THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN
MODERNIZING AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS
The Pennsylvania State University
Paper Prepared for WID/Aid Under
AID Grant OTR-147-80-97
The views and interpretations in
this publication are those of the
author and should not be attributed
to the Agency for International
Development or to any individual
acting in its behalf.
The Role of Women in Modernizing Agricultural Systems
The Pennsylvania State University
A significant recent breakthrough in agricultural economics has been the
recognition that increased agricultural productivity and food availability as
well as rising investments in agriculture do not benefit rural people equally
due to existing class differentiation. In fact, it has been recognized that
the introduction of modernizing agricultural systems that increase efficiency
and productivity tend to increase the gap between the large and medium land
holders and the small land holders who are often obliged to sell their land
and swell the ranks of the landless. Thus, it is now accepted that the cri-
teria of efficiency in agriculture must be supplemented by criteria that reflect
distribution of income and labor absorption concerns in order to not penalize
the rural poor in the process of modernizing agriculture (Hardin, 1979; Fuller,
1979). There is, however, another significant step of recognition that agri-
cultural economists must go through, namely the recognition that at present
rural development programs do not benefit men and women equally due to existing
sex stratification and sex inequalities. In fact, as is true for the rural
poor, women do not benefit equally with men from rural development schemes because
they have less access to land ownership, credit, and agricultural information within
the context of a usually all-male agricultural extension service. Also many
rural development programs which benefit men by increasing their agricultural
income increase sex inequalities by eliminating the employment opportunities
of poor women as hired agricultural laborers. It is, therefore, necessary that
the distributional and labor absorption criteria to be added to the efficiency
and productivity criteria in the design of modernizing agricultural and other
rural development programs in order to be able to take into account that ooor ru-
ral women are affected, by two types of inequalities: class and sex inen!i!lities
and both must be addressed in order for development to reach them as much as men.
There are many reasons which may be responsible for the fact that the
second step of recognition has not been reached. Some of these reasons may
be the "invisibility" or women that is, the insufficient documentation of
the role of women in agriculture and the prevailing sex role stereotypes
about women's questionable willingness to take risks and adopt agricultural
innovations and ability to deal with the complexity of modernized agriculture
requiring better accounting, and more sophisticated technology. The lack of
sufficient data and the tack of integration of the available data from the
Women and Development literature into the mainstream agricultural economics
literature further accentuate the "invisibility" of rural women and the per-
sistence of stereotypes about them.
Many reasons contribute to the fact that there is not much information
available at present in the "mainstream" statistics and literature about the
direct role played by women in LDC's in modernizing agricultural systems.
First, a number of agricultural economic research studies yield no information
about the role of women because the collected data on agricultural labor
(referring to family labor)and household income are not disaggregated by age
and sex. Second, Census statistics as well as statistics collected by inter-
national agencies and organizations consistently underestimate women as
agricultural laborers, when they contribute their labor as unpaid family
labor (Safil os-Rothschild, 1981; Youssef, 1980; Youssef and Buvinic, 1980;
Recchini and Winerman, 1979). But even surveys and studies carried out at
the community level by agricultural economists often underestimate the mag-
nitude and prevalence of women's direct involvement in agricultural work
because the husbands are only asked and/or because the question about agri-
cultural involvement are asked in a way that it may be culturally unaccept-
able for women to respond affirmatively. These difficulties can be illus-
trated with an example of a series of intensive community studies recently
undertaken in rural Honduras.* When the husbands were asked whether their
wives worked in the fields they responded negatively and when the wives
themselves were asked the same question, they also denied such involvement.
Women were, however observed to be actually working in the fields so alternative
questions were tried out in order to understand the underlying dynamics.
Finally, it was determined that when wives were asked what agricultu-
ral tasks (tareas agricolas) they were responsible for, they gave a long
list of such tasks that substantiated women's very active and extensive
involvement in agricultural work. Since, however, it is culturally expec-
ted that the men will be responsible for agricultural work, both men and
women are reluctant to report women's extensive involvement in agriculture
which tends to be assumed under wife's duties.(a dL ~tt .ao-
This is an important factor in the underestimation of women's active
involvement in agriculture in Central and Latin America as.well as in many
Muslim societies. Other reasons include women's casual or temporary employment
for example during harvest rather than on a permanent basis and the hiring of
entire families to work on plantations where women and children work as well
*The Project is an AID funded study of the socio-economic impact of the agrarian
reform on the different members of the family administered by the Population
Council and carried out by a Honduras research team under the supervision of
as men but only the men are paid and are counted as working (Conditions of Work
of Women and Young Workers on Plantations, 1970). All these sources of under-
estimation have been more frequently reported for Latin and Central American
Countries for which the smallest percentage of women's involvement in agricul-
ture is officially documented (Wolf, 1977).
The lack of a consistent pattern of disaggregation by age and sex of agri-
cultural labor and household income data has serious repercussions because it
tends to mask some of the expected or unexpected impacts of development programs
on women, younger and older as well as the extent of wives' economic contribu-
tions to the household. In Indonesia, for example, some agricultural economic
studies of the impact of the new harvesting methods and of the introduced new
rice husking technology (steel roller hullers) show that the demand for hired
labor has sharply declined bringing about serious income losses, especially
to landless families but do not specify whose hired labor is displaced (Utami
and Ihaloaw, 1972). Other similar studies.in Indonesia, however, which differ-
entiated hired labor by age and sex showed that the large majority of
displaced hired labor were women, older women being more hard hit in terms of
income losses (Collier and Soentoro, 1978; Collier, et al, 1974; Stoler, 1977).
The assumption that family labor availability could be determined by
knowing the number of active family members regardless of sex and age and
regardless of the type of crop contemplated has been proven faulty in designing
rural development programs. An evaluation of the World Bank experience with
rural development projects in West Africa clearly showed that female labor
is available on a different basis than male labor and that transferring female
labor from subsistence to cash crops was often problematic and brought about
a number of negative consequences for the status of women and the nutritional
status of children (Rural Development Projects: A Retrospective View of Bank
Experience in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1978; Safilios-Rothschild, 1980). Furthermore,
since in many rural areas in which women already are working 12-15 hours a day
in household, childcare, and productive activities, their labor cannot be made
available for the intensive cultivation of HYV's unless provisions are made
to free them from some time-consuming household duties (Safilios-Rothschild,
1980; Carr, 1979; Whiting and Krystall, 1979).
The use of household income in agricultural economists' studies, on the
other hand, masks the fact that women make significant economic contributions
ranging from 1/3 to as much as 1/2 of the total family income, their contri-
butions being more significant in low-income rural households (Evenson, Popkin,
and King-Quizon, 1979; Cain, 1979; Srikantan, Narayan, and Rao, 1978). Pre-
liminary data collected in rural Honduras also indicate that women's contribu-
tions to the money needed to buy food for the family are even larger than the
overall contributions to family income. The lack of disaggregated income data
by sex is serious because it does not allow policy makers' sensitization to
the importance of women's income-generating opportunities for the survival of
rural low-income families. Furthermore, not knowing how men's and women's
incomes are used does not provide planners the necessary information for
balanced development planning that allows both men and women to earn an income.
Studies from India (Kumar, 1977), Philippines (Popkin and Solon, 1976), and
Northern Ghana (Tripp, 1978) point out the relatively more significant role
paid by women's than by men's earned income for the nutritional status of
their children. More specifically, in landless families in Kerala, India
the aggregate household income was a weak and statistically insignificant pre-
dictor of child nutrition. Increases in maternal income, on the other hand,
were significantly associated with children's nutritional status but when
women did not work for wages, increments in the husbands' income were not
associated with improved nutritional status for the chiidrtn (Kumar, 1977).
Despite the underestimation of women in agriculture in many LDC's and
despite the scarcity of relevant data resulting from aggregate family labor
and household income data, there is sufficient evidence from many LDC's
that women play an important or the most important role in agriculture. On
the basis of available information, we shall examine the extent to which women
are actively involved in agriculture whether they are involved as farmers, as
unpaid family labor, or as hired agricultural laborers; their involvement in
cash crops, their innovativeness, their productivity and farming practices
as compared to those of male farmers. By now it is pretty well accepted that
inSub-Saharan Africa, women constitute half or more of those involved in
agriculture, the majority of whom are small farmers involved in subsis-
tence agriculture, mainly because their husband has migrated, died, or divorced
them. But even when their husband is present, they are still involved in sub-
sistence agriculture and often provide most of the agricultural labor for the
husbands' cash crops. Even among Sub-Saharan African countries and regions
within countries there is, however, considerable variation with regard to
the prevalence of women as farm managers or as agricultural laborers and their
degree of involvement in subsistence and/or cash crops.
In Ghana, for example, in which more than one-third of
those involved in agriculture are women (Wolf, 1977) the majority of women far-
mers are involved in subsistence agriculture (Tamakloe, 1978), but in Southern
Ghana there are women cocoa farmers in Southern Ghana (Kali and Kotey, 1971; Hill,
1969) and rice farmers in the North (Gbedemah, 1978). Ghanian women cultivating
cash crops are constrained by their more limited access to credit and land owner-
ship to relatively smaller farms than men and they tend to be less often literate
than men cash crop farmers (Gbedemah, 1978), a fact t ,at can be expected to
curtain their productivity (Lockheed, Jamison, and Lau, 1980).
In Botswana where male migration is high and female-headed households
in rural areas may be as high as 43 percent of all households, women were
found to be the main persons engaged in 48 percent of crop activities but
to undertake most of the laborious and time consuming crop activities cor-
responding to 74 percent of all crop work. Men's primary tasks are land
cleaning and ploughing and helping occasionally with other tasks (Bond, 1974).
In Tanzania where 51 percent of those involved in agriculture are women
(Wolf, 1977), the large majority of women are farm managers (Fortman,1979a). A
detailed study of the National Maize Project, a production program which sup-
plied subsidized inputs, showed that there were no differences between men and
women farmers who purchased inputs from the program in terms of good maize prac-
tice scores, adoption of innovations or progressiveness. There were, however,
significant differences in good maize practice scores between women (as well
as between men) farmers who purchased and who did not purchase inputs from the
program (Fortman, 1978; 1979b). Despite this evidence that women participants
are as modern as men participants, women farmers made up only 8 percent of all
participants. This much smaller participation of women farmers in the maize
program can be well explained in terms of women's significantly lesser access
to credit and agricultural information It was found, for example, that women
farmers received only 10 percent of the loans granted in a sample of six vil-
lages participating in the Tanzanian Rural Development Bank's Small Farmer
Food Crop Loan Program (Fortman, 1978). And women who participated in the maize
program had significantly higher information contact scores than women who did
not participate in the program but agricultural extension agents were found to
visit women farmers much less often than men farmers (20 versus 58 percent).
It seems, therefore, that when Tanzanian women farmers were visited by agricultural
extension workers and were successful in obtaining credit, they were as innovative,
knowledgeable and modern as male farmers but the probability that they were able
to meet these condition' was much smaller than it was true for men farmers (Fortman,
In Kenya, 80 percent of the subsistence agricultural work is performed by
women (State of Food and Agriculture, 1973) who either manage the farm land
jointly with their husbands or by themselves because their husband has migrated
to an urban area or because they are divorced or widows. In some districts
of Kenya, the percentage of rural female-headed households and female-managed
farms varies from 36 (Moock, 1976) to 40 (Staudt, 1978). In addition, women
constitute 37 percent of the regular labor force and up to 90 percent of the
seasonal labor force in coffee estates and a part of the casual labor force
on tea estates (Conditions of Work of Women and Young Workers on Plantations,
An intensive study in Vihiga, a Kenyan division in which 38 percent of
the farms are managed by women compared the productivity of women-managed farms
with the productivity of men-managed farms. The results showed that women were
more technically efficient maize farmers than men and that their productivity
equalled men's. When women, however, had the same access to resources and oppor-
tunities as men, their maize output per acre was higher than men's (Moock, 1976).
Another study from Western Kenya where also about 36 percent of the farms are
managed by women, women managers' productivity measured in terms of crop diversi-
fication, time of innovation, and income-earning orientation equalled men's.
This was true, however, only in an area with minimal agricultural services. In
another area similar in all respects except that much more agricultural
services were available, women managers' productivity was less than men's because
the agricultural extension agents visited women farm managers less often than men
even when they were progressive in terms of crop diversification, income-earning ori-
entation and early adoption of innovations. For example, about one third of women
farm managers who adopt early agricultural innovations are never visited by agri-
cultural extension agents while only three percent of men farm managers who are
early innovators are similarly deprived of information. Also, the large majority
of women (80 percent) with income earning farm enterprises receive only minimal
services and only 4 percent of them receive several (4-5) services while five
times more men with similar cash crops receive as many services (Staudt, 1978). The
latter findings are extremely significant since they indicate that efforts to modernize
agriculture in Kenya lead to the lessening of women farmers' productivity by
making these modernizing efforts less accessible to them than to equally productive
The agricultural and economic abilities of Kenya were also proven in another
study of Luo women who had to deal with reduced soil fertility in being able to have
double cropping and more intensive agriculture. They proved to be quite capable
in handling problems and in managing their labor in most productive ways while
spreading the risks in more than one economic activity. They adopted labor-
saving innovations in agricultural tasks and reinvested their labor saved in
other economic activities, primarily trade (Hay in Spring and Hansen, 1979).
In Swaziland, the extensive migration of men to urban areas as well as to
the Republic of South Africa has left 71 percent of rural women de facto heads
of household and farm managers. Thus, 35 percent of women are involved in the
felling of trees and clearing the land, 75 percent in hoeing and 62 percent in
weeding activities. When, however, a tractor is used because women are not
trained to operate a tractor, they have to hire a man to operate it (The Survey
of Roles, Tasks, Needs and Skills of Rural Women in Swaziland 1978/79, 1980).
Turning now to Asfa, the highest percentage of women in agriculture (based
on data from the late 60s) was in Thailand (50 percent), Cambodia and Nepal while
the highest proportion of economically active women in agriculture (as wage agri-
cultural laborers) were in Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia
and Pakistan (Wolf, 1977). In Malaysia, 50 percent or more of the labor force on
rubber estates are women (Heyzer-Fan in Ahmad, 1980). Survey studies in Bangladesh,
where in many regions half of the rural households or more are functionally landless,
show that the Census underestimates the percentage of women agricultural wage
laborers since in most of these landless households women have no choice but to
work (Begum and Greeley, 1979). In general, in Southeast Asia as the extent of
landlessness increases, as is true for India (Majumdar, 1975), Indonesia (Collier,
1978), and Bangladesh (Cain, 1979; Clay, 1978), more women shift from the category
of unpaid agricultural family workers to wage agricultural laborers.
In India, women's active role in agriculture varies widely from region to
region and state to state according to the type of crops cultivated and the pre-
vailing type of sex stratification system. Thus, in South India, parts of Central
and Northeast India and the Himalayan region women comprise an important share of
the agricultural labor force but a much smaller share in much of North India as, for
example, in West Bengal where there is a taboo against women working in the fields
(Mazumdar, 197b; Parmar, 197b). Overall, it is reported that 36 percent of all agri-
cultural workers and 44 percent of all agricultural wage laborers are women (Fry,1976),
a Census figure which most probably represents a serious underestimation. More inten-
sive surveys in specific regions and communities show that
more than half of the hired agricultural labor (ranging from 50 to 90,percent)
in rural Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh were women, their percentages being much
higher when cotton and irrigation were prevalent (Ryan, Ghodake and Sarin, 1979).
Similar trends have also been reported in Bangalore (Srikantan, Narayan, and Rao,
1978). Indian rural women have been affected by increasing landlessness even
more markedly than men since from 1951-1971 the numbers of women cultivators de-
clined by 50 percent while women agricultural laborers increased from less than
one-third to more than half of the total women work force in rural areas (Mazum-
dar, 1975; Chatterjee, 1975). In areas, however, in which women are cultivators
they sometimes perform 75-80 percent of all agricultural work and they are in-
volved in cash crops such as cotton which are labor-intensive and do not require
the use of farm equipment as is true in the rural areas of Hyderabad (Mies as
reported in Ahmad, 1980) or in wheat production in Haryana where they perform more
than 50 percent of the agricultural labor (Chakravorty, 1975).
In Latin America, the underestimation of women's active role in agriculture
is extreme as the work of Deere (1975, 1977) has clearly shown in the case of
Peru. Despite this serious underestimation, in Bolivia about 60 percent of the
agricultural labor force consists of women. In the Caribbean islands, on the
other hand, the participation of women in the agricultural labor force is high
especially in Antigua (50 percent), Haiti and Monserrat (more than 50 percent),
St. Lucia (47 percent), Barbados (40 percent), St. Kitts (45 percent) and
Bahamas (30 percent) (Yates, 1980; Wolf, 1977).
Finally, in the Middle Eastern and North African region in which the under-
estimation of women's active role in agriculture is serious, recent trends of
significant male migration to the oil-exporting Arab nations is drastically
changing women's role in agriculture through the increasing incidence of rural
de facto female-headed households and women managed farms. In Syria, for example,
already in 1969,49 percent of the agricultural labor force were women (The State
of Food and Agriculture, 1973) and in Jordan, Morocco and Yemen because of male migra-
tion the percentage of women in agriculture is reported to be almost as high (Staudt,197S
In summary, the above data on women's active role in agriculture in different
countries and regions show that:
(1) Women play an active role in agriculture as agricultural producers usually
in independent small holdings; as agricultural laborers; as farm managers;
as unpaid family workers; as seasonal or permanent agricultural wage laborers; and
as plantation workers;
(2) Women's agricultural contributions are not recognized in their own count-
ries as well as internationally by donors, planners and policy makers partly
because Census as well as surveys seriously underestimate their contributions and
partly because of prevailing sex role stereotypes;
(3) In countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia in which the per-
centage of landless rural households is increasing, the number of women agricul-
tural wage laborers is also increasing as women shift from unpaid family workers
to agricultural wage laborers;
(4) Women's wages from hired agricultural work is so essential to the sur-
vival of landless and near-landless households that even strong cultural constraints
about women's work are overlooked;
(5) Women farm managers are not exclusively involved in subsistence agricul-
ture. To the extent that it is possible within the context of their inadequate
access to agricultural information, inputs, and credit, they are also involved
in cash crops production;
(6) When women farm managers have equal access with men to agricultural
information and inputs, they are as innovative and knowledgeable about correct
agricultural practices as men;
(7) When the agricultural extension service is all male, even when women
farm managers are involved in cash crops and are progressive they are less often
visited by agricultural extension agents and receive less services than similar
male farm managers;
(3) Women are actively involved in agricultural work in addition to their
work-load consisting of household and childcare tasks.
Efforts to modernize agriculture in LDC's is taking place within the con-
text of unrecognized significant agricultural work performed by women and
within the context of large percentage of rural households' welfare depending
upon the producer or agricultural labor activities of women. In view of the
above information about women's agricultural role in LDC's, it is important to
construct a working typology that would allow to design rural development and
modernizing agricultural projects that would help increase the productivity
of men and women agricultural producers and/or protect or increase both men's
and women's incomes in rural areas. The proposed typology can serve to sensitize
policy makers and project designers with regard to the realities of poor house-
holds in rural areas and can help them balance potential macro-level economic
benefits for some segments of the population with potential economic losses for
other segments of the population. For example, the impact of new rice husking
technology on the incomes of middle and large size farmers must be examined
along with its impact on the price of rice and its accessibility'for low-income
urban households and it negative impact on the income-earning ability of women
in low-income rural households (Greeley,1979). The proposed typology* utilizes
*A beginning for this typology based only on land and labor supply or abundance
without taking the percentage of landless or the percentage of female-headed house-
holds into consideration was made by Germain (1980).
the following crucial indicators of rural areas in LDC's:
labor scarcity or abundant labor supply;
land scarcity or land availability and hence, percentage or landless
percentage of female-headed households;
availability of nonagricultural labor for rural men and women.
Diagram 1 presents schematically the typology. More specifically,
when land is scarce but not labor as is true for several Asian (especially
Southeast Asian) countries the percentage of landless or near landless is high
and the percentage of women working as agricultural wage laborers also high,
as we saw in the case of Bangladesh, Indonesia and some regions of India (Cell C).* In
this case, the majority of women are agricultural wage laborers, unless there
are other income-generating opportunities for them in agricultural or
If the majority of women work as agricultural wage laborers, efforts to modernize
agriculture must take this into account so that planned crops are labor
intensive and possibly multiple by means of irrigation and fertilizer technology
and the introduction of agricultural technology that displaces female labor
accompanied by labor absorption strategies. Such strategies may include
the training of women laborers to operate the new technology as well as training
in the new farming techniques required by high yield varieties and intensive, modern
agriculture that could improve their chances to be hired as laborers as well as their
agricultural wages; the formation of women's cooperatives who buy, lease, and operate the
*Some South and Central American countries such as Brazil and Honduras would also
fall in this cell, the former with a high percentage and the latter with a medium
(25) percentage of rural female-headed households. In the case of Brazil, of
course, landlessness is due not to absolute land scarcity but to a high degree
of land concentration among few large landowners.
new technology; and the creation of nonagricultural wage employment for women.
Another type of strategy that would help improve the working conditions of wo-
men agricultural wage laborers would be the development of appropriate techno-
logy that would render their agricultural work less physically taxing and more pro-
ductive. At present, women in those countries work very hard, literally with
their bodies while men work with machines and this increasing technological gap
between men and women must be bridged, if development is to reach and benefit
low-income rural women as well as men.
A further important differentiating factor in this cell of the typology (C)
is the prevalence of female-headed households through migration of male heads,
widowhood and divorce. In this cell, most of female-headed households would
be landless and depending upon the women's wages from agricultural or nonagri-
cultural labor thus underlining even further the importance of not only main-
taining but broadening women's income-generating opportunities and of improving
women's incomes through technical training. In the case of a high prevalence
of female-headed households, another important development intervention would
be the introduction of appropriate technology that would decrease the time
spent in household activities such as, the availability of clean water in a
near-by area, the planting of trees around the village for available firewood,
or the availability of a primitive and simple means for transporting goods.
Such interventions would tend to diminish women's work overload and to break the
intergenerational poverty cycle (through which women's work overload is trans-
ferred on to their daughters) thus allowing young girls to attend school (Safilios-
Cell D in the typology includes rural regions and communities in Middle-Eastern
and Latin American countries in which most or a large number of households
are near landless or have small holdings. In this case, in the Cell D
in which the percentage of female-headed households is low, women are un-
paid family workers and occasionally agricultural or nonagricultural wage
laborers. Some of the same strategies with those proposed for Cell C
would also apply here such as, the appropriate technology for making wo-
men's agricultural tasks faster, easier and more efficient, the need to
train women in modern agricultural practices and technology and the devel-
opment of nonagricultural income-generating opportunities for women. In
addition to other labor using innovations that are advisable for both Cells
C and D, the introduction of livestock and gardens to be attended by women
would be an appropriate way to improve family nutrition and women's incomes
as long as technical assistance and credit are at the same time available
to women. Both of the latter conditions are facilitated through the train-
ing of women as agricultural extension agents who would tend to contact wo-
men more often than men have done up to now; the sex role awareness training
of men agricultural extension workers to overcome their sex role stereotypes
and prejudices about women farmers and the provision of occupational incen-
tives for agricultural extension workers' contacts and service to women far-
mers; and the establishment of some type of women's collective organization
that would allow women to be eligible for credit increasingly available to
women's productive groups. In Honduras, for example, for the first time in
the winter of 1981 the National Bank of Development made a small sum of
$250,000 available for loans to organized groups of women which had devel-
oped a specific plan of collective income-generating activities.
In regions and communities in which the percentage of female-headed
households is high all the above strategies are the same only even more
urgently needed but in addition, appropriate technology that decreases
the time-consuming household tasks of women are necessary in order to alle-
viate daughters of the cost they pay in terms of foregoing schooling in
order for their mothers to be able to be actively involved in agricultural
and other income-oriented tasks.
When, on the other hand, land is not scarce and the percentage of
landless households is very low and labor is scarce as is true for many
Sub-Saharan African countries (Cell B), the majority of women are either
unpaid family workers and occasionally seasonal agricultural wage laborers
or farm managers in small independent holdings. The prevalence of female-
headed households further differentiates the type of roles played by women
in agriculture, farm management prevailing when the percentage of de facto
or permanent female-headed households is high as, for example, is true for
many rural districts'of Kenya, Botswana, Swaziland. Whether the percentage
of female-headed households is higher not since the majority of agricultu-
ral work for food as well as for cash crops is performed by women, a criti-
cal development strategy is the revamping of the existing agricultural
extension service so as to provide women with agricultural information and
services. This strategy is of course even more important when the percent-
age of female-headed rural households and women managed farms is high since
otherwise agricultural productivity may be seriously hampered. This goal
may be achieved by training more women agronomists and agricultural exten-
sion agents since there is evidence from Botswana that women agricultural
agents are quite successful and very well accepted by male and female farmers
(Fortman, 1978). But since the training of women agricultural agents
is a long term project, it is necessary to sensitize men agricultural agents
by providing them with facts counteracting prevailing sex stereotypes about
women farmers being l-ss progressive and innovative than men,
not being able to understand as well as men the complexities of modern agri-
cultural inputs and practices, and being less productive
than men. Such a sensitization (awareness) training should be accompanied
by a restructuring of occupational rewards so as to make contacts with and
services rendered to women farmers (with small farm holdings whether they
are managers or farm wives) a desirable and a rewarded behavior.
For rural areas in societies in Cell C, all types of labor-saving
technology are both appropriate and beneficial as long as they save equally
men's and women's labor. The same type of farm equipment that may displace
agricultural laborers in societies in Cell B and create grave labor absorp-
tion problems, can be greatly beneficial in societies in Cell C. The intro-
duction of rice-husking machines which are detrimental to women wage labor-
ers in Bangladesh and Indonesia can be quite beneficial for women farmers
in Sub-Saharan African countries since it frees them for other farming and
marketing activities. When, however, labor-saving agricultural equipment
is introduced that only saves men's labor, imbalances may occur in terms
of women's work overload. The introduction, for example, of tractors has
facilitated men's j6b of land clearance and has freed them to take advantage
of nonagricultural wage labor but as much more land becomes available for
cash crops in which women contribute their labor for the most time-consuming
tasks, the lack of labor-saving technology that could make women's agricul-
tural tasks faster and easier increases their already heavy work overload.
Similarly, the introduction of high yield varieties and/or crop diversifica-
tion often results in more work for women (Carr, 1979). It is, therefore,
essential that labor-saving technology for women's agricultural tasks are
developed so they make women's work faster and easier and that women learn
how to repair this technology themselves.
Furthermore, time budget studies in Sub-Saharan societies belong-
ing to Cell B show that women have a heavy work overload because in addition
to agricultural labor they have households and childcare responsibilities.
In Upper Volta, for example, men and women spend equal total time in diff-
erent food and cash crop productive activities but women spend much more
time than men (3 hours versus 15 minutes) in food storage and processing,
marketing and water and fuel supply activities with result much less time
for personal needs or free time to visit and talk (McSweeney, 1979). In
these societies it is, therefore, also crucial that labor-saving technology
that decreases women's time spent in very time-consuming household activi-
ties such as, water and fuel supply and food processing is introduced in
order to allow women to participate in modernizing agricultural efforts
and be productive without their daughters paying the cost for their agri-
cultural productivity (Safilios-Rothschild, 1980; Carr, 1979). The
availability of clean water near by savesconsiderable time for the women
in different communities of Kenya, they tend to use most of the time
saved in farming (Whiting and Krystall, 1979). It is important, however,
that when the use of pumps is necessary, that the women are taught how to
use them properly as well as how to repair them so that their deDendence on
men for such repairs is not increased (Carr, 1979).
Regardless of the type of society, small landholdings, whether only
subsistence or mixed subsistence and income-earning oriented increasingly
encounter greater difficulties surviving, especially as agriculture is
becoming modernized. Many hard questions can be and have been asked about
their viability or the desirability of their viability since they cannot
afford the additional c-qst of modern agricultural inputs and have difficul-
ties in competitively marketing cash crops because they cannot take advan-
tage of scale economies which favor larger farms (Harrison and Shwedel,
1974; Palmer,1972). All modern agricultural and marketing method-
ology has been developed with larger farms in mind and increasingly economies
of scale in personnel, equipment and distribution leads to the integration
of the supply of fertilizers and pesticides to the supply of seeds controlled
by very large multinational companies. The economic interest of these compa-
nies lies in the mass development of a few lines of seeds and packages of
modern agricultural inputs based on the needs of large farmers rather than
in trying to meet the diverse needs of small farmers who often have to cope
with adverse environments (Palmer, 1972). It is,therefore, imperative that
small farmers find ways to improve their viability by spreading the risks
in nonagricultural as well as agricultural productive activities (Palmer,
1980)and that alternative ways to take advantage of scale economies are devised
that would allow them to benefit from intensifying and modernizing farming. The most
promising way for small farmers to take advantage of scale economies in the
utilization of modern agricultural inputs and agricultural technology as well
as in securing better marketing outlets is the establishment of cooperatives
of small farmers only (Harrison and Shwedel, 1974).
The difficulties of small farms are many times multiplied when they
are managed by women and in this case, the cooperative way is probably the
only way for women small farmers to survive and to be productive and even
to some extent competitive with larger farmers. Here again a prevailing
stereotype among policy makers and planners has been that women do not want
and cannot work well With each other and, therefore, women's cooperatives
will suffer from even more problems than all cooperatives of low-income rur-
al people in LDC's. This stereotype, however, does not seem to be founded
on facts. Even in countries such as India and Bangladesh in which there
has not been a tradition of women's collaborative efforts, the establish-
ment of women's rural cooperatives on a firm basis has been quite success-
ful when certain conditions were satisfied such as, the establishemnt of
cooperatives only for women so that they are not dominated by men as is
true for mixed-sex cooperatives (Dixon, 1978; McCarthy, 1978; Greeley, 1979;
Somjee and Somjee, undated). In India, it was found that the importance of
all-women dairy cooperatives lay in the fact that it gave women the opportunity to
learn managerial skills and to hold managerial positions but also in that
productive cooperatives run entirely by women clearly establish the fact
that the income is gained by women. Thisrecognition that the income is
gained by women helps them in turn control this income, dispose it and re-
invest it without interference from their husbands (Somjee and Somjee, un-
dated). Another important condition for the establishment of cooperatives
which can successfully benefit and be controlled by low-income rural women
instead of becoming dominated by women with larger farms is the requirement
of contributions of physical labor for membership, a requirement not compa-
tible with the higher status of better-off women (Greeley, 1979).
In Honduras, the organization of the Housewives Clubs by the Church
helped make women aware that they could join forces and work together and
collectively increase their effectiveness and productivity and gave them
some organizational and entrepreneurial skills. Even after these clubs were
dissolved, rural women used their experience by initiating themselves or
by readily responding to the promotoras sociales effort to organize them in-
to collaborative groups. At present in many asentamientos created by the
agrarian reform there are organized groups of women (usually with a presi-
dent and a treasurer) with a variety of productive agricultural projects
such as, sericulture, livestock, gardens and grain production. These groups
of women have existed for a number of years, usually from the beginning of
the formation of the asentamiento, and its members strongly identify with
the group even when they have encountered great difficulties in obtaining
technical assistance or credit to effectively realize their productive plans.
In practically all of these groups, women have pulled together their very
meager resources and in some cases, with little and only occasional help
from promotoras sociales (and in a very few cases help from an agronomist)
have been able to successfully launch a small productive agricultural pro-
ject. The provision of technical assistance and credit'to these already
formed and functioning groups of women could increase by many times pro-
ductivity and improve low-income women's (and their family's) income as
well as nutritional status.
In most Sub-Saharan African countries, there is a long tradition of
women's associations and groups for a variety of purposes from social to
economic. The most frequent type have been self-initiated rotating credit
groups in which the women make regular contributions to a fund which is
given to one of them in rotation, except in case of emergency when a woman
is given priority in the distribution (Lewis, 1976). Similar rotating
credit groups can be found, however, in Korea included in the "Mothers'
Clubs", in Malaysia ("Kootoo" or "Tontin") and Indonesia ("arisan") (Buvinic,
Sebstad and Zeidenstein, 1979).
In some Sub-Saharan African countries, rural women's groups and associ-
ations have undertaken specific productive or marketing purposes as is true,
for example, for Ghanaland Kenya and have become cooperatives or officially
registered groups eligible for technical assistance from the government. In
the 1978 Legon Conference on Women and Development, it was reported that in
Northern Ghana women agricultural laborers are organized in work gangs with
a woman as a gang leader who negotiate their wages and other work conditions.
In Kenya, rural women in several areas have successfully organized into offi-
cially registered groups and have made the significant step toward a truly
collaborative productive investment of their pulled resources over time ra-
ther than the individual use of pulled resources over a short time.
In the Mraru rural area in Kenya, for example, women from several
villages organized to form a club, pulled their resources together and managed
to buy a bus to-transport goods to the market. They were extremely successful
in securing loans in order to buy it and later on in reinvesting and diversifying
their productive investments in goats and in a store as well as seeking and securing
governmental technical assistance and hired professional expertise (Kneerim,
1980). A very important feature of this cooperative undertaking was the
fact that the productive investment and the resulting profits were collective
thus, allowing women to take advantage of scale economies rather then using
pooled resources for individualized productive projects which tend to be much
smaller and, hence, much more vulnerable.
There is, however, another level of collective cooperation between wo-
men's groups and cooperatives which has not been sufficiently experimented
yet, namely the horizontal and vertical integration of women's cooperatives
and organized groups. Horizontal integration would involve the cooperation
between same type women's productive, credit, or marketing organized groups
or cooperatives in the same district, state or region possibly leading to
national representation and influence. Thus, horizontal integration of same
type women's collectivities allows them to maximize the benefits from scale eco-
nomies, to increase the scope of their undertakings and, therefore, their
access to governmental technical assistance, credit and training opportuni-
ties as well as their power within their communities and their ability to
participate in the political decision-making. Vertical integration would in-
volve the cooperation between different types of women's organized groups or
cooperatives including rural women's productive collectivities, women's groups
or cooperatives serving as middlewomen between rural production and marketing
in the urban areas, and urban women's marketing cooperatives. This type of
integration would allow rural women to avoid the exploitation on the part
of middlemen and to increase their profits by better responding to current
and changing market demands and requirements (Lele, 1981). Vertical and
horizontal integration of women's collectivities would make it possible for
women to truly become integrated in the development efforts of their countries
and to become a powerful voice in development planning.
Women's bureaus and women's national associations could play a crucial
role in facilitating, in experimenting with a variety of ways and in evaluat-
ing attempted schemes of horizontal and vertical integration of women's groups
and cooperatives. Their role, however, would have to be one providing an expertise,
stimulation, and facilitation rather than a leading role in that they would have
to be willing to train women from rural and urban cooperatives to become lea-
ders and representatives of their coalitions. Despite this, the channelling
of the efforts, talents and funds of women's bureaus and associations in this
direction wou'd be much more productive and effective than:i-n the direction
of proliferation of small productive projects for rural women.
In concluding, it is important to underline that the extension of agri-
cultural, technological and cooperative training, agricultural credit and
agricultural information and services to women; the development of appropriate
technology that can decrease time spent by women in household duties and of
appropriate technology than can make women's agricultural labor faster, easier
and more productive; and the maintenance as well as broadening, mainstreaming,
and improvement of rural women's agricultural and nonagricultural income-gen-
erating opportunities are essential for several reasons. Namely, they are
important in order to: (a) increase agricultural productivity; (b) increase
the income and food availability especially to low-income rural households;
(c) diminish existing and widening social inequalities between larger and
smaller farmers as well as the landless (since the prevalence of the second
category is usually much higher among rural female-headed households); (d)
diminish existing and widening sex inequalities between male and female farmers
and male and female agricultural laborers; and (e) help retain women in rural
areas and in land cultivation and diminish the accelerating rate of female
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Land Scarcity (High Percentage of Landless) No Land Scarcity (Low Percentage of Landless)
Percentage of Female-Headed Households Percentage of Female-Headed Households
High Low High Low
I II III IV
Kenya Upper Volta
Bangladesh India Syria
Brazil Indonesia Morocco
Jamaica Honduras Jordan
V VI VII VIII