CHRONICLER Anita Spring
INTERVIEWER : Meredith (Penny) Rucks
TAPE : 9
SUBJECT : Washoe Ethnographers
TRANSCRIBER Linda Sommer
AUDIT-EDITOR : Penny Rucks
Mer-elith (Pen- .-All right.- ahead.
Anita Spring: And that the evaluation a~t get down to the
level of the participants and how they were affected. And l team
went to Zimbabwe and Botswana to evaluate projects there. -RA~here
were two men on it and myself, and on th 4TP--.-- Tere was
a-gwga~ij* =t least one woman on each team. I think one team had
two women and one man.
S: Anft en.. gM it worked out very well. It was a very
exciting thing to have done, mostly because of this notion of
teamwork and the methodology, I think, of getting everybody on the
same wavelength really sunk in. And that was 1987. 1987 that that
took place, and then the report was written. And we saved ADF. I
think subsequently it went under. But...
S: ... it was saved for the next congressional appropriation
S: ... and went on to continue functioning. I was terribly
impressed with... I mean, there were all kinds of problems and so
forth, but in terms of actually, you know, getting down to the
level of rural people and getting services and project activities
to them, it did that, as opposed to paying for all the bureaucracy
and all the institutional machinery of these USAID projects, which
were, you know, in the millions and millions, and which, you know,
capacitated a lot of American citizens and not as many in many
R: Right. Right.
S: ... the local people. But anyway, that's another issue.
And so it was very interesting. So, you know, the reason I had
gotten to OTA was because of the Malawi project to begin with, and
then it... I guess, you know, my....
R: How were you ... can you tell me how you were initially
recruited for that? I mean, did someone literally call...?
R: Yes. Did someone call you on the phone,...
R: ... and...
R: ... one day you were just sitting in your office,...
S: That's it.
R: ... minding your own business.
S: Oh I had a letter from the head, saying, "Do you want to
participate? You've been sele... you've been....You've been... come
to... you've come to our attention." So the Malawi... the same
thing for FAO. That Malawi project...
R: Now, do you think you were interested in gender or
oriented toward women's issues?
R: Yes. OK.
S: Yes. The Malawi project was very successful. People heard
about it outside Malawi. FAO people heard about it.
S: I don't know how.
S: You know, I can't tell you exactly.
R: But those reports that you that you showed me that were
the result of the Malawi project...
S: They were very....
R: ... were very in-country....
S: They were very in-country reports.
S: And this stuff was happening....
R: So you had not published about this at this time.
S: Let's see. [sighs] [tape off, then on] Well, actually, as
I look at the publication list, there are about five or six
publications that have 1986 dates. So that actually comes after
when I started... that comes after the FAO expert consultation in
1983, and it comes after the OTA invitation to be on the panels
starting in 1984, although it is right smack in the middle of, you
know, be... working for OTA between 1984 and 1987.
S: And so I have to conclude, [laughter] now that you ask,
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... that although the publications followed, and
obviously I was working on them, that people had heard about it in
various ways. Now, one of the ways they heard about it is that I
was going to the Farming Systems Research Symposium. And I noticed
that the original paper, for example, was given in 1984, at the
1984 one. And I know that I was asked to be a banquet speaker at
one of those, maybe 1984, maybe 1985, or, you know, that time
period. And that kind of maybe filtered through; it got to the
notice of people. But I also think that it just got to be so well
known, that project. Even though it was country specific, I think
people in the women and development office talked about it.
R: But you were impressed with the process. I mean, it
sounds like it right from the get-go, from the first panel that you
were invited to...
S: Oh, the OTA?
R: ... to the... yes, the OTA.
S: Yes. No, I was impressed with that, and I was impressed
that they found me, why they chose- me. I think they wanted
somebody... well, first of all, it was focused on Africa, and in
1984, I'd just come back, and it was a successful project. I had
R: Were there other anthropologists in...?
S: In OTA?
S: Yes. There might have been.
S: I'd have to look at the list... people.
R: I'm just kind of curious if you were targeted because you
were an anthropologist with experience in Malawi or specifically
because of your development, and you could have been a nurse, I
mean, for all they cared.
S: No. I believe I was targeted because it was a successful
R: Yes. Sure.
S: And it also covered... well, obviously Africa, obvious...
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And I was an academic, so therefore I could write and,
you know, publish you know, I mean...
R: And think and work...
R: ... with another team... a team of...
R: ... because weren't most of the participants academics?
S: Most of them were academics.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: They, as I said, could bring in some really unusual
types, like political people, if they wanted, or Robert Rodale, if
they wanted to know about organic farming in Africa. I mean, he had
just moved into what was happening in organic farming in Tanzania.
And they wanted that right now, [snaps fingers] you know....
S: Unfortunately, he was subsequently, you know, killed in
a car accident in Russia while he was there on a high-level
mission. But he did make it through this whole thing and had lots
of interesting things to say.
R: He must be a very interesting person to have met.
S: It was very interesting, and as I said, I sat... they
seated people alphabetically, for some reason, around the table. S:
So S and R....
R: Do you think there's anyone that's continuing his level
S: Oh, absolutely.
S: Yes. Absolutely. That whole organization, of course,
S: But it was just the Malawi project became very well
known. And it's funny, if... I'm hard-pressed to tell you the exact
mechanism by which that occurred.
S: The evaluation helped from USAID and other people coming
to see it....
R: Oh, yes, because by this time it's already been selected
as the best... That's right.
R: OK. That would certainly help.
S: Yes. Yes.
S: And people in the agency knew. So if you called up USAID
and said, "Gee, we need some names of some Africa, gender projects
in Africa, it,[snaps fingers] you know, that was a no brainer. My
name would have popped up.
S: You know, if they had done that, I don't know.
R: Now, had they not... had you not been recruited for this
or whatever? And I know this is sort of a "what if," but had you
already decided that you really wanted to take this direction if
you could do more development projects? I mean, were you already
committed at this point?
S: Oh, I don't... yes. What... I really... well, after the
Malawi thing, I mean, very few people get to, you know, do applied
anthropology, all the Peace Corps, you know, little projects that
they could want, all the policy changes that they could want, and
work throughout the... an entire country. It was pretty heady
S: You know, you know.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So... and I seemed to be good at it, so, you know, why
S: After the OTA, I then did a project for USAID in Somalia.
I was part of the first (oh, this is an amazing story) all-woman
S: ... that went to Somalia to evaluate SWDO, S-W-D-O, the
Somali Women's Democratic Organization, sixty thousand women
strong, emanating from the elite women connected to the president
with their little tentacles down into, you know, rural villages.
R: So is SWDO based on a traditional...?
S: No. No. This was....
R: Current policy?
S: This was the women's groups at large [laughter] in that
country--very highly political. And the elite women had no idea, of
course, what was happening with rural women. They wanted them to
make doilies or little baskets. They had no idea that these women
were struggling just to feed their families...
S: ... and to get water and fuel wood and...not a clue.
R: This is long before the horrible drought that made
S: This... well, they've had horrible droughts, but it's
long before the horrible war, the clan wars, in Somalia, when Adeed
[sp?] and his colleagues managed to, you know, kill huge numbers of
women and children and elderly people. And all these young men
were, you know, getting all the food and... you know, before the
U.S. Marines came in there...
S: ... and were dragged through the street. This is 1987.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: That came later in about 1992, 1991, 1992. But anyway,
that's a later period.
S: But the team was really interesting, and it was the first
time I'd been in an all-woman... with an all-woman team, because
all these teams that I had worked on, with the exception of the
Malawi project, the one in Cameroon or the evaluation of ADF in
Botswana and Zimbabwe, they had these men who were the team leaders
and who, you know, mostly were production people as opposed...
S: ... to social scientists. So, you know, I would fight the
social science battle, but it would be interpreted as a gender
R: Yes. Oh, yes.
S: You know, I wanted them to look at people,...
S: ... as well... I mean, because I said, "Only people can
plant plants. They don't grow by themselves. Or only people tend
domestic livestock... domesticated livestock." [laughter]
R: Right. Right.
S: You know, "The cows don't go in the pens themselves." And
this was always a very hard fight. In fact, I say in the Malawi
book... I comment on the Cameroonian experience and my frustration
with the male production scientists, these, you know, seven or six
retired deans, and, well, there were one or two who were not yet
retired. But anyway, these senior, senior people from the College
of Agriculture, that they just did no... they didn't... they'd
never been to Africa before, or they didn't understand anything
about the societies or the culture. They didn't understand about
the limitations, about the infrastructure, about, you know,
government's promises, and this and that on what they would
actually be car... you know, what would actually carry through.
S: They couldn't understand the hierarchical nature of many
countries. They didn't understand the position of the elites
versus, you know, the peasants. They didn't understand the
constraints on the marketing systems and so forth. And, of course,
they didn't understand gender. And they didn't understand that
African women were farmers, you know. And I was so annoyed and
S: ... with this basic lack of understanding, yet these
people were always in control of these projects and of these teams,
that one of the things I was very keen on in Malawi was that I was
going to be head of the team. I was going to be the
"anthropologist-social scientist" who was head of the team.
S: And I was going to be real nice and generous to the
agronomists and other productions scientists who were team members,
like treat them like their subject mattered,...
S: ... because I had seen how the productions scientists
treated the social scientists, and it was not, you know, very well.
And they didn't really think their ideas were as important, you
know, as their own ideas.
S: So I thought that... in fact, I promulgated this idea
that the social scientists would value the production scientists,
and, therefore, social sci... it was better to have a social
scientist who was head of a team. Whereas the conver....
R: Well, yes, the team is of people....
S: Whereas the converse wouldn't... you know, because the
social scientists would never get their due if the production
scientists were in charge of these teams,...
S: ... you know. It's hard to describe how these things are
manipulated so much. It's really amazing. I fell back into this in
the project in Swaziland. Two production marketing specialists and
myself, two senior men, and one of them, of course, was the team
leader, and I was not. And it was the same story, you know, all
over again. I would go out and find out what the real story was.
These guys had worked in Latin America...
S: ... before. This was their first trip to Africa, you
know. This was my twentieth trip to Africa.
S: You know? So... and yet all these battles that, you know,
people saw the gender thing as looming very large. My gender...
R: Right. No. I under... yes.
R: Yes. Yes. Yes.
S: And, you know, as well as the fact that I...
R: That your orientation and opinions were colored by the
fact that you're a woman.
S: And, I mean, I'm just sitting there, you know, during
this whole thing.... I'm... I've organized the staff of, you know,
the project, even the AID mission, to go out and do rapid
appraisals in Swaziland. I can't get my two team members, American
team members, who've never worked in Africa before, to go with me
on the rapid appraisal.
S: They don't want to go.
S: They have other things to do.
S: The project that we're evaluating, all the team members
go. USAID sends people from its office to participate, and I'll get
into those methodologies. But my team members, my male team
members, who've never been to Africa before, think it's more
important for them to go off and talk to somebody about a marketing
something than to go on my rapid appraisal with real farmers in the
field and with the rest of the people in the project,...
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... as a for instance.
S: So it's a big fight all the way through.
S: You know?
S: So that, you know, I... then I come back; the project
that I do after that is in Jamaica where, you know, I, as the
anthropologist, am in control of these things, because I get so
frustrated. And yet I'm trying to fi... I like collaborative stuff,
and I'm trying get out from other people their disciplinary
S: So that's been a pattern and a.... And, you know, when
you're asked to go on these assignments, it's hard to say no, but
frequently, you know, sometimes I've been asked to go as a team
member. I mean, mostly I've been asked to go as a team member, and
it's only in the projects that I've been able to put together and
get funded that I've been the principal investigator. And then I
ask other people to go as team members,...
S: ... and, you know, I, of course, would claim (anybody
would, of...) that, you know, I make better use of their technical
expertise than when I'm a team member, and I have to fight for my
perspective, technical expertise, to be used. And the male-female
relationships are often at fault or the key or, you know, a reason.
S: I mean, these men used to sit there at dinner--I'll never
forget. They'd to Cornell. Now, here I thought, now....
R: This is the Swaziland project?
S: Yes. I mean, I went to Cornell, too, so I thought, "Gee,
we're going to have a lot in common."
R: Well, that's right, because the collegial tradition...
S: They discussed their dates at fraternity parties. And I'm
going.... And they'd been married a real long time,...
S: ... and they couldn't have had much dating experience!
S: Not that I cared...
S: ... or was the least bit interested. But...
R: Oh, wow.
S: ... that's how they discussed their Cornell experience.
And I'm talking... saying, "Well! Do you remember the library
R: Yes. Yes. Yes.
S: "Did you ever hear the so-and-so Goldsmith Professor of
R: Yes. Yes.
S: You know. You know, "You know Cornell's reputation in
terms of coeducation...." Or, I mean, any topic that was relev...,
that was about Cornell that, you know, wasn't about a fraternity
party. I was just flabbergasted, you know,...
S: ... that people would choose that as a conversation
topic, because they were a bit limited.
R: It sounds like it, but.... [laughter]
S: But they were... you know, one of them, a senior guy, he
had worked for AID, never in Africa, and because of his post at
AID--he'd been head of the science and technology office--you would
have thought he knew something [laughter].
S: He was the team leader. These were very senior people.
They just, you know, didn't have experience in Africa.
R: Or interdisciplinary, it seems to me, or....
S: Well, he must have. He had been in that post for so long.
R: Or collaborating with social sciences, where it's a real
S: Yes, where it's a real collaboration.
R: Yes. And not a.... Well, you were talking about this
S: Oh, the....
R: ... and that was very interesting,...
S: Yes. That was...
R: ... because it was an all-woman team.
S: ... that was fascinating.
S: That is an example of, you know, the problems and the
dilemmas of women, women studies, women and development, gender and
development. It turns out that the SWDO groups at the top, these
elite women, were so political. And they... as elite women, they
were well-educated; they were articulate; they also were beautiful.
S: ... everyth... and everything about them was wonderful.
But they had no understanding of the problems of village women. You
know, they didn't have to get, as I said, fuel wood or water. They
didn't have to eke out a living in a very male-oriented society
with no help and no services and no technologies.
S: So that was the first thing. The second thing, they had
this idea that if they gave women these little craft projects and,
guess what? IGA's...
S: ... income-generating activities that that would be just
a great thing to do, and that's what SWDO should be doing. And the
ones that they suggested....
R: In addition to eking out a living and....
S: Yes. Yes.... and the ones they suggested were so low
level and so dangerous in terms of... I say dangerous because they
were in danger of collapsing and not... of falling apart and people
losing interest, because they had no technical aspects. The money
part was useless. I mean, they were a mess.
S: The products were unsaleable. A lot of them were to make
a particular product, but it's not like there's a huge tourist
industry of people who come to Somalia, so how many baskets can you
S: And the quality of them was so poor, that you could
hardly even sell the stuff in the country, let alone export it.
S: And there were no marketing networks set up for the sale.
So they were just, you know... For example, they had tie... not
tie-dye... batik printing, and they even gave me one of the
dresses. I have dragged it to class many times as an example of an
absolutely inferior-quality product.
S: You know, the ink is overstepping its boundaries. The
tailoring on it is, you know, like a sack with two armholes. I
mean, it is beyond belief bad!
S: And yet they thought, well, this what... you know, women
could be making these, and they could be selling them. I don't know
who they would sell them to.
R: Right. Right.
S: They could spend a lot of time making them, and they
could use up all kinds of precious... their precious resources in
terms of... in terms of getting the materials together and so
S: But the product was an abomination.
S: Now, trying to write about that and diplomatically,...
R: Oh, wow.
S: ... you know, make suggestions, like, "What do you think
about fine-tuning the screens? so the ink ," you know, [laughter]
"meander all over the garment," or "Can we have another design?"
Or, "Maybe this is only good for a small group of people."
S: Or, "Maybe we could have some kind of cards that would
R: So you were evaluating SWDO's program to....
S: In relation to USAID, because that would then perhaps
lead into the development of a project that would help women. OK.
That was the motivation.
S: And people were extremely cordial from the U.S. Embassy
and from USAID. My team members were absolutely delightful women.
R: Yes. Any other anthropologists on that team?
S: No. Virginia Delancy [sp?] is an economist, but she has
worked all over Africa. We continue to be the best of friends.
S: Deborah Lindsey [sp?]... I was very good friends with her
for many years after, and I have lost contact....
R: Had you met... did you know any of these women before?
S: I had met Virginia; I knew her; I had read her work in
Cameroon. But I didn't really know her.
S: And Deborah, I hadn't met. But it was so congenial in
terms of all those other problems. I mean, they were not
anthropologists.... OK. An economist is a social scientist, and
Deborah was a really policy person. So, you know, that whole, you
know, dichotomy of production versus social scientist...
S: ... was not there. We had our ups and downs and this and
that's, but, you know, it was like night and day.
S: And we were also assigned an Indian... from India woman
who was working for USAID in the country of Somalia. She was very
S: And I'll never forget... we had a meeting with the
minister of agriculture. Now, the... the status and rank of women
in the country of Somalia is not high.
S: So after I... we all thought it was a very pleasant
meeting, and we were trying to get across the fact that, you know,
we thought that women were quite important in agriculture in the
southern Shabeelle [?] region where agriculture was actually
practiced. Quite a lot of Somalia... they're pastoralists. They're
not agriculturalists at all.
R: Right. Right.
S: But in those... some of those regions women were really
rather critical. Anyway, it was a... and, you know, could we come
up with programs? And we had traveled into a number of places in
the country. The report went out after our meeting that he had had
a visit.., because the Indian woman went with us... he had a visit
from four lovely camels.
S: And that was a compliment, because camels were perceived
as higher than women.
R: [laughter] Oh, no!
S: Yes. Quite amazing.
S: Anyway, we wrote a rather long report. And I don't think
that USAID really spent too much time working with SWDO afterwards.
S: They were... it was really highly political.
S: And then Siad Barre, of course, was ousted from office.
And that had been one of his programmatic efforts, and then all
hell broke loose in Somalia. And, of course, we're out of that
country in terms of development. But the point I wanted to make was
that in terms of the actual collection of data and the design team,
it was like a breath of fresh air, dealing with these superb
S: ... who, you know, were interested in the subject of
gender--Not that Deborah, I think, ever had that as a... I don't
think she'd ever done that before, but Virginia for
sure--interested in collecting good data, easy to work with.
S: Some of those other things that had transpired in the
other evaluations were really not there.
S: And it's not only because they were... I mean, a lot of
it was because they were women and because at least one, Virginia,
was interested in women and development, but because of also, you
know, the social science... everybody was a different discipline,
but that production-social science dichotomy was not there.
R: Right. Right.
S: I mean, the same thing in that... in evaluation of
Botswana and Zimbabwe. The two men who went... I'm hard-pressed to
remember their exact disciplines. I think one was an economist, and
it may be that the other was a sociologist or... I cannot recall,
a policy person. They were easy to work with, too.
R: Yes. Yes. So it's...
S: And sympathetic to gender. You know, it wasn't quite as
eye-to-eye, but... and it was....
S: Both of those were in the same year, by the way.
R: Both the... you mean the Somalia and the...
S: And the Botswana, Zimbabwe.
S: Nineteen eighty-seven.
R: And when was the Swaziland?
S: Swaziland was 1993, I believe.
R: OK. That was that... OK.
a model project, because everybody wants to do it.
Then I hear he didn't like the agro-forestry project, didn't
like the coordinating project. Told the FAO representative, who was
an American, whom I knew, and it was just horrifying, you know, so
that those were all nixed.
S: I didn't hear anything more about the chicken... the
poultry project. But all of them were just put on hold. About four
months later I get a telexat FAO really was telexes; this is... or
a fax at this point. Or, you know, you could wait, wait, wait, and
then these communications would come in.
S: It precedes e-mail. And now they do everything on e-mail.
But... and the request was, "Well, we've considered the two
projects that were designed, but we think that a project in which
women made jams and -jellies and chutneys would be a very
I said, "They have turned my coordinating committee into a
project about breakfast condiments!"
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I said, "This is the most horrifying thing I have ever
seen." It turns out--I did some checking--there had been a project
like that a decade before funded by USAID, which was a disaster.
R: A jelly project?
S: Yes. Yes. Yes, because there's a lot of produce and not
a Some of it spoils, and not all of it goes to market. I was just
S: I was just horrified that, you know, they had no
understanding; there was nothing we could do make people
R: Well, apparently there was no communication at that...
from that level to the agency and professional heads that were
R: And there was just no....
S: Correct. There was no communication. So, you know, I had
a method for dealing with that kind of stuff. It was to put it in
a pile on my desk for a very long time...
S: ... and do nothing. And, you know, half a year later
somebody would remember that they'd sent a fax that needed to be
done the next day, but they'd remember it, you know, six months
later on what were we doing about it? And at that time I knew more,
you know. I just gave it to the unit that did food processing. It
was a male-oriented unit; you know, they sent some consultant there
for a few thousand dollars, and he designed something, and who knew
what happened? But it wasn't from my unit.
S: And, therefore, it didn't count as part of the women and
development portfolio of projects, for which I was eternally
grateful, because, you know, my whole idea was to turn projects
away from things like that.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And for example, I had one in Egypt. When I first got
there, I found out that this whole project on women in agriculture
funded by FAO, the preeminent--or the only--na... you know,
international agriculture organization with all this technical....
I mean, everybody who worked there was either a former minister of
agriculture or the head of a research unit or, you know, the
biggest hotshot in his or her country--mostly his--spoke eight
languages, et cetera, et cetera. All they could offer to women was,
you know, these silly things. This project, they were making school
lunches in Egypt. I said, "School lunches? My god. I like eating,
too, and so do the kids, but how about... you know, couldn't they
teach them how to grow the products, market it, package it? What
was the marketing aspects of it?"...
S: You know, you could take it from start to finish and have
a project, but even if you didn't particularly like the end result
or the topic.
S: I mean, I didn't want to be too prejudiced against it,
but I said, you know, "We're the... we have all this technical
assistance from FAO; couldn't we give them assistance on, you know,
the production of the items used for the school lunches and the
marketing structure and, you know, the bookkeeping and account...?"
I mean, it was a, you know, just a joke.
S: And so people said, "Hm. Well, that is a really odd idea.
Maybe we better evaluate this project." So it was funded by the
Netherlands, government of the Netherlands. And one of the....
R: The project was, to make the school lunches or the...
R: ... evalu.... Yes.
S: FAO was not a funding agency.
S: It's an executing agency, although it has it's own
limited funds, which we'll get to in just a minute.
S: So I had to drum up money from all these governments and
other agencies. And this one was funded by the Netherlands. And
that was already in operation when I got there. I didn't create it.
So they said, "OK. Well, we'll send this... a team down to
evaluate it." Agencies are very good at sending teams to evaluate.
And often, by the way, speaking of applied anthropology, that's
where an anthropologist would be called in...
S: ... to kind of go on one of these to evaluate it. And
then, of course, they're frustrated as heck, because they didn't
design it; they don't know what's coming afterwards. All they can
do is criticize the fact that it's a mess, which....
R: Because it would'nt be called in to evaluate it if it
weren't a mess.
S: Yes. Exactly. And so-there's a lot of very frustrated
people... anthropologists who, you know... and anthropologists say
negative things. And, therefore, then they're not liked,...
R: Right. Right.
S: ... because they say, "Oh, look," you know, "the emperor
is not wearing any clothes. Oh, look," you know, "you didn't get
the project services to the people...
S: ... they were supposed to go to. [laughter] I mean,...
S: ... you know, that kind of... those kinds of
statements--off... usually are true. But anyway, so I got.... So
the head of a service, a unit, that was comparable to my own
position, which I'll also get to in a bit, went with the head...
one of the heads of the Netherlands. And they came back, and they
didn't see anything wrong with the project--the school lunch one.
S: And I just thought, you know, "This is amazing!"
S: Absolutely amazing. So I said, "OK. I can see I'm getting
nowhere with this. Let me have the job description of the person in
Egypt who's running the project." And I managed to change the job
description so that it required an agronomist, and, therefore, the
person who was running it didn't really qualify, and we could
advertise the post. I then hired an Egyptian agronomist. She turned
the whole project around and...
S: ... and got them, you know, greenhouses and growing the
products and every part of it.
S: And, you know, it really worked out very, very well.
S: And that was a nice, little success story that was sort
of a counterpart to the other one that didn't work out very well.
R: Right. Right.
S: So, you know, there were both positive and negative
effects using the same methodologies. Sometimes they were
successful, and sometimes they weren't.
[tape recorder turned off, then back on]
R: Well, I wanted to pick up and have you talk a little bit
about how you were recruited and attracted to working for FAO.
S: Yes. Well, you know, I told you that I went there for the
expert consultation on food production and, quote-unquote,
"distinguished" myself by [laughter] being one of the rapporteurs
and also being involved in presenting the final report to the
S: And that was kind of unplanned and unknown, and they
didn't know me from anywhere, and yet I was able to do that.
In 1988, in the spring of 1988, I received some phone calls
from the director of the women in agriculture, which... it was
called the Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development
Service. And she asked me if I was interested in coming to Rome and
working with the agency in the capacity of a senior officer.
R: Did you know her?
S: I did not.
S: I was planning on going off to Oxford, to be a fellow at
Oxford at Queen Elizabeth House[?]. And that is the part of Oxford
that does development, refugee studies...not that they really do
gender, but anyway, it would not have been, [laughter] you know,
against what they did...
S: ... let's put it that way.
R: Right. Well, particularly if they'd have invited you with
your track record.
S: Yes. Yes.
S: And I had given a seminar to them; I think I had stopped
there on my way back from Somalia, actually.
R: Oh. All right.
S: And... no, actually, it was on my way back from Zimbabwe.
I think that's it, that African Development Foundation thing...
well, one of the African things. Anyway, and had given them a, you
know, two-hour seminar and had gotten very, very friendly with
Barbara Harold Bond [sp?] and stayed in Ox....
R: Now, how did that happen? I mean, how did you end up
R: Yes. I mean, this idea of how you've networked, how this
S: How this... how this worked?
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Well,.... [pause; tape off, then on] Because of certain
connections, she had invited me to give the seminar, and I was able
to, you know, financially do it because of these trips back from
R: Oh, so you were on or way.
S: Yes. I was on my way back.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And I was able to stop in London and then, you know, get
to Oxford and do it. And I had never met her before.
S: And she was an interesting, or is still an int... is an
interesting char.... She's just retired from that post, and....
But, nevertheless, at that time we spent about three or four days
doing things together. And she was this, you know, chain-smoking,
gruff, had a British accent but was really an American,...
R: Yes. [laughter]
S: ... married to a Nigerian, but, you know, just real, you
know. And I would.... [laughter] And so we did sort of odd things,
dinners and shopping and this and that, and just sort of developed
a friendship. It was really rather remarkable. So that the next
several times she came to the U.S., like for the anthropology
meetings.... And I think she was given the Malinowski Award or
something... the real... what is the big... the distinguished
something-something award at the two anthropology meetings ago.
R: Oh. Oh. Oh. I can't....
S: Do you remember...?
R: No, I don't.
S: You know which ones I'm talking about?
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I cannot think of the name of it. I'm sorry; we'll have
to look that up.
R: We'll get it.
S: But, you know, and then it was so pleasant to see her and
then the two of us. You know, she very much wanted me to, you know,
join her in some of the festivities and go out to dinner or
whatever, whatever, before or after. So that was very nice. I
enjoyed that. And then, you know, I was invited to come back and
spend the year there.
S: I was just stepping down from the associate deanship
position at the University of Florida, College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, and was going to go and spend that year at Oxford.
S: So when the head of... or the chief, is what they were
called, what I came to be called, of the Women in Agricultural
Production and Rural Development Service called me from FAO and
asked if I wanted to be one of the officers there, I said no.
S: [laughter] And then she called back, and she asked, would
I be interested in applying for the position of head of the whole
service on women in agriculture?
S: And I said, "Oh. That sounds a little more interesting."
R: That's different! [laughter]
S: And she said, "Well, the first thing you have to do is
you have go to New York, and you have to interview there."
So I remember going to New York. I can't remember whether I
just went there for the day. The UN had all these peculiar ways of
S: And it wasn't to Rome, but they had sent one of their
senior directors to New York to kind of search for an American. You
have to know FAO. The business of nationality looms very large.
S: And that post for many years, up until me, and then
afterwards it changed, but had always been held by an American. So
they had sent a senior director to New York to conduct preliminary
interviews. And the way they had it is they would have all these
people flying into New York, and we'd all be sitting in the lobby
S: You know, it's just quite amazing. And then people were
being interviewed and so forth.
S: And I remember carting up a number of my books and
publications and having them with me and talking about women and
agriculture. I and two of my colleagues had started the prog...
women in agriculture program at FA... at University of Florida.
S: We'd been successful in getting money, both from within
the university and, you know, for this conference. We had something
from Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and we ha... and backup from
all the international units at the University of Florida. And that
conference had been in 1986, and we'd had a seminar series, and we
had courses on women in development.
S: We were put... really the first university to do a real
programmatic effort on the subject. So, you know, that was known.
And my work in Malawi was known.
S: So, you know, that was something.
Anyway, when she called and asked if I wanted to go through
that interview, I said yes. So I flew up and was interviewed, had
all these things to say about women in agriculture programs. Of
course, I was coming from outside of the United Nations. And when
you're in the UN, it's all intervention, intervention. I mean, I...
it was so different than academics--really night and day. And very
hard, I might say, to really understand or grasp in a short time
the difference between the academic and the agency mentality and
perspective. They are in no way, shape, or form alike.
S: So I was going off to Malawi to... this was 1988... to
do... to present a paper for a conference, was a USAID-sponsored
conference. And I had prepared... they had contacted me and offered
me a contract to prepare a paper on women and market networks and
R: In Malawi?
S: No. For....
R: The subject....
S: The subject was for Africa or...
S: ... west Africa.
S: But the conference... the first conference... there
actually turned out to be two of them.
R: All right.
S: The first one was in Malawi.
S: And I was very desirous of accepting that and writing
that paper, because I wanted to get back to Malawi, and that was a
very nice vehicle, you know, to do that. So I had just spent, you
know, X amount of time working on the paper and was about to go
back, and I didn't want that to, you know, interfere with, you
know, this other thing or the other thing to interfere with this.
So I went to Malawi, and, of course, FAO has offices all
around the world.
R: Right. Right.
S: So in addition to five regional offices and in addition
to its major headquarters in Rome, it has seventy-eight country
offices, including one in Malawi.
S: [laughter] So they tracked me down...
S: ... in Malawi. And they said, would I come to Rome for an
So I was debating: "Should I go back home, get the proper
clothes, get the proper books,...
R: Right. Really prepare.
S: ... prepare, et cetera? Or I'm in Malawi; I have to go
through London, anyway. I can just as soon go.... I mean, I have to
go through Europe to get back to America; I can go through Rome
instead of London."
S: "Should I stop?" So I debated on all these subjects. And
then I went to the FAO office in Lilongwe[?], and they, you know,
had a rudimentary library of FAO publications, so I started poking
around. And I thought, "Oh, heck, you know. These international
trips take so much out of you. I'm already completely exhausted
from this one (for all kinds of reasons, I won't go into detail).
I don't really think I want to go all the way back to the United
States, you know, stay there a week, and then fly back to Europe.
That'll just really do me in."
So I went to the FAO office. I pulled out, you know, materials
about the organization and anything I could find about budgets and
anything I could find about the women's service, women in
agriculture service. I wasn't concerned that I didn't know anything
about the subject of women in agriculture.
R: Right. Right.
S: OK. I was really up on that.
S: OK? After the Malawi work, after the OTA work, after the
assignment in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Somalia, after just writing this
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... that I delivered, I mean, you know, I didn't know
anything that there was out there that I hadn't read on that
subject. I mean, of course, there was, but you know what I mean.
S: ... I mean, I'm really, really up on the subject and the
program at the University of Florida. And I'd even taught courses
on women in development. I mean, I just was so up on the subject.
S: But I didn't know anything about the agency. Zero. So I
was really reading to try to figure out, you know, what were the
objectives, what was it about? I mean, I had enough experience,
having worked with USAID and the government of Malawi and having
been an associate dean and these other project things to know that,
you know, the organization charts and the diagrams and all this
stuff were really critical.
R: Key. Key.
S: Yes. Very much so.
S: So I decided to go to Rome. Well, I had to go through
Zambia, and I think I... you know, it was one of these twenty-four
hours at the airport,...
S: ... just horrible.
R: Right. Right.
S: I finally got to Rome, and, I mean, I just looked
bedraggled. I looked terrible. And I had a very limited wardrobe.
And as I was to find out, you know, Rome is... you know, forget
Paris, as the center of...
R: Right. Right.
S: ... of the way people really dress. I mean, you know,
people in Rome really do look spiffy.
R: Well, you said to me in a different... at a different
time that Rome was one of the places where if you were wearing navy
blue in the spring, people wouldn't talk to you.
S: Yes. Yes. Oh,
R: I mean, it was just....
End of Tape 9