Title: Washoe ethnographer Anita Spring transcription of taped interview
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086724/00007
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Title: Washoe ethnographer Anita Spring transcription of taped interview
Physical Description: Archival
Creator: Spring, Anita
Publisher: Spring, Anita
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Bibliographic ID: UF00086724
Volume ID: VID00007
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Full Text

Anita Spring

CHRONICLER : Anita Spring

INTERVIEWER : Meredith (Penny) Rucks

DATE : 1/17/99

TAPE : 7

SUBJECT : Washoe Ethnographers

TRANSCRIBER : Linda Sommer

AUDIT-EDITOR : Penny Rucks

Anita r ing: e it's n a defect....

Meredith Pe y) Ruc OK. No, it's ne.

S: Could I take the male researchers from the research

station who knew a lot of these things and the male extension

agents who were interested and knowledgeable about agriculture,

because the female ones were just busy cooking scones, into the

field with me to interact and work with these women? It was a

tongue-in-cheek question, because I was pretty sure I could.

R: Yes.

S: But everybody said, "Oh," you know, "men can't work

with women." There're so many suspicions [laughter]. V. A WnAw

F ^ ^ep ge tiO e. And I kept saying, "Well, golly, it's

agriculture, not family planning, for god's sake."


Anita Spring 7-2

R: Right. Right.

S: Yes. But anyway, have you ever watched a cooking

program and then tried to make the product?

R: Yes. Oh, yes.

S: Yes. Without writing anything down?

R: Right. [laughter]

S: [laughter]It doesn't quite turn out the same.

R: Right. Right.

S: And I tell you, that first round of trials... I mean,

some people planted absolutely incorrectly. Som~ e-fle .. (e of

the women used the stick that was supposed to go across between

ridges, to go down.

R: Oh, down.

S: I mean, the amount of work she did was extraordinary!

R: Yes.

S: Chickens ate some of the seed.somsm very ynung- omen,

eirghe~T I have photographs of all of them and all of their

fields which I show in this presentation. One woman was such a

fabulous farmer that her crop was much better than the research

station. You'- en, it hbd..._t was from A through de

R: Across the board, yes.

S: It was across the board in terms of results. And I also

Anita Spring 7-3

concluded that demonstrating something was extremely different

and extremely difficult an d extremely ~i m from people

really comprehending and being able to replicate those kinds of


R: Yes.

S: So that we needed something much more controlled the

next year. And so my agronomist worked on the-project the next

year, and he had these women practicing first in a communal area

just various techniques. And as soon as he was convinced that

they understood all these things, Jt=-. -they received the inputs

and then did it on their own individual plots, and their own

individual plots were measured and oriented so that they... we

were actually testing something and not letting it, ya. knw, go

to these sort of random, happenstance things.

R: Right.

S: Unfortunately, the second year the rhizobium production

at the research station failed, because somebody S = r unplugged

the refrigerator or something like that, and the rhizobium for

the whole country...

R: Yeek.

S: ... was, sEAw, not functioning. [laughter]. Didn't

work. But anyway, we did prove that women farmers could be

Anita Spring

contacted by male extension workers, for instance, and that they

could learn tha.- -tc. ou-=k .- can t~y-ean scientific

agriculture? Of course, they can.

R: Yes.

S: And can they do new and innovative things? Of course,

they can.

R: Yes.

S: And we even took it a step further: Could the female

extension workers in their next refresher course actually have

some agricultural content added to it?

R: Yes.

S: And so we changed the curriculum. jT a__a, ne thing

just led to the next, And there was just no stopping.

R: Yes. Now, how many years were you in the country?

S: Just two.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: Bt ~^-^- -w -o.. and I've been back twice. There was

absolutely no stopping the process and me, _-gues.- in terms of

evuy-- ng ra m~w3, .... Let's just do the thing of the

female extension workers first, because their whole curriculum

had to be revamped.

R: Right.


Anita Spring

S: The training that they were getting before we got there

had to be revamped. Their methodologies for working with the

women in the villages had to be revamped. Their job descriptions

therefore had to be rewritten. Their reporting formats therefore

had to be changed. Theia .. the policy governing them had to be


R: Yes.

S: So, youqElw, that was just on the female extension


R: Right.

S: Thirty percent of the places in new training courses in

all these projects then had to be reserved for women farmers,

instead of having their own segregated courses, which gave them,
+'ai (I I i 1/ '-
yp-cw very rudi metrification in needles, a0=e ee-to

[laughter] knitting needles, as opposed to anything useful. So it

was a real spinoff.

R: So you integrated the farming.

S: Integrated all... yes. That was all integrated. Now,
then, at the same time, I was very convinced that it was

important to have statistical data on what was happening, both as

the baseline and as a springboard for change. So working with...

and this was very early on in the beginning of this project...


Anita Spring

working with the Ministry of Agriculture. They had just collected

a massive survey of seven thousand households stratified

throughout the country. It was funded by the World Bank.

Beautifully collected survey. I could find nothing wrong with it,

really. In which they had enumerators live in the... t1k -. I

think it had about fifteen different instruments collected... '

Connected with i;e- m garden survey, yield survey; there was

even anthropometry in it, or nutrition, rather.

R: Yes.

S: I did the anthropometry stuff later. Nutrition,


R: What's anthropometry?

S: Oh, we'll get to that.

R: OK.

S: Yes. It's actual physical measurements'.

S: .. of peoplec-Yes

their growth...

S--y... and health.

R: Yes. Yes.


Anita Spring

S: Ain d 1 -si--TI was at an initial meeting with people

from the Qentral statistical Office. And all the enumerators--

eight of them--because there were eight... everything was in


R: Yes.

S: Eight agricultural development divisions--as to how

they were going to analyze.. The data were all collected ,-

They'd had enumerators responsible for twenty households in each

village, so there were, yu-k-now, 340 enumerators or something--

all men. And I had copies of the protocols, and I said, "I

propose that you look at question X that has the name of the

household head" because these were already in the questionnaire

form. Yovun-ow,j he protocols are all printed. "And question Y

that says relationship of the household head to the next,"

because they always list the head, like the husband, and if the

next was the wife?

R: Oh, OK.

S: CrT And so I said, "OK. And you'll be able to tell by

putting those data in whether the head is a male or a female."

R: Right. a )_ '

S: "And we'll def' ." Ad -we -htd-t-his. Lhe Central
t rim /e rs
statistical officee had this definition that the household was


Anita Spring

female-headed, and they needed this for the data collection, if

the man did not return, even once in a month. So-kEe had a--..

a1dhey had all kinds of definitions of what... who was the

head...What was the household? I mean, very meticulous in its

conceptualization and just quite amazing data. And I said, "Well,

yE5ew, if you use this methodology, program it into the

computer, that should give us some data on female heads of

households." Lo and behold, they did it.

R: Yes.

S: It was the first table that the entral-_statistical

ifice printed out in err preliminary analysis of the results

of this household survey. And it showed that the percentage of

female household heads in the country of Malawi was something

like 30 percent.

R: Wow.

S: Tt... and it varied from an occasional... because it

was... in each of the eight ADDs, they were then subdivided by

project unit. So there were about five in each ADD. So add that

all together, adtcowJ, about thirty-five or forty different

subcategories, where every part of the country was covered. And

the survey of these seven thousand had been carefully



Anita Spring

R: Wow.

S: ... into this whole thing to be a really good survey.

S: >Just fabulous. And there were a couple places where it

was only 15 percent, but there were places where it was 45

percent! So that data just blew everybody's mind.

R: Right.

S: And it was their own data.

R: Right! [laughter]

S: [laughter] So I started using that methodology of

trying to dig out all this statistical data. Malawi was this

incredible country in terms of fabulous collection of data, an

empiricist tradition, never losing data. They didn't analyze it a

whole lot.

R: Right.

S: But they were marvelous in designing collection of

data, in carrying it out, and in not losing the stuff,...

[laughter] and in compiling it.

R: Yes.

S: They were miserable in analysis. But the other parts of

the process were extraordinary and I could have access to all of

it. And I could get people to do things, like the whole central


tatistical (fice to change t)eP computer format so that

everything is now printed out in terms of male and female heads

of households.

R: Yes. Yes. Wow. Yes.

S: Yes. It was just sort of amazing stuff. OK. And then

feed policy makers back this kind of data, because there... 4n-

ka3f people are very keen on quantitative data.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: Very keen.

R: Yes.

S: So that was another methodology that was usedasar

PO... And the book has about a hundred tables in it. It's

actually a whole subnational data set. And I also found that

before they did these projects, they had carried out something

called agro-economic surveys, in which they had enumerators live

in the villages, and they had gender- and age-disaggregated labor

charts by numbers of hours worked.'..

R ----W ow .

S: per crop, per crop operation.

R: Really!

S: Like weeding, like planting, land preparation,

planting, weeding, second weeding, fertilization, y gw, in

Anita Spring


Anita Spring 7-11

the right order for the crop, harvesting, S__ kno And I

found that in something like twenty-one of the fifty-three

surveys that had been done over U-al=.. the previous decade or

so, there were gender-disaggregated data of a very significant

nature on crop..a task j~CO, crop by task, by category of

worker. I mean, just extraordinary stuff, which I compiled all

together and, of course, gave it back to the policy makers...

S: .. and then started to map out the entire farming

systems of the country, area by area.

R: Yes.

S: And that was done conceptually from, youagw, all

those data but, at the same time, carrying out these farming

system surveys with teams of Malawi professionals, who would get

some instruction first on how to do it.

R: Right.

S: And then, jycarn, surveying, J3i surveying what was

happening in the rice scheme, surveying the maize production, _sr

yfp-ko, combing the records of all these agricultural

development divisions and their projects. I=teatt ~t was


R: Yes.

Anita Spring

S: It was really extraordinary. And then using these

methodologies.... Every time I found anything that worked,

running back to the ministry and saying, "Hey! Let's do it this


R: Yes.

S: So, for example, I said, "Well, how many women are

getting credit?" "Oh, there are so many." I said, "Oh, yeah? Who
A -
are they?" [laughter] So go to the local area, talk the extension

worker, say, "How m&M-" y o:ZCow. "There're so many." "Well,

-what are their names?" And sitting there with the lists of all

the names, hundreds of names, and going through them one by one

and making a column and checking off whether they were male or


R: Wow. Yes.

S: And then we found out there were 3 out of 150,...

[laughter] who were female. Yes, "there were so many". And I

said, "Ah-hah! In order to change the situation, we have to know

exactly how many there are."

R: Yes.

S: created these formats, taught people how to do it. They

collected the data, because, ~geaRi, there's no way I could do

that for the whole country. And the names didn't mean anything to


Anita Spring

me. I1eC, I couldn't tell whether they were males or females,-.-

e na n...I= E ?~c-Om,- ,- So we collected our

data a4i-f-n -ay .-- -may-in the three sites, three locations,

maybe more. And it was something like 5 percent for the whole

country. And so I said, "Well, u4;F-l This is not very good."

R: Yes.

S: And I found out the whole mechanism by which women

could or could not be members of farmers' groups to get the

credit and what was political ngg terms of group formation

and networking and all those good things.

R: Yes.

S: So I had that kind of ethnographic data...

R: Yes. And how did you do that? Did you train people to

collect the data?

S: _.I did that.JtI talked to people.6 -that stuff I

did a lot myself, because I wouldn't have trusted other people's

opinions on it. Iseg-, I had a million opinions. But I really...

I talked to people; asked them myself on that kind of stuff.

R: Yes.

S: So then I said, "Ah-hah! What I'm going to do is I'm

going to write a technical circular." I had been using all their

technical circulars, like, How to Grow Soybeans. Those were my


Anita Spring

first! [laughter]

R: Yes.

S: I.. like Gladys#, I was brushing up ,

yes-g how to do these things. So I said, "I'm going to write

a technical circular." And the technical circulars were always of

thbek> .-te r-e kindcf.zf .r1, how to control some kind

of plant disease. Or how to increase the yield of such and such.

But that was the nature of them, and I had a whole series of

them. Arrd=ER I had them here, because I had to pull them

out the other day [gets circular out to show]. But that was the

one I wrote.

R: Reaching Female Farmers through Male Extension Workers.

S: Reaching Female Farmers through Male Extension Workers.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: OK. And that was the first, how shall we say, social

science technical circular [laughter] in the country of Malawi.

And its publication was announced in the newspaper, and it was

distributed to every extension worker in the country. And the

photographs are their photographs, not mine. And the content

was... it took a long time to kind of get that through. And

people wanted to... especially the mid-range people, because that

was a huge policy thing. And I finally had to go to the top, the


deputy minis~ ior whatever... principal secretary to get it

approved. And he was very supportive of it.

R: I love the back.... It's a good picture.

S: Yes. The woman who.... That was an award for good

farmers. Well, yo-kno we could find women in every category.

Jtei,;a here's a picture of women and plowing in there. That was

their photograph. I combed their archives in terms photos. They

had a huge photographic library. And I thought, y -kw, "I'm

definitely going to use their stuff, not mine," in terms of


But that particular document then went out everywhere. So

that was the first thing. S.c-eld 'tT ause-i- ..

Let me just say one more word about that.

R: Yes.

S: I realized early on that the only way to get something

done in a hierarchical system was to have people at the top tell

people to do it. And the people at the top oa 1.....BS could

take risks; they could be innovative. They could do things that

were being done elsewhere that were, -'Ems, the new things.

People in the middle were terrified, because they were squeezed,

y~-~i a from the top and they could not take decisions of an

independent nature.


Anita Spring

Anita Spring

R: Yes.

S: And they were very much afraid of rocking the boat. I'm

always terrified to deal with middle-range people myself, at the

present time as result of this, because they are true


R: Right. If they're let... right.

S: And they are so terrified. People at the lowest levels

certainly can't do anything like that, but they can tell you why.

They can say, "Well, that's not my job," or, "I only do A, B, and

C." And so they're very clear as to why they can't do it. They

know. Whereas people in the middle, whb.eA- they'll make

you believe that they're important, and yet they can't make those

kinds of decisions, and they're terrified of change.

R: Yes.

S: So I was beginning to understand that process, which

I think is extremely important in interventions and development

work and probably a large portion of why people in many parts of

the world... and I never thought of this in relation to the

Washoe, but I think we could probably run through that and come

up with some interesting conclusions.

R: Yes.

S: You know, things have been sort of messed up and it's


Anita Spring

very easy to kind of maintain messed-up programs and policies,

because the people who are actually the mid-range people who are

running them are terrified of change, and the low-level are just

carrying them out or just carrying out orders and so forth.

Well, anyway, to make a long story short I was also in the

Ministry of Agriculture one day when they were designing the new

handbook for extension and evaluation personnel on the credit

program. And this is really a peculiar story. I said, "Do you

have a ruler and a pencil?" Talk about high-tech. And I said, "I
lJrct^ fkS -t-ks
have great idea. Let's just...." This was the final copy or
something, the penultimate copy. So A--tek I just drew lines

down the pages, disaggregated it by gender there and on the

summary page, and, therefore, the entire data collection system

for the entire country was gender-disaggregated from the very

beginning when that new thing came out.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: So we put that together with the fact that it was

important to get women into the programs. And here was the method

and mechanism for doing so.

R: Yes.

S: And it was going to be monitored and counted on these

national reporting formats, and it was an import?4 awoen,) 4


Anita Spring

everyone knew women didn't default on their loans. They were the

best at repaying. It's just that nobody wanted to go talk to

them, because they could be accused, or, vgjaa, they didn't

think it was important, or they had so many, yji -eh three of

them or something. W&=7 m-a-de.cae.. -the'i cTm,, _tL

R: And because... for the tape, I just need to clarify

that the extension publication on reaching female farmers was the

mechanism to deliver the innovation of reaching women.

S: Right.

R: Yes.

S: Several innovations. It was a mechanism to deliver

credit, in-kind inputs, technical assistance, and~Jftes.mad one

other thing should be mentioned: if the female extension agents

had been trained in agriculture, they could have done it.

R: Yes.

S: They weren't.

R: Yes.

S: If they had been connected to the credit system, they

could have done it, but they weren't connected. They never gave

out credit. And if there had been a critical mass of them, they

could have done it. But there were only at that point about

200... 150, 200 female extension agents for the entire country.


Anita Spring

R: Yes.

S: Poorly trained, not connected to credit, and not doing

agriculture, in spite of the fact that they were in the Ministry

of Agriculture. [laughter]

R: Yes.

S: Whereas there were twenty-one hundred [2,100] male

extension workers,-whose job it was to give out credit and

provide agricultural input and technical assistance to farmers.

Well, it had all mostly been male farmers up until that point. So

there was no way to rely on the female staff, but at the same

time, they had to be recapacitated.... That's why I had to work

on their curriculum and upgrading that.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: They were not particularly interested.

R: I was going to ask you....

S: Yes. That was a big problem.

R: Yes. Yes.

S: So they had to be motivated to be interested. -~t om

bgae,- yjH=hagy ey had to be focused on farming and rather

than knitting.


Anita Spring

P: Right.

[At this point this recording becomes muffled and distorted for

some reason and is difficult to understand.--L.S.][Anita: I have

filled in as best I can but this is the tape that we had so much 0

trouble with can you fill in blanks as best you can? -Penny]

R: Yes, they were recruited to do the knitting.

S: Yes. And liked it, many of them. And also, just the

numbers of them...there were very few, b~_egmpaisLMg~ of them for

the whole country

S:- And very scattered and spread out.

R: Yes.

S: I mean, sure most extension did not reach the majority

of farmers, but the fact that cauld only lgethe male farmers,(Ct" L-

C,' obviously, aggravated the problem [laughter]

R: Yes.

S: So that's why the whole methodo14' the realization was

that it was OK for male extension workerslto lso deal with

female clientele, and there were mechanisms for these things, for

working with groups, making decisions, for getting the headman to

call together, to call women in the area either as individuals or


Anita Spring

in groups, et cetera, et cetera.

R: And t s w that's also another part of how your

ethnographic and anthropological expertise contributed...

S: Absolutely. I had the ability to analyze the mechanisms

that were in place and to find out what worked and what didn't. I

found out, guess what? In some places male extension workers

worked out quite well already-this is before the whole thing

started--with the female farmers. How did they do it? So let's

find out how they did it, OK? I observed, I talked to people at

all levels. "How is it that you connected with, you connected

with three?"

R: Right.

S: "Well who are those three?" y.ggJpw- And then, "What

to you do with them? Are there any problems? What are the

problems?" I came at this, yekn with data of what worked

based on real life situations. And that's what I used to build a

model so that other people could use. -

R: Right.

S: Because I knew it was happening in some places. So this

went out to everybody, and... s3=m.r, I left Malawi

s r] I V t came back for a 170J &,- I ____

a-c p -i ,nd then came back in 1990 __ ____ in


the process q1 / i brother projects?

R: Yes.

S: And I made a point of finding out what had happened to
ikers I
the credited particularly. They went from five women
A /,
participating to 35 percent of the creditors, and making credit

available to 175,000 women rv 7i< cY~C^ c

R: Wow.

S: The interesting comparison is that women's programs...

I almost had women's programs totally plugged into mainstream


R: Yes.

S: And in the second round of project A-i s

yeIJniversity of Florida lost the contract,...

S: because the men in the College of Agriculture did

not think gender issues important.,, They did not even think

that the farming system r-e- c0^ the highest cz e=p3d.~aein $
QA asB. They were so focused on r v\ nO Or\C t n _t n

.. --'j those kinds of things, they omitted the

systems approach, they omitted the gender approach. And Oregon

State and the consortium it was associated with got the project.
acn- alcs he Cl 'o i/ C I-or
And also, the College of Agriculture... es, I have always

Anita Spring


Anita Spring 7-23

been in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and so...--ad
ruz S eG<^ Fcce^Zfc Ci 1,, :Ci-^- C /6 0 <
so they avoided.... To make a long story short,- i '-w-aei I
swear, ten minutes after the Oregon State... [laughter]... got
c'-Iec VVw-Q
the contract, that they... I mean, the next day they called me

up; would I do the training for their team now going to Malawi?

R: Yes. For Oregon? You mean Oregon State?

S: Yes.

R: Oh, man.

S: And I went... I said, OK. LJ 4 dC o -

R: Yes. i6 %JCA

S: Because I was so annoyed with the College of 7 /-

Agriculture here )4 f

S: ... and T 11m1.1 .1 --'' y --n ., that was just music to oJA./L

my ears t)- I felt...

R: Of course.

S: ... so badly that tle- lost it,...

R: Right.

S: ... and, therefore, I wasn't going to be able to

ersonallycontinue *.

R: Yes.

S: I said I wanted them to know some deep history of

Malawi, and would they hire Leroy VYa[s who was a visiting

professor at Harvard to also come?

R: Yes.

S: Besides, I was missing that stuff on African history!

R: So you needed....

S: [laughter] I needed it!

R: You needed the lecture.

S: I needed to listen to his lectures, because I'd never

have time to really get into the history of Malawi in the depth

that I knew I needed.

R: Yes.

S: And I knew that he was brilliant.

R: Yes.

S: They agreed.

R: How wonderful.

S: So I did most of the lectures for six days, and they're

all on tape, a video. And that fti- thi first pile on the

bottom with the red. C.&-ue

R: Yes.

S: See that?

R: Yes.

S: Those were my training materials.

Anita Spring


Anita Spring

R: Yes.

S: OK. So I started this methodology..- .dba-- -I... in

Malawi, then, when I was there, I did, ,Lq 5cZ three, four,

five training courses on women and development for agricultural

professionals. I have all the....

R: For Malawian agricultural professionals?

S: Yes. Both men and women. On what the topic is, what are

the techniques, and so forth. And I did the farming system stuff,

and I did the policy change stuff and the massive data collection

and the description of all the farming systems with the analysis

of all the quantitative data.

R: Yes.

S: OK. All those things. And the revision of women's

programs from home economics into women and agriculture and

changes in all the policies from,yfjt. sw, like national five-

year plans, those kinds of things. And the farming systems trials

and the farming systems mapping in terms of rapid appraisals.

End of Tape 7, No Side 2



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