Title Page
 Diagram 1

Title: The role of women in modernizing agricultural systems
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081838/00001
 Material Information
Title: The role of women in modernizing agricultural systems
Physical Description: 30 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Safilios-Rothschild, Constantina, 1934-
United States -- Agency for International Development. -- Office of Women in Development
Publisher: U.S. Agency for International Development?
Place of Publication: Washington D.C.?
Publication Date: 1981
Subject: Agricultural innovations   ( lcsh )
Women in agriculture   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 26-30.
Statement of Responsibility: Constantina Safilios-Rothschild.
General Note: "Paper prepared for WID/AID under AID grant OTR-147-80-97."
General Note: "May 1981."
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Full Text
.- 4



Constantina Safilios-Rothschild
The Pennsylvania State University

Paper Prepared for WID/Aid Under
AID Grant OTR-147-80-97

May 1981

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

Constantina Safilios-Rothschild
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
the author.


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,

1979 a).

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

rural households;

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

nonagricultural work.
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-

Rothschild, 1980).

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

rural-urban migration resulting from the unrewarding, harsh and unaided struggle

of women to make a living from agriculture for themselves and their children

(Palmer, 1980; Chaney and Lewis, 1980).



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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



Kenya Upper Volta

Botswana flali


C/ y
Bangladesh India Syria

Brazil Indonesia Morocco

Jamaica Honduras Jordan




Hi gh


Supply -

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