Front Cover
 Production activities

Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Comparison of rural women's time use in two villages in Malawi
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081707/00001
 Material Information
Title: Comparison of rural women's time use in two villages in Malawi
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: Engberg, Lila E.
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Africa   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Africa -- Malawi
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081707
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
        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
    Production activities
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
Full Text

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Conference on



*Lila E. Engberg
Jean H. Sabry, and
Susan Beckerson

Department of Family Studies
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Paper prepared for presentation at the GENDER ISSUES AND FARMING
University of Florida, Gainesville
February 26 March 1, 1986

*Lila E. Engberg is Associate Professor in the field of Family
Economics and Management; Jean Sabry, Professor in Applied Human
Nutrition; Susan A. Beckerson, was a graduate student (1981-83)
Department of Family Studies. The data for this research was
collected in Malawi by Susan Beckerson in 1982.

1. Introduction

The primary purposes of this paper are to present

production activity model for categorizing and comparing

time use in rural households, and to illustrate the use of

the model. A secondary purpose is to discuss the

relationship of women's time use to the food supply and

nutritional status of household members in two Malawi

villages. According to Ettema and Msukwa (1985:49) "Little

is yet known about the dynamics of cropping patterns of the

.smallest farmers, or for that matter, of related issues like

the relationship between cash cropping, the cultivation of

'food crops destined for home consumption, and the

nutritional status of the family."

In this paper we will explain the theoretical

perspective that led to the use of the activity model, then

we will describe the research methodology and methodological

problems related to collecting time use data, then the

results. We are not satisfied that we have truly accurate

records from the Malawi study. The picture is incomplete.

Two seasons only, were examined:- pre-harvest and post-

harvest, and the work of one male and one female (his wife)

in each of 28 households. The sample size was small because

of the detailed measures taken, measures of time use, food

stored, food consumed and nutritional status. Measurement

of each category of variables is complex. Details will

not be described but some of the results will be presented

with the hope that further inter-disciplinary research of

this nature will be encouraged.

2. Theoretical Perspective

Study of the formal, monetized economic sectors and

not the informal or base economies of the household or

family is conventional in the field of economics. Cash crop

agriculture is visible and recognized but two sectors of

economic activity tend to be invisible and overlooked -

subsistence food production and household production (Evenson,

1981). Chipita (1981:6-7) uses the term indigenous

economics when referring to subsistence production. He

argues that conventional economics does not help us

understand how the micro-economic unit of the family or

household operates.

Two main categories of production are identified in the

production model adapted from Beutler and Owen (1980:17) -

market production and home production. The production

activity model attempts to integrate social and economic

theory by taking into account the social relationships

involved in productionI. Market production involves

exchange of money, goods or services. Home production does

not. The output of home production have "use" value rather

than "exchange" value. See figures 1 in the appendix and

note that home production is divided into separable and

inseparable components. Household and subsistence

production are separable or market replacable. Reid's

classic definition of household production stated below has

been considered most appropriate.

Household production consists of those
unpaid activities which are carried on
by and for the members, which
activities might be replaced by market
goods, or paid services, if
circumstances such as income, market
conditions, and personal inclinations
permit the service being delegated to
someone outside the household group
(Reid 1934:11)

Subsistence production has the same characteristics. The

activities can be delegated to paid workers, the outputs

have exchange value on the market and are conceptually

different from outputs which have "use" value.

In addition to market production, household and/or

subsistence production, household members engage in another

kind of production referred to in .the model as social

production. The latter type of production is called

"inseparable" because of the social relationships involved

(Beutler and Owen, 1980:18). Activities identified as

social production are carried out only by a member of the

family and cannot be handed over to paid workers.

Activities are organized by reciprocity and are called

grants (Boulding, 1970). Grants are one-way transfers of

goods and services. Bivens (1976) gives examples and

indicates their "use" value or function. It is to integrate

family members into the system. Beutler and Owen (1981)

subdivide the inseparable, into three categories: (1)

intra-household, grants, (2) inter-household grants, and (3)

community service. Activities such as caring for,

socializing and/or educating the children, caring for the

sick and the elderly, serving as mediators inside the

household would fit the first category. Helping kin or

neighbours in the village, helping at weddings or funerals,

would fit the second category. Community self-help,

voluntary work, and social participation as representatives

of the household would fit the third. All are family

obligations and essential in indigenous economies.

A production activity model such as the one just

described could characterize the various types of

production activities carried out at the level of the

family. It could capture more fully, the activities

and responsibilities of women and help us recognize and

better understand the allocation of their labour.

3. Measuring Home Production

Measuring the various types of home production is very

complex. The invisible nature of the activities, the

seasonality of some activities, the definition of household,

the number of people involved, and the problems of assigning

a monetary value to non-market activities are among the

problems. Reports by the International Centre for Research

on Women (1CRW, 1980) and Minge-Klevana (1980) provide

reviews of methodology related to measurement procedures.

The study of time allocation is the method generally used

for gaining information about all aspects of life.

Basically, there are four methods of collecting the data:

1) the time-diary or self record, 2) the interview, asking

respondents to recall time spent the day before on a limited

number of pre-categorized activities, 3) day-long continuous

observations; 4) random spot observations, and a combination

of the above. The recording may be a free listing or may be

organized according to predetermined categories. The time-

diary method is not possible in a semi-literate population.

Only two approaches the interview recorded recall, and

observation are available. Day-long observations were

chosen for the Malawi research in order to gain a more

complete picture of the actual amount of time spent on each

particular activity (Beckerson, 1983). The methodology used

will be described in the next section.

4, Methodology for Study of Labour Allocation in Two Malawi


The study carried out in Malawi was divided into two

phases. The first phase, carried out in August 1981, was a

general survey of rural household functioning in the two

villages (Mkwinda and Patsankhondo). For this study

household was defined as a unit which may include both

family members and persons other than kin, who occupy a

housing unit as a social unit in terms of division of

labour, social interaction and sharing of benefits (Janelid,

1980:85). In the case of Mkwinda village 32 registered

tobacco growing households were included, and in

Patsankhondo, 31 subsistence farming households *

Additional criteria for household selection were that the

age of the eldest child born to the resident wife be between

12 and 16 years of age and that the child be presently

living in the selected household. This was, to obtain

comparability of households in terms of the age of the

female respondent and the developmental stage in the family

life cycle. As it turned out, all 32 tobacco producing

households and 22 subsistence producing households were

headed by males during the time of the survey. (Beckerson,

p. 78).

Information collected in Phase I of the study was used

to develop the approaches to the second phase. Phase II of

the study was carried out in February and July, 1982; during

the height of the growing season, and after harvest. For

this more detailed part of the study a smaller sample of 14

households was randomly selected from each of the two

original sets of household total 28. (Beckerson, p. 87).

Interviews were carried out in Chichewa by five Bunda

College of Agriculture students. Four of the students (two

males and two females) continued the survey work throughout

all phases of the study, working as male/female teams with

the researchers (Beckerson, p. 86). Within each season

identical questionnaires were used to interview the males

and females about specific pre-categorized activities. The

respondents were asked to recall three week-days of

activities within each category and to estimate an

approximate block of time spent on the activity. The

interviewer translated the time into hours and minutes on

the record sheets. See the appendix for the list of

activity categories and the tasks for February. A different

set of crop production activities was designed for use in

July. Since each list of activities was pre-determined,

based on information from Phase I of the study it was easier

for the interviewers and respondents to remember the tasks.

Recall of three days was considered sufficient because there

was little variation in the day to day pattern of

activity at each season of the year (Beckerson, p. 93).

Recall is not necessarily the best data collection

procedure because of the difficulty of estimating the

amount of time spent on each activity. The information was

supplemented by observation of seven women in each of the

two villages, (Beckerson, p. 94). A random morning and

random afternoon were selected to observe each woman in each

season. Both primary and secondary activities were recorded

at five minute intervals.

There were no significant differences in mean hours per

day obtained by the recall method as compared to the

observation method except for the report of domestic

activities of tobacco growing households in July, and of

subsistence households in February.3 The mean time reported

in this paper, therefore, is an average of the two the

recall and the observation data.

5. Study of Food Supply, Food Consumption and Nutritional


In the interest of brevity no details will be provided

in this paper regarding the methodology for the study of

food supply, food consumption and nutritional status of

household members. It is important to note that the output

of subsistence and household production has "use" value.


6. Results

The mean-time spent by husbands and wives in the two

seasons in each farming system is presented in four graphs

(Figure 2 in the appendix). Graph Al and A2 illustrate the

seasonal labour differences in the tobacco producing

households, B1 and B2 the seasonal labour inputs in the

subsistence households. The following comparisons can be

noted; based on the production activity model presented

earlier in this paper.

a) Both husbands and wives are involved in market

production (tobacco) as well as in home production.

Market production is minimal in the subsistence

households, and minimal in July (after harvest).

b) The Household production took the largest proportion

of women's time in each of the two villages in each

season. In every household the daily time spent on

meal preparation exceeded the time spent on any of the

other household tasks (mean time 1.36 to 2.88 hours).

c) The mean-time spent by women on all production

activities did not vary much from season to season, nor

in each farming system (about 12 hours per day).

d) In comparison to the women, the men spent between 4.13

and 6.42 hours in production per day. The longest

working time for men was in tobacco farming during


e) During the tobacco growing season in February, the

women of Mkwinda spent fewer hours on subsistence and

household production than they did in July. They

shifted their work time away from home production to

market production. No such seasonal shifts were

evident in Patsankhondo the subsistence producing


f) Both men and women were equally involved in subsistence

production during July, in Patsankhodo. At that season

of the year the three tasks that took up the time were

harvesting, carrying maize home from the gardens, and

maize shelling.

g) Only two activities were accounted for within the

category social or inseparable production, namely child

care and health care. Note that both husbands and

wives participated but the mean time spent by wives was

slightly higher than that of their husbands (1.40 mean

hours per day by the wives as compared to 0.91 mean

hours spent by husbands).

The data for this category of production is incomplete.

The time spent in learning, in helping kin or

neighbours, in attendance at funerals or in community

self-help was not recorded. During the time of the

study, for example, interviews had to be re-scheduled

six times in Patsankhondo and five times in Mkwinda,

because of funerals. On some occasions respondents

were away from home for two days at a time (more

frequently during the rainy season in February, than in

July). Whether or not such activities could be

categorized as 'social production' may be debatable.

Nevertheless, attendance and help with funerals is a

family obligation, with reciprocal benefits.

7. Outputs of Production

The complete home production activity model proposed by

Beutler and Owen (1980:24) includes inputs of resources

throughputs of production, and outputs of utility and

standard of living. Among the outputs studied in Malawi

(Beckerson 1983:130-182) were those presented in figures 2

to'6 in the appendix. Figure 3 presents the mean amount of

traditional foods stored by 14 tobacco growing and 14

subsistence farming households. The mean amounts of maize,

groundnuts, beans and peas found stored by the subsistence

households in July was greater than that stored by the

tobacco producers. The mean amount of dried leaves stored

was somewhat greater in the tobacco, as compared to the

subsistence village.
Regarding food consumption note Figures 4 and 5. The

mean number of cups of maize flour (ufa) used per day for

making the dietary staple food nsima was higher in the

subsistence farm households.

Finally, regarding nutritional status it was noted that

the members of sample households from Patsankhondo the

subsistence farming village, were somewhat better off than

those from Mkwinda (Beckerson, p. 184).

a) Significantly fewer children were malnourished in July.

b) The female adults in the sample had significantly higher
mean weights in Feburary and in July.

c) Male and female.adults had significantly less weight
change between February and July.

d) Female adults were less lean in February, as indicated
by a significantly higher mean body mass index.

e) Significantly fewer female adults were underweight in
February and in July.

Note figure 6 which shows that a larger proportion of

the children in subsistence producing households

maintained normal weight for height as compared to those in

the tobacco producing villages between February and July.

The larger stores of maize available in one set of

households compared to the other could account for this

difference. Other aspects of health status could also

account for this difference. At this stage we must be

cautious about making implications about the relationships.

8. Conclusions

The major purpose of this paper was to draw attention to

the fact that household production and subsistence

production are important components of the family economy.

Women contribute a large proportion of their time to these

two sectors of production, but their work tends to be

unrecognized because it is a part of the informal or non-

monetized economy. A comparison of work done in two Malawi

villages by a sample of 28 households suggests that the

women are indeed contributing a larger proportion of their

time to these sectors as compared to their husbands. Women

are also contributing, along with their husbands to cash

crop production through the work done on tobacco. During

the tobacco growing season in February the women tended to

shift their time away from subsistence and household

production towards tobacco production. They did not add to

the length of their working day (mean 12.15 hours) but cut

back on the time spent particularly on meal related

activities. The women were not 'pulled into' additional


It is suggested that a shift in rural women's time use

towards cash crop production could lead to lower rather than

higher standards of nutritional well-being of all household

members. Such a conclusion is tentative because of the

small sample size and the number of variables examined.

The use of a production activity framework for

categorizing types of production has advantages for

economies such as those in rural Malawi. Market production

and home production are the two major types of production to

be recognized and valued; especially with respect to women's

role. Home production cannot easily be valued in monetary

terms but could be valued in terms of outputs such as health

and well-being or standards of living of households.

Household and subsistence production are both categorized as

separable home production or market replaceable production.

Social production such as care of family, kin and community

is called inseparable home production because of household

members obligations to such activities. It is not market

replaceable and requires more attention in research because

of the trade-offs in terms of time utility.

There are only 24 hours in a day. More time spent in

one type of production means less time available for another

type. If rural women shift their time towards cash crop

production and reduce time spent in home production there

may be drastic consequences in terms of food shortages

during the transition. There is a need for research which

examines more thoroughly the relationships between various

types of production, activity patterns of males, females and

children in small-scale farming systems; and the production

outputs. Much is still to be learned about economic

behaviour and its influences on productivity family well-



1. This is not the whole of the production activity model. See
Beutler, Ivan F. and Owen, Alma J. "A Home Production
Activity Model Home Economics Research Journal Vol. 9, No. 1,
September, 1980O. figure 6 p. Inputs in terms of human and
material resources and outputs of utility and levels of
living are included in the model.

2. See Beckerson, Susan A. "Seasonal Labour Allocation, Food
Supply, and Nutrition in Subsistence and Semi-Subsistence
Farming Households in Malawi, Africa" Master's Thesis,
University of "Guelph, 1983: Tables 6 and 7 p. 88.
The mean number of persons per household in the study was
found to be as follows:

Phase I Households (1981)

Tobacco Semi-Subsistence
Village Village
Number of Households 32 31

Mean number of persons
per household
Adult 2.69 2.56
Children 3.50 3.39
Infants .44 .45

Phase II Households (1982)

Number of Households 14 14

Mean number of persons per
Adults 2.29 2.43
Children (Feb.) 4.43 4.43
(July) 4.36 4.43
Infants 0.79 0.79

3. To check the validity of the three day recall data, Beckerson
used two-tailed non-paired, student's t-tests; at the 1% and
5% levels of significance. The mean hours for one day as
observed in each of three activity areas (cash crop
activities food crop activities, and household activities)
for the females was compared to mean hours per day of the
recall data (Beckerson p. 104). Results (Table 13 p. 128)
indicated that the women respondents may have over-estimated
the time spent on household activities.



(An activity list for use in February in Malawi, 1982 by
Susan A. Beckerson)

(i) Market Production

(a) Tobacco Production (weeding, fertilizer application,
banking, removing flowers, sucker control,
harvesting, transporting leaves, other tasks).

(b) Other Income-Earning Tasks (making goods for sale,
collecting produce for sale, work for wages).

(c) Marketing (selling or trading)

(ii) Subsistence and Semi-Subsistence Production

(a) Hybrid Maize Production (weeding, banking,
fertilizer application, other tasks).

(b) Production of Local Maize (tasks as above).

(c) Production of Groundnuts, Beans, Peas, Vegetables (as

(d) Sweet Potato Production (as above)

(e) Animal Care (grazing cattle or goats; feeding fowl,
pigs, rabbits, etc., preparing feed; milking,
collecting eggs, slaughtering animals, cleaning
animal shelters, other).

(iii) Household Production

(a) Food Related Activities (gathering fruits or wild
vegetables, collecting insects, planting and caring
for fruit trees, collecting vegetables from the
garden, beermaking for home use, storage of food
items, shelling and pounding maize, meal
preparation, cooking and serving, washing-up and
storing utensils, going to the maize mill).

S(b) Shopping (for food and other household needs)

(c) Obtaining Fuel and Water (collecting firewood and
the domestic water supply, planting trees and care

(d) Household and Farm Maintenance (cleaning the house
and surroundings; building or repairing housing,
food stores, animal shelters, fences, garden
structures, garden tools, furnishings or equipment
for the home).

(e) Clothing Activities (Making and repairing
clothing, laundering, taking materials to the
(iv) Inseparable Home Production

(a) Intra household production
Child Care (feeding, bathing, punishing, teaching
and playing with children)

Health Care (tending to the sick at home? taking
the sick to the health centre, clinic, hospital, or
healer, fetching medicines).

*(b) Interhousehold grants

*(c) Community service

*not recorded by Beckerson


Beckerson, Susan A. "Seasonal Labour Allocation, Food Supply, and
1983 Semi-Subsistence Farming Households in Malawi,
Africa". University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario:
Unpublished Master's.Thesis.

Beutler, Ivan F. And Owen Alma J. "A Home Production Activity
1980 Model". Home Economics Research Journal Vol. 9
No 1.

Bivens, G.

"The Grants Economy and Study of the American Family:
A possible Framework for Trans-disciplinary
Approaches". Home Economics Research Journal Vol. 5
No. 6, pp. 70-78.

Chipeta, C.H.R. Indigenous Economics A Cultural Approach.
1981 Smithtown, New York: Exposition Press.

Ettema Wim, and Msukwa, L. Food Production and Malnutrition in
1985 Malawi University of Malawi, Zomba: Centre for
Social Research.

Evenson, Robert E. "Food Policy and the New Home Economics".
1981 Food Policy pp. 180-193.

ICRW The Productivity of Women in Developing Countries:
1980 Measurement Issues and Recommendations. Washington,
DC: International Center for Research on Women
Office of Women in Development, Agency for
International Development.

Janelid, I..

"Rural Development and the Farm Household as a Unit
of Observation and Action" in The Household, Women
and Agricultural Development. Wageningen, The
Netherlands: Proceedings of a Symposium Department
of Home Economics Agricultural University.

Minge-Klevana, Wanda. "Does Labour Time Decrease with
1980 Industrialization? A Survey of Time Allocation
Studies". Current Anthropology 21. pp. 279-297.

Figure 1.

i .




Figure 2 Mean Time Spent Per Day by Husband and Wife in
Two Farming Seasons
(N = 14 households)






Al Tobacco Producers

1 2 "- 3 4

.... hours

:i::::::: :: :: 2.5


S1 .3

Husbands ml


Food Producers

1 '2 3 4 5


1 2 3. 4 5 6
F 1 h o

,17 hours


..::r::::: .............:.

0.9 6.1
......................... : :: :: : :

.''.i:'''':::' 12

1 2 3 4 5
I it t

L0.1 hours
: 0.4



.::::.:::??ii!! !:~_ ::::iiii!iii::::.'.:!!?ii i

.rr 0.4





- - -. .- - . .



Figure 3. Mean Amount of Traditional Foods Stored in July
by Two Types of Farming Systems

(N = 14 households)

SMaize Stored

Cubic Metres


5 .

Ground Nuts Stored

Cubic Metres

4 .

2 .

Beans and Peas Stored

Dried Leaves

Cubic Centimeters

I Tobacco Producers

Subsistence Producers





Figure 4 Mean Number of Meals Per Day


1 -








.' '



Figure 5 Mean Number of Cups of Maize Flour per Day

1:::.I Subsistence
I:I Farmers


Figure 6 Normal Weight for Height All Children
N = 73
30 28.8%


10 6.9%


Beckerson. p. 162





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