CHRONICLER : Anita Spring
INTERVIEWER : Meredith (Penny) Rucks
DATE : 1/18 /99
TAPE : 8
SUBJECT : Washoe Ethnographers
TRANSCRIBER : Linda Sommer
AUDIT-EDITOR : Penny Rucks
Meredith (Penny) Rucks: This is January 18, continuing with
the interview with Anita Spring, and we're at Saint Augustine at
her house. [ape off, then on]
Anita Spring: After the training session, which people at
Oregon State were really very pleased with and I was very pleased
with, and as I said, they videotaped every session--I still have
those--they asked me to work with the woman who would be hired as
part of the project to go to Malawi and work with women's
programs and, in a way, continue on with the work that I had been
doing. And the woman they selected was an agronomist, and I was
absolutely tickled that they picked her when I saw her vita,
because -I. E-e -r S I was sort of masquerading as an
agronomist at times,...
S: ... as well as an anthropologist and policy person
sq-ueading in thoce t- p c ) But I thought
that, yFatAt&w, someone with ti- those other skills...
S: might be able to take it off in another direction.
- 4_1 ..... ...n asked if she could come to Gainesville, and I
said I would be very willing to work with her. I really cared a
great deal what happened in Malawi...
R: Oh, yes. Yes.
S: ... and follow-on to that project--I mean, passionately
cared. So I said I would make available to her, gefekgw, my
materials, that I would, 3yej w, be happy to work with her. To
make a long story short, I don't know the political thisses-and-
thats, but for some reason she could not go on that project--this
particular person whom I had spoken with on the telephone; I'd
seen her CV. And instead, they found another person, a home
R: Oh, my ....
S: And, of course, the home economists were the bane, as
far as I could ascertain, at least the traditional ones.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I'm not talking about people like, you know, Francine
Firebough p who's the dean of -uman ology at Cornell and
has turned that college around to modern times.
S: But the fairly traditional focus on the family, not
realizing that family means, you- a multitude of things,
depending on where you are on the planet.
R: Right. Right.
S: And I'm sure I don't have a proper, yeu w,
conceptualization of the modern aspects of the discipline. But,
nevertheless, they manifest enough of the old aspects of the
discipline in their public presentations and writings for =-
h4ak people to still think that they're doing, yu=saw, some
fairly arcane, archaic, and fairly low-level stuff, most of which
is very focused on the developed world.
S: And when it gets to the developing world, it's really
pretty watered-down stuff. And it's all, yogass.. for the
developed worlds.. developing world, it's all micro-enterprise
,aey lu- UA L4,
development of the most micro sort.
R: Part of the economy. Another marginal....
S: Yes. Very, very.., very marginalized, very low-level,
S: ... really low-tech kinds of endeavors. And so to make
a long story short, they hired someone else--a very pleasant
woman, I might add--and she went to Malawi. And, for example,
instead of the head of women's programs going off to get her
master's degree in horticulture, which is what... yoigknrw, the
idea of having the technical assistant who was going to replace
her, the Ph.D. from America, so she could go off as part of the
project training and get an advanced degree.
S----- Yg. Th t... instead of going in horticulture, which
was her desire--she already had a five-year... i =w--a-F- v-y ar
degaxe,-bachelor's, from the allege of Agriculture in Malawi
called Bunda[gf College of Agriculture--she got it in
S: J. Which is a much meeker, softer, yi >,...
Anita Spring 8-5
S: ... feminine discipline, quite frankly. And when it
came time for her to do her master's thesis, she did it on the
development of these women-specific, micro-enterprise development
projects, which was just really basically one step up from the
very low-level, yoQkq-H, "Let's get some women's groups together
and show them... yo~ra a. We'll get thirty women, and they'll
S: .'-and that'll be,--ggu zw, a technology for women."
R: Right. Right.
S: And it was pretty.. ==nas~r-g3---ezty much like that.
So they t had six pigs. I==eany it really it was at that
S: The terminology was IGAs--income-generating activities.
S: They actually didn't really use the word
microenterprise. They used income-generating activities. I'm
unaware of any income-generating activity, IGA, ever promulgated
on this planet for men, as a __^u comparison.
R: Right. Right.
S: So, unfortunately, what happened was that women's
programs, instead of integrating and sort of throwing its weight
Scout, which I thought I had built up with them for those
couple of years and for that...- fa ew, that publication I
S: ... Priorities for Women's Programs, in which we
redesigned, yggjpw, all the job descriptions, all the reporting
formats, all the curriculum and training for both women farmers
and for female extensions agents, and we even had a component for
male extension agents... in that, ya w. A-Ef r---
R: So that was not operationalized?
S: Not to its full extent. It was operationalized, but I
never got back there to measure it. Had I been doing the
monitoring evaluation, I could have answered you X that it was
S: -3 65 percent, o gss w, these were the aspects
that were carried out to the letter; these were ones that were
modified. u ,iow, l I have is an analysis that I made on two
S: .-. and it's not as detailed as I would have liked.
S: But they did operationalize quite a bit of it.
S: It's just not, ya-ks as much as I would have liked.
And so this notion that because the head of women's programs went
to United States for her master's degree in education... well, ag
education and extension instead of a production science, like
horticulture, she was disadvantaged and has continued to be...
S: .-.?in relation to the other male counterparts who were
heads of units and sectors and sections in the Ministry of
She's a very smart woman.
R: Do you think she was counseled to change her...
S: Oh, she was. She told me... when I went back, she told
me she had applied to horticulture and was accepted to
agriculture extension and education department at the university
at Oregon State.
S: So it had been changed by the people from Oregon State.
R: I see. I see.
S: They knew they were going to sponsor her. Her grades
were fine; yu=j 5w, she was the head of women's programs for the
country of Malawi in the Ministry of Agriculture. She was sharp
as a tack.
SS: She had all the credentials; she was the one who was
going to be sent.
-- She knew what she wanted to study.
SShe filled out the application, specifying
S: Yes. It's amazing.
S: So anyway, y, the reason I'm mentioning this in
such detail is that my goal for the women and the Wmen's
programs was to be in the mainstream of all activities that the
Ministry of Agriculture was doing. So the credit example that I
gave you was using the Ministry of Agriculture's entire credit
S: It wasn't "Let's have a program for women in place
... or "Let's just have a program for women...
S: .- that's separate." -g hat's what we mean by the
word mainstream or mainstreaming...
S.. an activity, as opposed to a woman-specific or
---.. or woman-segregated project or activity.
S: So my idea was .ye=-whether it was research, whether
i-ft qgg- g. p snw, extension workers, a-wad w=ey could work
with farmers of both genders.
R: And let me just clarify something, ltik is the
reason that this mainstreaming would have worked so well in
Malawi, is because you had so many female head of households by
S: No. No.
R: hat's noL...?
:-The female head of households had nothing to do with
S: They were leverage data that I used to say, "If you
don't help a third of the households in your country, if you
automatically don't reach them because they're female-headed,
you're going to have deficits...
S: ... of, you know, nutrition deficits, education
deficits, technology gaps, and so forth. No, they're just
ordinary, y know3 peasant people who have. '.. you"l'ry*re QuAL
out in the rural areas. They have no voice, zero.
R: Right. Right.
S: a But the idea was to take the agricultural
professionals and semi-professional staff members at every level
and redirect their whole programmatic efforts, because they were
trying to work with farmers, and eventually, I figured, they will
get to the female head of households.
R: Right. Right.
S: But they were just excluding them, and they were
excluding women in general.
S: And to start using mainstream methods with people who
were there on the spot. Because the female extension workers...
first of all, there were a few of them--they weren't there on the
spot, they weren't trained, and they weren't interested, and they
didn't deliver credit and inputs.
S: So, y Dko, a.-_e.- I think it's possible maybe five
hundred years from now they'll have all those skills, or a
hundred years. But -t wgB they did not, and they still don't.
Y ,e-r ey're moving toward that direction as a result of all
this, but they're not there yet.
But the others, the way the whole prd.. as I told you,
Malawi was divided into these programs and projects. They all
continued to operate, but they had only been targeting men, for
the most part. And mainstreaming women is to get the same
operations, the same machinery
PBji P-3ign- ^-
S: .--fim .-the institutional machinery, is what I mean,
to focus on women as well as on men.
S: The alternative to that [laughter] is to have the
income-generating activities only for women, with the notion
that... a 'hi ...-- women are brought together in groups; as a
group project, they, qaygss w, learn how to plant a particular
crop, or they learn how to raise some chickens, or they learn how
to market or process some commodity. It's unprecedented for men
to have to do something like this. I.aea-, jt just doesn't occur.
You don't get a group of men together and say, "OK. Y~achaw,
here are two pigs. You thirty men are going to raise these two
pigs, and then you're going to split the profits."
S: "And this is going to teach you, yg~wrk w, pig
S They would laugh.
S: They were all treated as individuals; each man was
.'. i. :: "
given two pigs. OK?
S: So that's the difference in scale. So there'd be sixty
pigs for thirty men and two pigs for thirty women.
S: And to just put that in real perspective, I went and
visited this one group of women who tw.-"were growing an
improved variety of maize, or corn. Call it maize in Africa.
S: And so because I was visiting--and this is typical--
they cooked a big meal, and they sang and danc4andi,2 u knew ..
Men don't cook a meal and sing and dance if you go look at their
S: And with... the singing and dancing is all very nice
and literally free, OK, but the meal part is not,...
S: .~,_4v_ --eow. I mean, to offer guests, a cooked chicken
and the whole thig and Coca-Colas, multiple bottles of Coca-
Cola, and, y.- k4new, biscuits and bread ..... ."--i- these L3t
Anita Spring 8-14
jazi- yZjjj for village women,4EL-w you know the
categories of food I'm talking about.
S: Much of it is purchased, and the rest is sort of
gourmet village food, the best they have to offer.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: There were costs. And, of course, I come with,,yees
-kram- the whole entourage of extension officers, who, y a_
proceed to gorge themselves on this lovely food that these women
should rightly have been eating themselves or feeding their
family. I mean, it's terrible!
S: It's just really terrible.
S: And they're put on the spot.... This is all over--not
just Malawi. This is all over the developing world.
S: I can't tell you how many times it's happened to me.
And they're very pleasant events, but I'm mostly sitting there
thinking, "My god--their families need this food, not me," and
certainly not all these extension agents .and government officials
who were, saa-kNeaw, especially the men, eating, y4=Es) s,
Anita Spring 8-15
quantities that are basically beyond belief.
S: So, of course, that happened. And I said, "OK. Why
don't you explain what this project is about?"
It turns out they had worked with a male extension agent in
the area. He said (and I spoke with him afterwards) he was going
to give them a new technology. $rt 1F w hey were growing local
maize, traditional maize, maize of the ancestors. He was going to
give them composite maize.
I said, "Well, excuse me. The research station and everybody
else in the country j_;growing hybrid maize," which is a better
yielding, especially if you're going to go to the trouble of
S: Composite maize needs a little bit, but... and hybrid
R: And input is like fertilizer....
S e. r...
S: ..r d.. yes, exactly.
S: i ...and improved seed, of course.
S: And he said, "Well, I was going to move them up
R: Oh. OK.
S: Q- L7wi,'his would never have happened. It never did
happen with male farmers. Nobody ever would have said, "I'm going
to give these male farmers composite maize." I mean, male farmers
5t7sR grew composite maize, but that's before the hybrid maize
S: ..T--nd many still continue to grow. It was an
intermediate- yielding product. But the idea that because they
were women,.. these women had farmed their entire lives.
S: I mean, it's not like they were taking a group of
urbanites and trying to teach....
R: Like us. [laughter]
S: Exactly. And trying...
S: ... like me in Zambia, trying to...
S: ... to teach the people how to farm. These were
experienced, mid-aged women, yia3a in their thirties,
forties, and fifties, who were farmers all their lives and had
grown technologypc-, which is to say, local maize, because
that's Bha-t---... thL's the seed they had, and plus a bunch of
other crops, ye=taw a large number. Excuse me. And instead of
just moving them right into hybrid maize, was giving them an
intermediate technology. It was horrifying. Not only that, I sat
there and costed it out in terms of productions costs. -_L----
They paid for tractor services; they had the sacks to put the
harvest in; they had to store them and so forth. And the village
elder, of course, had given them the land to practice on a tiny
piece of land.
S: These women were used to growing, ygiieyW, acres...
and acres worth! I--moean, you Lknoh.r- r lre were thirty of them
all together, or I think twenty-three or something in this
particular case. So I sat there: How much do they pay for
tractors? How much did they pay for the sacks? What did the
fertilizers cost? Did they pay for the seeds? I think they got
the seed. And what was their yield? OK? And then how many people
were in the group? And by the time I finished dividing... or
calculating, y5aQkm, what their production costs were,...
S: ... OK, what their yield was, and what it would sell
S: 7 and the number of people in the group, yukw,
each woman was going to make like a dollar, half of which had
been spent on the meal, which we had just consumed, with the
Coca-Colas and the biscuits and the X number of chickens. And
then they wonder why women lose interest.... A lot of these
things have a very short life. They'll last for a season or two
or maybe a couple of years, and then people say, "Well, look at
these women." Yetr4kiW. "They cannot do these technical things;
they can't stay with it."
S: And it has nothing to do with that. It's just that it's
a lot of their time. It might..-=d.& J 4u ft have been fun, but
it's useless as a livelihood enterprise.
S: Really amazingly useless. Anyway, so the reason I tell
you that story is because as a result of this home economist and
as a result of the head of women's programs...
R: Who did not come work with you, I gather--the home
R a. wa.a.
S I c-rn'-tfe-kowwhy ~s hdidi't.
E OKs But sher d-rro-f.-
S: She did not. Although I did get her reports and
everything, and that was made available to me. But... the woman,
the Malawian woman, who got her master's degree in ag
education... extension and education, her thesis was on these
income-generating activities. And by the time she came back and
finished that and worked with her staff, nationwide, to beef up
these IGAs, there were 578 women in the whole country involved in
the activities connected with women's programs. Whereas my credit
situation I told you yesterday was 175,000.
S: And, see, that had been my goal, to make all of the
operations similar to the one with credit.
S: What we did manage to accomplish was total
disaggregation by gender of every bit of data that wE- collected
in Malawi for the next decade. I do not know about the very
present, but t-- I can't imagine that they threw it by the
S: I would go to conferences all over the world...
different places. People would come up to me, and they would say,
"You know, I was in Malawi, and I was working in...," and they'd
name a place that I'd never been to. "And I found all this
S: "And when I ask people about it, they said you had
d,46 PV AArO f-
started this pro 4."' Ysenmew. So it sort of went everywhere for
everything, because Malawi, as a country, as I told you, had this
incredible empiricist tradition. And once they got the idea, they
would just keep going with it. So it was quite extraordinary. So
all of that--I mean, the country, gEss n, has maintained this--
all of that continued through time.
S: The credit program worked, and they did it themselves
after I started it, because, yet~-nno by the time I left, there
were still only 5... maybe it had gone up to 7 or 8 percent, and
then it just kept going up, up, up, up, up--35 percent of, ycv
kg. all input takers in the country were women. And the head of
it thought -1 it would go up to 40 percent.
R: Yes. What are input takers?
S: People who get credit, and the credit is in-kind input
like improved seed and fertilizer.
So those are called the iJZt,1Pi^-s
R: e e
S: ... e agricultural input$>
R: I see.
S: So..._& whereas women's programs had the 578 women in
the whole country [laughter], because they had gone off on the
R: When you say, "They had gone off," do you mean...
S: I mean, women's programs had gone off under the
guidance of the home economist provided by the USAID, U.S.
Government Technical Assistance Program to Malawi, and by the
fact that the women were channeled into getting their master's
degrees in these kinds of subjects,...
S: <-. opposed to being really comparable with the
7.. and getting t fnin the same production subjects.
They still would have come back and have...
R: Do you have any idea why?
S: Yes! Of course.
S: Yes. Had they gotten them in -m= -- the production
topics, they would have 9=-"rl come back and headed up their
units, but they would have been on a par with their male
colleagues intellectually and education-wise, but that was not
S: The reason is... well, 1=ean=-I have to confess that
I'm very prejudiced against home economists.
R: Well, that's all right....
S: I really am. They were, early on, in... both in our own
land grant systems and then subsequently in the developing world.
They were the women who were there as women professionals. And
they guided, y~gg g, women of America to do scientific domestic
housekeeping, while the men were the farmers.
S: And... yoFrHUGCn--An;-i-5 8y -_. it just turns on this
notion that men and women have a very different and specific
gender division of labor.
The other thing about the home economists, a lot of them
were educated, and they spent a lot of time protecting... and
they were in these posts, and they were salaried, and they had
spent a lot of time protecting their positions.
S: They also were often in a totally female environment
and in agricultural colleges across America and the world, they
were in their own separate departments, which they could
administer and have the curriculum on, and so they were...-tkag
M^^.considered safe and nonthreatening by their male colleagues.
But they were also very protective of their own prerogatives and
privileges, and they didn't integrate. I mean, te-= ---e- nar,
there weren't women in the agronomy department; there weren't men
in the home economics departmen...
S: ... -s a for instance.
_ad. -. t ci.-^e. ..
This is an entrenched pattern.
S: It's a very entrenched pattern.
S: And I'm sure there are lots of exceptions and good
people who are very forward-thinking. I do know a couple at the
University of Florida who, ah- T r-, thoey do a lot of the same
things that I do, and I have a great deal of respect for them.
And they know that the family is different in the United States
versus Malawi, [laughter] but...
S: most people don't.
S: And a lot of the home economists do not have a lot of
international experience or international experience outside the
context of home economics.
R: Well,-a .S, don't you think they also have the tiel.
: -- : : : : ..: : -: : :
t~ idea that any form of technology is better for a developing
country, and if it comes in a pattern that's a little foreign, so
what? That's part of the project, the process...
S: The process Yes.
R: ... of modernization.
S: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Z3, s, d y I so resent
women being talked down to or women being offered lesser
S: Yau-4Iw, he whole business in America of women
fearing mathematics, for example. I mean, it is so shocking. -9 ,
.having-be-atheattics was always easy for me, and having
been a math minor in college, I never personally could understand
it. But I have read and heard and listened to people long enough
to know that, i wgsJ w, it is an absolute reality.
R: But didn't your female friends at school say, "Oh, my
god, how can you do that?" I mean, was that...?
S: Oh, well, yes, of course.
S: Yes, of course. But can you imagine...? Now, take this
to its logical conclusion. If all girls in America were not even
offered the possibility of taking of geometry, algebra, and
k---S Because the majority of them didn't like math.
S: And that's what I'm talking about...
1': ? in terms of the developing world. To offer women
lesser technologies just because they were women and just because
men had been practicing or doing those technologies earlier or
even very well at a particular time. Or if women had, you-know,
tried and didn't do well at the beginning, because it was not
well explained to them, or they didn't have the basic preliminary
skills to even start on it,< -now, this is just downright
-,>... and wrong.
S: And I just felt so strongly about it.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Very, very strongly. And that example that I just gave
you of the offering the women the composite, instead of the
hybrid, variety, E ae, it's like, ySIu k-ow, offering somebody,
you know, a stove that was made ten years ago when you've got a
new one that, ypeunww, has an automatic pilot light or....
R: Well, think of the analogy of computers, too.
R: Giving the women... oh, and the women are going to have t
S: The'women will have the old computers
R: that don't go so fast....
S: ... and the men will have the ones that....
S: Yes. Yes. I mean, it's a shocking. It's just shocking,
yoZrI-kfw. IT ym- .if that were done in terms of racial
categories, just imagine.
S: Just imagine.
Qlb e-jis yet it has been done in terms of gender,
in terms of the sexes,...
S: ... consistently and on a worldwide basis. So I was
just horrified. And so my goal at all times there was to try to
broaden the horizons of these agricultural professionals at every
level and people in the planning units, because they were
spending huge amounts of money to have these programs, and the
programs actually targeted real people, y.Pao, and then
working with real people at the bottom to capacitate them (I
don't like using capacitate as a verb).
R: Yes. [laughter]
S: To help them or increase their capacities to understand
technologies.... Number one, and number two, to give voice to
their needs. Because a lot of peo .' e ale--I'll
never forget this--people always say, "Well, what do the women
I said, "OK. What do the women want? Let's go ask them."
and-thcy would talk... I hope you don't loe
S: They would talk in a very low voice [speaks in a low
voice]. I can't say this in a loud voice because they really
spoke in a very low voice. And they would say things like [speaks
in a low voice], "Well, give us what you want."
R: Yes! [laughter]
S: And I'm... "Oh, my god! Can't you tell us what you
need?" "And we'll see if we can link that up." But it's..._ Vn
kn~]r T7- S just so self-deprecating, number one. Number two, it
really occurred to me that didn't know what was available out
there. For example, they thug=-e-ate=-shy thought that
agricultural training, participation in these credit and/or input
programs, were only for men.
S: They didn't think they'd have a chance.
S: Yoku ]n-n. e, wasn't like, "I really want to get
in it. Can I do it?" da-da, da. It was like, "Oh, well," ye.-
kT-4 e They. .T -- ,- they didn't even think about it.
S: It-ts .. "That's only for men"; it doesn't affect
them; "we'll go on to the next thing".
S: So they had no idea that people, as opposed to just
male people, -y rn, could actually do that activity.
Show diypu gept J ut t1l
End of Side 1, Beginning of Side 2
R: OK. So how did you get past the women saying, "Just
give us what you want."
S: Well, yes. There was this British woman who was on a
project in one area, and she actually came up with a methodology.
And she had this idea--and I think I was showing it to you in the
priorities for women's programs,...
R: Yes. On the Ak .
S: ... ft's also, 3jIda in the book--in which you
would generate from the women ideas about what their needs were,
first, and I think you can talk about what some of the problems
that people have. And the idea is to do this in a group, so that
people find their voice, and the group has to be -very friendly,
and it was all female at the beginning. g1 And then after
t' .. --you elicit the problems, then the idea is to say, "Well,
yea-katw, what do you see as types of solutions?"
S: OK. And so people may be very limited in what they see
as solutions. On the other hand, they may even include pie-in-
the-sky- type solutions. So you get this whole range from,-ye-
kbsi--the very mundane to the very outrageous or impossible or
too expensive or whatever.
R: Right. Right.
S: And then youssrt==e work through this with a leader,
and you-kijdae-f recognize who are the people who will speak out,
and you start bolstering them, so they actually become some
spokespersons and so forth.
S: So, yeaga~f~e -E'.. there are different methods but all Uo('[-
O0 creating a safe environment to discuss these things in a group.
R: Now, are these like focus groups?
S: In a way, I guess they could be called that. I don't
believe we did call them that at the time, but, yes, they were
just getting together groups of women and putting them in a
situation where they felt at ease and helping to channel the
conversation and bolster the fact that, "Yes, that is a need,"
or, yekaw, "That would be a solution. Let me give you some
others, but yours are good suggestions." .-mnea that kind of
very supportive environment.
R: So for that kind of work, where you're actually
creating a situation where you're successfully communicating
between two cultures like that, .ha-wn ..And when I say
the two cultures, I'm talking about the USs. USAIDai -
[ .aug1-vH-ro] nwgs -a- speei-f--p-rogILm? ?
And the indigenous culture.
S: No. No. That was not it.
S_ It was more like once we got the methodology, you could
get Malawian professionals to do it.
S: I didn't have to do it. I never did it personal ...
Because it really was best done in Chechewa [s<-
S: It didn't have to be done through translation or only
with English speakers. So people could do it at the very local
S: And you could teach the female extension workers how to
do it, as a for instance, and then they could lead the
discussion. So it was much better process and you could have more
R: So it's a self-perpetuating process...
R: ... once you set it..
in motion. yvr
S: Yes. I was very keen on not... I did not do a lot of
S to 410
these things. I had other...I trained...It was really training of
trainers, TOT is what they call it. :.---..
R: So your role... and I'm just trying to define the role,
specifically. As the anthropologist, though, your role really is
to also communicate between all these layers .
>... of people...
S: And levels.
R: ... and levels.
S: I did a lot of stuff, however, in the Malawi project
with local people directly.47' So I don't want to minimize that.
S: o'r ..p .... r example, the process
I just told you about, I might have done a couple of sessions.
Anita Spring 8-34
S: I just didn't do it in ten groups in three places.
R: Right. Right. Right. No, I understand.
S: I might check in on a group here and there after I had
done a few I would do the initial stuff myself to -i]ebf- get a
feel for it. *- But there really wasn't any reason for me to
keep doing it over and over and over again.
R: No. And, in fact, what... I mean, what you described
before was this process of refinement. You try something on a
R: ... and then what worked....
S: Right. Now, I did..,s this was really crazy. The
eight agricultural development divisions were located in eight
different places around the country. The major cities had these
rural development programs somewhat near th te .m most of
the headquarters. And each one of these was very hierarchical and
-rtJe qt-.b LX C_ d-I L& a-4L C +
very structured. Each cn h' d different sector so there was
agronomy, animal husbandry, women's programs, credit, extension,
R: Right. Right.
S: OK. A4d41kg e 11 officers--the program manager,
the evaluation unit, statistics.... Z _Saraaa-]--- r e were
in the central office. Between myself and my two staff members,
the three of us, we went to six of them, six of the eight, and
spoke personally with every head of the sector or section.
S: And it went something like this: "What do you do? What
are you working on? What are the formats that you use? What kind
of reports do you have to make?" And so we would elicit .
S: 1.-^ everything that they did, and then we would
genderize it. SS--~,t/id then the two that I didn't do, I sent one
of my officers to do those two, and she did those. She did
everybody in those two places. I couldn't go. So essentially, we
got around to every head of section--of course, there's change in
personnel--in the entire country.
S: And, in fact, let me tell you this story. There was a
"field day." And a field day at the research station, people from
all over come, and then the researchers lead everybody on a tour
through their experiments in the fields and the results and the
farm machinery unit and those kinds of things and explain the
findings. So I don't remember... there's about 150... I don't
remember the exact number... 150 people, mostly men, who show up
for the Chitedze Pesearch7tation field day. md-th at-G htedze...
_nd I better spcll3-rl-for you...;
R: And it is the language and the ethnic group?
S: It's a place.
R: Oh, it's a place?
S& :It's a place.
i--h- T ought-t--i-was-ihLea language.
S The an e-i-s Cc- Chitedze is just a place
S: And it's the largest research station in Malawi.
S: OK. So there're about 150 people walking throughhrcfc
4kae, the rows of maize and whatever other crops were there and
examining experiments. And somebody said to me, "Dr. Spring...,"
question, question, blah, blah, blah. I don't remember what the
And this one man turns around and says, "Dr. Spring?" and
looks at me.
And I said, "Yes. I'm Dr. Spring."
And he looks at me, and he goes [imitates stammering],
"Uh... um... um... Dr. Spring, I... I... I... I thought you would
be... be... um... bigger."
R: That's great!
S: Yes. You know what he... I mean, yla*i, he didn't
expect to see a small, white woman,...
R: Right. Right.
S: ... because I had done all these things and was really
very well known all over the country. And so he was just
flabbergasted! [laughter] Poor man! [laughter] Yes. So... but we
did have this notion that, you-k we did do a lot of it
ourselves, and we did... had this notion that, vIdSTRzw, once we
established the procedure, other people could do it,...
S: ... could do those procedures. And the major things
that stuck, as I said, were the credit program, the gender
disaggregation of all sorts and bodies of data at every level,
and the notion that women had to be built into government policy,
five-year plans. Yes, the women's programs section, YOU.know, had
its thing that it accomplished, but that there might be other
spinoffs in other units. And by the way, that whole experience
was a big setup for what I did at FAO.
S: FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN,
and it's the largest of the specialized UN agencies.
S: But we'll get to that.
R: Yes. And I also just wanted to ask you to clarify
t-hg=^ if you want to talk more about or have any ideas about why
it was that the University of Florida group decided that the
gender issue was not an important....
S: Oh. This is very political. The head of the
international programs in the College of Agriculture just pooh-
poohed the subject. He was a soil scientist. And it's not only
gender; it was farming systems as well as....
R: Oh, I... that's right.
S: It was both.
R: You did say that. Yes.
S: It was actually both.
S: And, y~ZnETow, there has always been this tension
between people who do farming systems, which is to say, the
process in which you really interact with the farmers as well as
with the researchers, and there's, Ttrknew, feedback between
technologies and so forth. And it's very local level, and it's
very comfortable stuff for anthropologist by the way...
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... a&nthose who are commodity oriented and the elites
of agriculture, the breeders.
R: Well, is also... is another way to describe it, is it
one of sort of a very abstract com .had-. h e-commodity end is
S: No. Not... no, not at all.
R: All right. Right.
S: For example, a farm household grows maize, a little bit
of some traditional millet and sorghum, some vegetables; it has
~> y .- ;
certain kinds of livestock. Now, a farming systems person comes
in, looks at all the commodities, looks at all the ones I've just
mentioned. Each one is a commodity.
S: OK. Looks at the household as sort of the center of
that farming universe, looks at who does what, gender division of
labor, looks at how the income from maize supports the livestock,
or the income from selling the cows supports so-and-so's school
fees. Puts it all together as a system,...
R: All right.
S: ... looks at how the household then relates to the
external world: Does it get credit? Does itgat_ k n, sell at
the market? And puts it all into a system analysis; finds out the
technical constraints. For example, there may be a crop pest, or
they can't get the crop to market because the roads are bad, or
the technology that they've been using to grow a particular crop
is outdated, or the farm machinery is wrong. And then tries to
come up with technical solutions that will work within the
S: A commodity specialist goes to every farm and just
looks at what they're doing with corn.
R: Right. OK.
S: So that's the tension.
S: And t-h't -- --- s- the farming systems people....
R: And are both perspectives equally entrenched in the
colleges of agriculture?
S: That's a good question. No. The commodity perspective
is the major and dominant perspective. Yodu-.= ,.Very
specialized. The horticulturists are looking at y-^=En citrus.
the agronomists are looking at the grain crops. And
that enables them to then look at, yoru4Tew,-what's happening
with wheat in the entire area.
S: They could give a damn that farmer A is such a small
wheat grower, because the soils are not .. or he -es...L-y
kn=)ew.. or she has an input problem, and farmer B has a pest
problem, and farmer C ha$.. yaieSEW. And it's linked up because
they're c~d-i their rotation with maize was wrong.
S: n they're just so focused on the commodity, and
that's really what happens mostly around the world, is the focus
on the commodity. The farming systems perspective is the odd one.
R: Right. And is it newer?
S: It's much newer. It's much newer. Some say it grew out
of the old farm management. But it really gained momentum seQ-di
in the mid-1970s, toward the end of the 19 ', and then it became
a dirty word.
S: And government shied away from it. Malawi changed from
the nomenclature, "farming systems," to "adaptive research." It
ra _g kng -_d was very hard for people to understand that it
was a household-based system and that everything on the farm
counted. And=- ut the thing is, I'm such a convert to that
perspective and have spent so much time on that methodology
myself that I only see it that way.
S: AaZd i'gE ai s hard for me.. -to m :L-. to ay
look at the idea that, "Well, we'll go down to the research
station. We'll get the best technology in terms of yield, and
then we'll just take that out to the farmers. But we won't really
test it under their conditions and under their constraints,
because we know what's best,_ea, y."
R: So where did the impetus come from for beginning to
look at systems? EIda I know there was a problem, but, I mean,
what disciplines, ..?
S: Agricultural economics, for the most par
S And then they were joined by...
S.-And then they were joined by...
R: In the 1970s...?
S: ...dty at the end, yes.
S: Mid-1970s, 1980s....
R: And was there close partnership with anthropologists
S: No, not particularly. Anthropologists jumped in in a
number of places that the focus on the household and then gender.
You know, I spearheaded, along with two colleagues, that
conference on gender and farming systems, and that book that I
R: And what year was that?
S: That was 1986...
S 7~. at the University of Florida. And the book that
came from that, which was published in 1988, is called Gender
Issues and Farming Systems Research and Extension And to the
best of my knowledge, Lhatwas the Westview Pres there's never
been another, zEsw, one.-kJi a- updating that. And it should
be. A-lthogh .- h .
R: But it's time, isn't it?
S: It is time. Although there was a large literature,
large literature, of writings on women and farming systems.
There's a two-volume set of case examples from 1991 by
Feldstein and Poats~g oaPoeaLbt and .lddt.i.- that.. -it
doesn't update it exactly, but it goes off in a case study
direction. Maybe it does update it [Laughter]. But anyway,
there's a lot of stuff published on it.
S: Anyway, what I wanted to tell you is that the Malawi
project was evaluated very highly. Remember that it was during
the decade for women. Remember 1975 to 1985... 1975 fa It I-rrT
was the first conference that started off the decade for women.
This was a big hoopla; it was in Mexico City.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: There was a mid conference year of 1980 in Copenhagen,
and then in 1985, at the end of the decade, there was the meeting
in Nairobi. And then in 1995... l'c-Tj- ]ec.. _--t-hpyru a11
S: \ there was the big meeting in Beijing.
5: Yes. But the major decade, the first... the UN
announced "a decade for women," and this is when all this women
in development stuff was really coming to the fore and actually
required to be reported upon by various countries and
governments. So 1975 to 1985 was the decade for women from the
United Nations, and the project was initially evaluated in the
first evaluation as the best project that had been done in
agriculture for women.
S: So it was well known. It was very successful in the
country of Malawi, as I just explained some of the reasons. And I
was invited in 1983, about 4h.9ft.- three months after I had come
back, to go to an expert consultation on food production in Rome
for FAO as a participant.
S: I went, and not only was I a participant, but I became
a rapporteur. I stayed late and worked weekends and so forth and
so on and helped write the major documents and then got to
present them back to the delegates. And these were people from
all over the planet, apnF-e
S: And I just think I understood the subject so well and
was just used to being in that public space because of the Malawi
thing that I just did it. I wa~sn' you know, and- hen,- ynn
k~ae --hey needed people to do that, and I just did it, and I was
able to make the presentation. And so people at FAO saw who I
S: OK. That was the first thing. The second was VA st in
the 1980s, --T -LT-7. -.-- TT-i -nc'.: hnthe Office of
Technology Assessment, which was the research arm for the U.S.
Congress...-- -I-Tnp r r; I'd have to look it up-#what year
it was created. It was congressionally constituted and paid for
0 oVt 7 re-s S e S%&-O-P
through,- ygg is, allocations. A&A I believe it was terminated
just a couple of years ago, but for many years, twenty years
R: So it was a sunset program? I mean, it....
R: _.__o, it -acnste?
S: No. No. No, it was not supposed to be....
R: It was just terminated... oh, OK.
S: I think the Republicans managed to terminate it right
before Clinton got in or something. It was something like...of
S: Or to reduce it. It may still be going; I'm not sure.
Anyway, i3Ej when I say it was the research arm, it was
constituted to provide policy advice and information of the most
technical sort to members of Congress. And it had the ability to
summon anybody in America and elsewhere for its panels, and it
had the ability to contract anybody anywhere to write papers,
white papers, giving information or analyzing something.
S: It did both domestic and international. J= me.ia,\en
they weed J-fy to make a decision, St-!i- the early stuff L-*-
on the environment or what was happening with wildlife, r3-b-e
e .-you .me E -our teorie, in the United States or water
quality in the United States, they constituted panels of experts,
they prepared these documents, and then they gave them to members
Anita Spring 8-48
of Congress for their staff members and the Cngjr~~is ^m2l--n
the-=enreaeand th- House to use in terms of,-cyw, making
decisions. They produced documents in three forms. One was the
full report, which could be several hundred pages in length. The
second was a twenty-five-page summary, and third was like a page
or two description.
S: OK? So as you got busier, I suppose you read less.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: The congressional staffers, yeko were reading the
S: OK. I got to work, and I, to the best knowledge, am the
only person on all three panels and projects that were related to
R: Now, who are the body of people that would select...
would call you, for instance?
S: GQMWgE1 he OTA had a staff...
IV ;Who were, yp==u w, Ph.D.'s....
R: In an office and....
S: mt hey had offices and nice conference rooms an yu
krhow, -'Would... you u-knew~tHey'd bring people to Washington. Yo=
J-kug I turned to the right in one of the conferences, and they
wanted organic farming represented. Here's Robert Rodale sitting
next to me.
R: I see.
S: I turn to the left; they wanted Elliott Berg [~p -.
S: ... from the.... [laughter] He was there.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: You know. They could bring anybody they wanted.
S: They thought, "Well, maybe we need a South African
perspective," You know. Boom! Somebody'd be there from South
Africa who was the expert on something, if theiy had the money to
_pay- They didn't pay a lot. I think, yt~ g it was an
honorarium of a couple hundred dollars a day, and they paid for
your expenses. And, Lga w, sometimes you got to stay at a
really nice hotel,~y.. you know, they were... They would
have Senator Kennedy come for an evening reception, because in
Washington they will always have these receptions right after
work. People don't go home and come back.
S: $S;D L -. I wanted a tour of the Congress, Or/in
Hatch's office arranged it for me. Ve=41 mke. It was bipartisan.
OTA was governed by a committee, a congressional committee, so
Kennedy, Hatch...they were the governing body who oversaw the
unit. It was kind of neat.
S: Anyway, they had three of them. The first two were
focused on what was our development program in Africa in these
different countries, and where was it going.. I think it was
called "Africa Tomorrow." And it was broken up into sections, so,
for example, if a bill were to come to Congress asking about
whether the Office of Women and Development should be continued
to be funded in AID, or if AID should continue, easa ,e-mt, with
its allocations for development work in Africa or, y~e-mkno*w PLO
480 in Egypt, or, ,yegEgypt is a larger partner than all
the sub-Saharan African countries) [laughter] the information
would be there, and it could be in a packaged format that would
not give the information but state, ye=5kaew, "In terms of such-
and-such a policy, here are some of the alternatives." So it was
.a y beautifully constructed.,-:& ere were two panels like
that, and they would get people to come, and we would have these
big round tables. aFe gerything was recorded and-LttL kind uf-
thig:_-3 people were asked to comment on various btdctg.
Sometimes they were asked to write position papers. I remember
having to write my views on five questions before I went to a
S: They would also commission other people who were not on
the panel.... For example, they'd have twelve people on the
panel, and I would be one of the twelve. And not only would we
write our own position papers on various aspects, but we would
discuss these topics in the meeting. In addition to that, they
would then bring in these white papers as background reading, or
they would bring in.. qgQ-r-hy-a Ill itg the people who
wrote the papers for us to pull more information, so we could
write or advise in our reports. A~d hen they would have their
own staff of people who would be taking all these materials, and
I might write a part, a few pages, and somebody else. They might
like part of my statement or somebody.... Adi ttrey would start
compiling them and synthesizing what we had to say and what had
R: And what's the first one you worked on?
S: I'm trying to remember the names. One, I believe, was
called "Policy Recommendations on Africa." The other one was
called "Africa Tomorrow."
R: And the year... do you remember the year?
S: The first one was a two-year
assignment, 1984 to 1986.
S: 0~. The second one was something in 1986, a much more
finite thing. And the third one was completely different. It
turns out, and not many people are aware of this, that in
addition to USAID, which is a bilateral development agency--in
other words, it works with a country, as the United States on one
side and the country on the other side, and it's government to
government in terms of projects, approving it, and then
constituted within, say, a particular sector or sectors in the
country--there was also another congressionally funded
institur- r wr agency, I t _h ..jnF- -1 -called the African
Development Foundation. And it was funded at a much, much lesser
level, i4ke-2 a $10 million [ten-million-dollar] or $5 million
[five-million-dollar] budget p'ige a whereas a._-, r
ccfidh=as e a USAID project--one project wgg $10 million, and that
;Jte not even a big one.
R: Might be the feasibility..
But I think ADF had a budget of, rtrdomr, in the
single digit or $10 million or something like that for a year,
range. But instead of having to deal with governments, it could
be a more people-to-people or NGO __ of projects, small
projects. Atd Llike USAID with its massive bureaucracy, it had a
few people and a lot of African Americans, and the head of it
was... I'll -think of his na
S: I j him in W..hingto. Leonard Robinson[sp;-s.
S: ,-w- Fheo head of--t--very astute, y~au:kpw, the
Jesse Jackson of development [laughter] ... kind of guy. Anyway,
Congress wanted ADF evaluated. So it turned to the Office of
Technology Assessment to provide the evaluation, so Congress
would know what to do.
R: Right. Right.
S: And I was asked to not only sit on the evaluation in
the same similar kind of capacity... I don't know how many... I
don't remember...how many people they had. Well, I do--I guess it
was still like around ten or something like that.
S: But in addition, they weren't only going to __-_
evaluate it from the vantage point of Washington, but they were
going to send out three teams to Africa to &ait=y evaluate
projects and talk to government officials.
S: So they sent one to southern Africa, one to east
Africa, and one to west Africa. And the teams were very
interestingly constructed. O==e~arre, w had elaborate briefings
in Washington, so we were all on the same wavelength in terms of
data collection, and it wasn't going to be apples and oranges
that we were evaluating. We had debriefings; we had extensive
reports that we had to write. Tta- t, was really quite an
R: Did you... were you extremely comfortable and confident
in the way the evaluation was... in the way the data...
Ri- > was being collected?
R: Yes. So this is really high-level....
S: It was high-level stuff, -r.
S: Big time. Yes. Big-time quality.
And I, of course, very concerned a10 h.,- gender.a
End of Tape 8
End of Tape 8