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GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
Program de Desarrollo Rural Integrado Plan do Allmentacl6n y Nutrlcl6n
REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA
NATIONAL PLANNING DEPARTMENT
ON THE ROLE OF PEASANT
IN AGRARIAN DEVELOPMENT
National Council For
Economic and Social Policy
Progrma de D E~Oalo Rur6a In tegrdo Plan oe Allmentaci6n y Nutrcl6n
POLICY ON THE ROLE OF PEASANI'T
WOMEN IN AGRARIAN DEVELOPMENT
One of the most relevant facts in the process of social and economic
change thaf the Colombian agrarian sector is undergoing 'is that of the massive
incorporation of peasant women to productive labour. This phenomenon has
reached levels such that in spite of traditional statistical underestimation of
this type of labour, the rates of women's participation in the rural work force
in 1980 have come-very close to urban ones. Peasant women's work has been
located basically in the most traditional categories that can be assimilated to
In Colombia, peasant economy contributes with sixty per cent of the total
supply of foodstuffs and forty percent of the total volume of agricultural raw
materials. This has been an historically unstable supply and in the last decade
it has, in a significant proportion, explained increases in the consumer price
index. Therefore, in order to reactivate the agrarian sector and guarantee an
adequate food supply, priority concerns of this Government, the traditional
agrarian sector constitutes a fundamental pillar.
Parallel with economic transformation, the social reality of rural women
and family has undergone rapid change which expresses itself in vertical decrea-
Prograrna de Dese9*.-tic aural integraJo Plain O Alimentaclon y Nutrcl5n
sesin fertility, migration of young women, reduction in family size and con-
solidation of .the nuclear family, postergation of marital union and a better
educational level in rural women.
The determinant role performed by women in peasant economy and speci-
fically in traditional food production is thus clearly established. However,
when.implementation of agrarian policy instruments is examined, recent research
reveals that neither credit, technical assistance, training, among others,
recognize women as a productive agent. In general terms, it can be asserted
that the State only perceives peasant women as a recipient of social programmes,
understood as those implying activities pertaining to the household. -
It is necessary that the State explicitly acknowledge the new role peasant
women are performing in the rural economy. This recognition must be put into
effect by/adjusting agrarian policy instruments so as to increase efficiency of
women's labour, as well as by redifining social programmes in accordance to the
present conditions of the rural family.
Policy for peasant women, submitted to the National Council for Eco-
nomic and Social Policy is defined as a re-orientation of the principles
directing State action in the rural sector. Its intersectorial nature, which'goes
beyond the competence of the Ministry of Agriculture, and, above all,
resistance on part of State agencies to 'accept changes in the situation of
Piograma de De arrt;v ..ur8a: Itlegrado Plan Cd. AIlmentacl6n y Nutrilcin
their target populations, requires a general policy framework. That is
precisely the purpose of this document.
1. Women in Agrarian Production.
During the 1970's women's participation in agrarian production increased
in a substantial way, while men's rates of participation varied slightly (1).
It has been estimated that for 1980 there were 755.000 economically
active women in the rural sector, 63% of whom (almost 450.000) worked
directly in small production units. The main features of rural women's
a. The overall rural women's participation rate increased from 16.5%
in 1971 to 27.7% in 1980 (2), coming very close to urban rates,
indicating important social and economic modifications in the
b. Increases in women's economic participation were chanelled towards
the most backward occupational categories and by no means did they
(1) Increases in women's overall participation rate must still be affected by
traditional sub-registration of women's productive labour in the country, as
well as by underestimation of their economic contribution.
(2) DANE. National Household Survey 1971-1980. Stages 4 and 27.
Prograrne de Deaer-olk' Rurdl Integraoo Plan d.- Ahmentaclbn y Nutrlcl6n
respond to an increase in employment opportunities in the modem
sector. In effect, while the proportion of male salaried workers
within the total of male workers has been steady around 45%, the
percentage of salaried women decreases from 36.6% in 1971 to 28.0%
in 1980. On the contrary, women classified as "family helpers
without remuneration" increase their participation from 12.2% to
31.9% during the same period. At the same time, "independent
female workers" represent 38.4%, which, when added to the previous
category, both account for 70% of women working in the rural .
sector (1). It can be established then, that women are making an
important contribution in terms of work to the head of the household
of the .small productive parcel, be it by means of non-
salaried help or by substituting the male worker, increasing .ly dis-
placed towards salaried forms. Their contribution is also represented
in the growing responsibility they have been directly and independently
assuming in producing a significant share of farm-produce in their
land- parcels. *
c. Rural women are increasingly combining their roles as mothers and
workers, thus considerably extending their work-load.
(1) DANE, National Household Survey, Stages No. 4 and 27.
Programe do Debarrr.-lio ure-l Integrado Plan o- Allmentaclsn y Nutriclon
d. The percentage of women in the lowest income range is higher than
those of rural men and urban women.
According to occupational position, in every activity, women are
grouped in the most traditional occupations.
In brief, there is no evidenceof modernisation of female rural
employment nor of a transformation of a significant number of women
into salaried workers. There has been a growing articulation of
women to productive labour, while at the same time an unbalanced
division of labour between men and women is perpetuated, confining
women to the most backward and socially invisible activities.
2. New Sociodemographic Profiles.
Between 1968 and 1980, the average number of children per rural woman
decreased from 9.2 to 5.1, a reduction in fertility higher than that
registered in cities during the same period (1). Family size has fallen
(1) There are still regional differences. Averages in the Central Region are
lower than those in the Pacific Coast.
Source: Ordonez, Myriam: An6lisis de de la Situaci6n de la Muier Cam-
pesina- CaracterTsticas Demogr6ficas de la Poblaci6n Rural. Universidad
I--oc"-.rn do Dt;'r.lluo ;rjraI Inte rado Plan o Allmentacion y Nutriclon
to average similar to urban ones, nuclear structure being predominant
Correlatively, age of entrance to the marriage market has been
postponed, while separations and. households whose only members are
mother and children (15.3% in 1978) have increased (1).
A high percentage of rural families is constituted by common law
marriages and land property is usually bestowed to the male household
head. The resulting situation is one in which peasant women lack
protection of their land-rights in case the couple breaks up.
Although young women (ages 15-19) have lower illiteracy rates than
men in the same age group, in general terms, women still have lower
educational levels than men (2).
3. State Action.
The following features have characterized State action in relation to the
situation of peasant women.
a. In rural development programmes where the explicitly stated objective
is that of improving family living standards, a rigid conception as to
(1) DANE. National Hosehold Survey. 1978.
(2) According to data compiled by DANE, in Household Survey No. 27, the rural
female illiteracy rate in 1980 was 39.5% while the rural male rate was 37%.
Program Ce D-s".ro!'o ?ij-6!i Integredo Plan V', Ali.rrentacl6r y Nuttrcl6n
the type of actions that are carried out, has been predominant.
According to it, productive actions ore to be implemented with the
male population while social and domestic ones are meant for the
female population. Such conception is clearly contradictory with
the evident participation of women in the productive sphere and it
becomes an obstacle for women's contribution to agrarian development.
b. During the past years, there have appeared programmes specifically
designed to organize women in-income generating projects and improve
their status and living standards. These experiences, from which those
implemented by the National Federation of Coffee Growers and the
Colombian Agrarian Institute ( ICA) with support from UNICEF must
be mentioned, are still very disperse and limited as to the population
they cover. Furthermore, these programmes lack a general policy
framework that would foster interinstitutional coordination and
effectively extend their services
Although the Development Plan Change with Equity, does not specifically
address, this issue, it does contain the main directives needed to launch new
programmes with an integrated approach regarding rural women.
Among them the following are of special interest:
In the first place, to the extent that the general objective is that of
Program do Dosarrollo hural Integrado Plan de Allmentacl6n y Nutrici6n
increasing the country's food production capacity and that a significant
part of these are produced by women, improvement of women's productive
capacity is an essential condition for achieving this aim.
Secondly, social policy gives special important to "women's promotion,
sponsoring processes of integration to productive life". This purpose must
be achieved in rural areas where women's economic and cultural
marginality is greater than in the urban sector.
Third, because in the struggle against unemployment and un-dermployment,
encouragement to women's production in the traditional sector of rural
economy plays a significant role in increasing jobs.
Finally, because programmes aimed at rural women, who are the less
protected group within the peasant population, offer a way through
which rural development services can be extended and reach more
In summary, achievement of economic growth and social benefit are the
pillars of the policy defined as follows.
The general purpose of this policy is to modify the conditions in which
Program de Desorronlo Rural Integrado Plan de AllmentaclOr. y Nutriclbn
peasant women's present economic and social participation takes place, in order
to insure greater efficiency in their productive activities, increasing the supply
of food and improving their standard of living and that of their families. In
more specific terms, this requires :
a. Guaranteeing rural women access to the instruments of productive
labour, such as land, credit, technical assistance and training.
b. Insuring their participation in productive projects which will contribute
to generate employment and income, and improve the nutritional
situation of the family.
c. Encouraging their participation in community organizations, as well as
in the cultural and political life of the nation.
d. Improving the conditions in which domestic work is done and promoting
a change of attitudes which will facilitate a more egalitarian
distribution of work between the sexes, overcoming traditional forms.
e. Improving rural women's educational levels.
The target population for this policy in general, are women living in rural
areas who are potential beneficiaries of State services and in particular, peasant
women producing in parcels under 20 hectares participating in productive
Program de Deaarrlilo Rural Integrado Plan de AIImentac6rn y Nutrucl6n
projects sponsored by it.
Achievement of these objectives will be pursued by means of the
a. Adjusting present instruments of agrarian policy (agrarian legislation,
credit, training, technical assistance, research) to this recently
researched reality and possible development trends it implies, insuring
they reach the female population involved in food production.
b. Intensifying social actions that will provide rural women more
favorable and egalitarian conditions in which to carry out their
functions as producers and domestic workers. This implies adjusting
some social programmes to this policy's objectives.
To insure that these strategies reach the local level and that rural
women in effect have indiscriminate access to state services, specific
projects fr women will be implemented aimed at generating more
income, employment and food production.
In terms of adjustments of the instruments of agrarian policy:
Programs de Desarrollo Rural Integrsdo Plan de Allmentac bn y NutrciOn
INCORA (Agrarian Reform Institute) and the Ministry of Agriculture
shall revise existing legislation concerning procedures for granting
and entitling land. Within a two month period a legislative proposal
modifying norms facilitating access to land to female household heads
must be presented. Provisions shall be made to the effect that land
titles include both husband and wife, thus eliminating the frequent
dispossession of women and children.
Modification of family law (Legal Resolution 115 of January 27th
1984) is also recommended.
Caja Agraria (Agrarian Bank) shall strengthen credit for rural women
increasing the amount of individual loans, eliminating the husband's
signature as requisite for granting loans and adjusting guarantees to
the female producer's re-payment capacities and working conditions.
Likewise, in order to prevent underutilisation of this programme, Caja
Agraria in coordination with DRI (Integrated Rural Development) and
INCORA shall promote this credit line among women producers
participating in income generating projects fostered by this policy.
DRI shall modify norms regulating credit for its beneficiaries (Circular
Prograrne de D De'srrllcr' Rur! Irtepredo Plan de Allrrnentacl6n y NutuclOn
Reglamentaria No. 62, 1983) as follows: women shall have access
to credit independently to that already granted to their husbands or
fathers, women are to be personally and exclusively responsible for
their loans and commercial morality is to be determined independently
of the husband.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the National Planning Department
shall channel technical cooperation resources in order to establish
soft credit funds which will be used to finance productive projects
in the poorer regions.
3. Technical Assistance.
ICA, INCORA, Federation of Coffe Growers and all other agencies
involving technical assistance services shall develop actions,
according to their functions, related to generation and transfer of
technology that will increase productivity in activities where women
concentrate their work (animal care, vegetable gardens, crafts) and
which are central to family subsistence.
Income increments are to be geared towards improvements in nutrition
housing and environment.
The above mentioned agencies shall adjust their operational methodologies
Program de Deo6ero! -:iur:! integrado Plan Ut Ahnilentaclkn y Nutnclon
(time -schedules, meetings) to the conditions in which rural women
perform their tasks. This requires that rural extension agents receive
training regarding rural women's problematic.
To insure adequate marketing for their products women's groups shall
participate in the new marketing strategy coordinated by the DRI-PAN
Programme and cooperative organizations will be promoted. Special
attention will be given to participation ofpeasant-products in urban
markets, as well as to the price information system. SENA (National
Training Service), FINANCIACOOP (Cooperative Financial Institute),
IDEMA (Institute for Agricultural Marketing) and CECORA (Agrarian
Reform Cooperatives) shall sponsor these activities.
SENA shall extend its training programmes for peasants so that at
least one third of the leaders trained are women. It will also work
with women's groups identifying development projects. Likewise, it
will produce training material, the contents of which will be issues
concerning rural women's conditions. This material will be used in
training courses attended by peasant leaders. ICA,. FEDECAFE, IN-
CORA and the Ministry of Agriculture will also use it for its
Progrerna de Du rsr.io Rural Integrado Plan do AlimentaclOn y Nutncl6n
organisational and entrepreneurial training activities with peasant
ICETEX, ICA, DRI and other agencies which control funds for training
and specialisation of human resources in the agrarian sector shall
give priority to training of civil servants who can advance implementation
of this policy and become multiplier agents within the institutions
responsible for its development.
Development of Social Policy Instruments:
1. Education and Research.
Priority shall be given to literacy campaings for peasant women
to be carried out in the Pacific Region as well as in departments
of the Atlantic Coast, where illiteracy rates.are above 50% (1).
They will be backed by primary and secondary education programmes.
The relevance of this action responds to
the need of elevating the educational level of rural women so
S they will have a better capacity to assimilate training and
(1) According to NHS stage 27 of 1980, the female illiteracy rate in the Atlantic
Region is 55.8% while the National Rural average is 39.5%.
Prograrn de Desarrolic rural Integrado Plan de Allmentaci6n y Nutrlcl6n
transference that agencies will import.
CAMINA will sponsor production of educational material to be
wdely broadcasted concerning rural -women's issues and the
contents of this policy.
The Ministry of Education through the Curriculum and Educational
Programme will adjust educational contents so as to valorice
women's work both in the productive and domestic spheres.
DANE (National Statistics Departament) shall introduce adjustmen-s
in the definition of indicators and in data-collecting instruments t
that will improve information on women's participation in the
productive sphere. Likewise, COLCIENCIAS will channel resources
towards research on rural women's problematic.
2. Housing Improvement.
ICA, INCORA, DRI, Caja Agraria, FEDECAFE and DAINCO
(National Territories Bureau) shall offer appropriate technology
for improving conditions of rural housing in matters such as:
potable water, waste disposals, improvement of cooking utensils,
floor construction and favourable credit conditions to insure their
adoption. This action is part of the Rural Housing Plan that is
being designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Program de Desarrollo Rural Integrado Plan de Allmentacl6n y Nutricl6n
3. Peasant Organization.
SENA, DIGIDEC and the Division of Peasani Organization of the
Ministry of Agriculture shall promote organization of rural women
as an indispensable condition for production and marketing
As. part of this process, the Ministry of Agriculture will carry out
a National assembly of peasant women where this policy will be
studied and debated and mechanisms for direct participation of
women in implementing this policy will be designed.
ICA and ICBF shall adjust their educational activities concerning
nutrition so they will make use of food produced by women.
The effect of increased food production undertaken by women on
the nutritional standards of families shall be taken into account
as one of the social profit indicators of the productive projects
sponsored by this policy.
1. The National Council for Social and Economic Policy CONPES is advice
to approve the Policy on the Role of Peasant Women in Agrarian Development
Prugtarna de Desarroltto Rural Inte;rado Plan ie AlrmentaclOn y Nutricln
coordinated by the Unit of Social Development of the Ministry of Agriculture
in order to insure a greater commitment of the agencies specialized in
adjusting different instruments of agrarian policy for implementation of the
2. It is recommended to the Minisrries of Education and Health a .revision of'
programmes aimed at rural families, adjusting them to the increases in
women's economic participation and changes operated in the family
3. It is recommended to the National Planning Department that it include
development programmes for rural women as a priority for technical
cooperation in the rural sector and that it identify new financial sources
for implementation of this policy. These resources shall be invested
according to the objectives and strategies above mentioned.
4. The Ministry of Agriculture should be authorized to present in the Congress
of the Republic a legislative proposal modifying those agrarian norms.
regulating land tenure and use which explicitly or implicitly jeopardize
peasant women's rights.
To complement, precise instructions will be imparted and promotional and
educational activities will be carried out with civil servants and peasants
geared to change attitudes and application of the law.
Progrerna ce DeCwr-i:-; t'Ju3i Inteoradio Pirn .< A4lententacln y NUcrlUiln
5. Ask FONADE to channel resources for feasibility studies related to production,
marketing and processing projects managed by women, in response to
demands from ICA, INCORA, FEDECAFE, DRI and other agencies involved
in implementation of this policy.
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