head of the home, he may have much of the information.
Quite often however, the man may not be sure of many facts
and data, and it is not uncommon to see him seek assurance
from the wife on some issues before he commits himself. In
some cases therefore, there may be errors in data collected by
surveys on men. This is very likely especially where there is
pronounced male chauvenism. It is true that the woman who
actually is engaged in all the operations is much more conversant
with the work and, thus, is likely to have up to date information
regarding the work. The women are also present in the farms
most of the time and are therefore the ones who are likely to
give regular information on demand. It is therefore arguable
that these women, if exposed and involved in FSR may contribute
to farm data generation more than is realized through their
men counterparts alone.
The general aim in assisting the farmer through training
programs is to achieve adequate supply of food, to increase
cash income to produce raw material for industries; to conserve
natural resources, to mobilize human resources for full
employment and to obtain adequate social services and economic
stability. The premise in this paper therefore is that if
women are given appropriate types of technology supported by
adequate agricultural policies, they can increase agricultural
production at the farm level to help realise the above. They
will also contribute significantly to the adoption and
improvement of the technology for better use in agricultural
production as well as in general rural development. They
have demonstrated their ability to contribute to agricultural
production in many developing countries. They could do so
more effectively if they received training and education in
operational management and organizational aspects on farming
along side the men. Policy recommendations must be related
to the theoretical and practical levels in order to narrow
the gap in the labour productivity between men and women.
Therefore, allocation of research personnel and other resources
to study the plight of women in different societies is called
Bauman, H (1982)
2. Byelee, D.
et al (1980)
3. FAO (1973)
4. FAO (1984)
5. FAO (1984)
6. Geoffrey E.M. & Mutiso,
7. Hafkins,N.J. and
8. Janelid,I (1975)
11. Pala, A.O.(1985)
12. Presvelou,C and
14. Spencer,Dunstan S.C.
The Division of Work According to Sex
in Africa Hoe Culture. Africa I
Planning Technologies Appropriate to
Farmers- Concepts and Procedures
Participation of Women in Rural
Development Programmes. Rome.
Agricultural Extension. A Reference
Agricultural Extension Systems in African
and Asian Countries. Rome.
Politics,Economics and Technical
Training. A Kenyan case Study-K.L.B
Women in Africa. Studies in Social and
Economic Change. Standord California
The Role of Women in Nigerian Agriculture.
Women in Rural Development. A Survey
of the Role of Women by Donal R.Westview,
Mary Ann Riegelman and Charles F.Sweet
Westview Press Colorado.
The Role of African Women in Rural
Development. Research Priorities.
Discussion Paper No. 203
Toward Strategies For Strengthening
the Position of Women in Food Production
An Q;erview and Proposals on Africa.
INSRAW Dominican Republic.
The Household Women and Agricultural
Women in Agriculture: Information Note
on. FAO Rome.
African Women in Agricultural
Development: A case study in Sierra
Leone. Working Paper No. 11
Report on Review and Appraisal of
Progress Achieved and Obstacles
Encountered at the National Level In
the Realization of the Goals and
Objectives at the U.N.Decade for Women.
17. UNDP (1980O
Technical and Vocational Education
and Training. Paris.
Rural Women's Participation in
Development: Evaluation study No.3.
Women,Population and Rural Development
In Africa. Population Profile No.7