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.
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!
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
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.
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...
S: ... was, sEAw, not functioning. [laughter]. Didn't
work. But anyway, we did prove that women farmers could be
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.
S: And can they do new and innovative things? Of course,
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?
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.
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
S: So, youqElw, that was just on the female extension
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...
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.
S: I did the anthropometry stuff later. Nutrition,
R: What's anthropometry?
S: Oh, we'll get to that.
S: Yes. It's actual physical measurements'.
S: .. of peoplec-Yes
S--y... and health.
R: Yes. Yes.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
S: Like weeding, like planting, land preparation,
planting, weeding, second weeding, fertilization, y gw, in
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.
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.
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
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
S: So, for example, I said, "Well, how many women are
getting credit?" "Oh, there are so many." I said, "Oh, yeah? Who
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."
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
S: You know, things have been sort of messed up and it's
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.
S: And it was going to be monitored and counted on these
national reporting formats, and it was an import?4 awoen,) 4
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: 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.
S: They weren't.
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.
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]
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
[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.
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]
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
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
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. -
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?
S: And I made a point of finding out what had happened to
the credited particularly. They went from five women
participating to 35 percent of the creditors, and making credit
available to 175,000 women rv 7i< cY~C^ c
S: The interesting comparison is that women's programs...
I almost had women's programs totally plugged into mainstream
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 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
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?
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,...
S: ... and, therefore, I wasn't going to be able to
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?
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.
S: And I knew that he was brilliant.
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
S: See that?
S: Those were my training materials.
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.
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