NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR FOOD CHAIN ACTIVITIES:
THE IMPERATIVE OF EQUITY FOR WOMEN
BY IRENE TINKER
The views and interpretations in this publication are
those of the author and should not be attributed to
the Agency for International Development or to any
individual acting on its behalf.
Office of Women in Development
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523
The views and interpretations
in this publication are those
of the author and should not
be attributed to the Agency
for International Development;
New Teohnologie for Food Chain Aotivitiehs
The Imperative of Equity for Women
The world's food supply has become a topic of interna-
tE6ionaldiplomacy. The World Food Conference in Rome in 1975
focused the attention of the world on the increased demand
of the growing world population on food resources. Generally
there is optimism concerning the ability of the scientific
establishment to respond to the food crisis with the new
technologies capable of keeping food production ahead of con-
sumption.1 The World Food and Nutrition Study, completed by
the National Research Council in 1977, emphasizes that
The most important requirement for the alleviation
of malnutrition is for the developing countries to
double their own food production by the end of the
century. We are convinced that this can be done
given the political will in the developing and
The basic strategy for rapid agricultural development,
as outlined in the Rockefeller Foundation study To Feed This
World is to increase both productivity and farmer's income.
"Each agricultural development effort should have income gen-
eration through increased productivity as a primary objec-
tive."3 The importance of income in formerly subsistence
economies increases as more and more crops and services be-
1. See for example Fred H. Sanderson, "The Great Food Fumble"
in P. Abelson, Food: Politics, Nutrition, and Research. Wash-
ington, D.C.: AAAS, 1975.
2. National Research Council, World Food and Nutrition Study.
Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1977.
3. Worthman, S. & R. Cummings, To Feed This World. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1978, p. 235.
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come part of the monetary economy. It is widely recognized
that increasing production is only part of the solution to
world hunger; to provide food for the world it is necessary
to reduce extreme poverty so that the hungry have money with
which to buy food.4 Since the greatest concentration of pov-
erty is among the rural people in the developing countries
who have little or no access to land, there is increased at-
tention to developing rural enterprises related both to the
agriculture and to infrastructure.5
More recently, a third strategy has been added to the
effort to alleviate world hunger and malnutrition: to reduce
postharvest food loss. Conservative estimates indicate that
10 percent of durable crops such as cereal grains and grain
legumes are lost between harvest and consumption; a compar-
able figure for nongrain staples such as yams or cassava and
for other perishables including fish would be 20 percent or
more. Technology applied to the storage, processing, and
preservation of various foodstuffs should be able to reduce
losses by 50 percent, automatically increasing available food
on the world market by 10 percent.
These three strategies: increased production, greater
income-producing activities, and a reduction in postharvest
food losses are widely accepted among. development planners as
solutions for meeting the world food crisis. All three
strategies start from the need for putting a platform under
poverty, and for ensuring basic human needs become available
for the world's poor. Yet nowhere in these prestigious works
is there an acknowledgement that over half of the agricultur-
al labor in the developing countries is provided by women,
that women do most of the postharvest food processing and
preservation, or that women cook most of the world's food.
Biases in Economic Development Theory
There are two unexamined biases in contemporary economic
development theory which throw up psychological roadblocks to
4. A major theoretical framework for this view may be found
in World Bank, The Assault on World Poverty. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1975.
5. Current development strategies are reviewed in the World
Bank Paper "Rural Enterprise and Nonfarm Employment." Wash-
ington, D.C., Jan. 1978.
6. National Academy of Sciences, Postharvest Food Losses in
Developing Countries. Washington, D.C. 1978.
the inclusion of women as equal partners in development. The
first is the continued perception of a dichotomy between the
modern and the traditional sectors, between the economic ac-
tivities done for money and those done as volunteer or citi-
zen, between productive work and welfare activities. Statis-
tics still tend only to reflect activities in the modern mon-
etary economy; activities outside those boundaries are not
considered productive, and hence not work. Clearly the role
of an economic development planner is to modernize the coun-
try, to bring the agricultural-sector into the modern sphere
by crop specialization, surplus production, improved market-
ing facilities, and mechanization. An increase in the Gross
National Product, it was argued for years, would bring a
higher improved standard of living for everyone by trickling
down. Now the argument includes income-generation at the
bottom as well; but the basic tenets of the theory go unques-
The second bias, the irrational stereotypes of appropri-
ate roles for women which many men carry around with them,
interrelates.with and is reenforced by definitions of econon-
ic activity. Essentially, in this view, wbmen don't "work",
or if they do, they shouldn't; keeping women dependent on men
is a boon to the male ego. Thus a draft of an AID agricul-
tural policy paper done in 1977 could suggest that a measure
of development would be reducing the number of women working
in the fields. Almost anyone, male or female, would prefer
less arduous work than weeding or harvesting in the hot sun,
. but only if alternative family income were provided either
through new jobs for the woman or through doubling of the
man's income. With neither alternative a part of the policy
plan, the statement clearly reflected a bias about suitable
occupations for women: caring--non-economicall;,--for husband
These two unexamined biases have combined to skew devel-
opment for poor men as well as poor women. First this empha-
sis on recording statistics only for the modern sector has
7. The USA Club of Rome is exploring the issue of male domin-
ance through a project called "Masculine/Feminine Dimensions
of World Problematique," under the leadership of Elizabeth
Dodson Gray who has written "Masculine Consciousness and the
Problem of Limiting Growth," 1973, mimeo. Dorothy Dinner-
stein's The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and
Human Malaise. NY: Harper & Row, 1977. explores the male rule
of our world and argues that the present inexorable creep
toward self-destruction is a function of male psychosis.
obscured all activity in the informal sector. Thus planners
for Africa were given data which tells them that only 5 per-
cent of the women work. It is too easy to forget that such a
figure applies only to the modern sector and then to obliter-
ate, for planning purposes, the fact that 60 to 80 percent of
the agricultural labor is done by women in Africa, or that
women dominate the marketing and processing of agricultural
Men, too, find employment in this informal sector of the
economy. Somehow that is seen, for men at least, as a transi-
tional phase. Post-industrial societies are not supposed to
have an informal sector. It took the National Institute of
Mental Health to recognize the existence of an "irregular
economy" in the United States and to fund studies of what the
_authors call "economic terra incognito." The concluding sec-
tion of this study, "Potential Significance and Implications"
This study is clearly related to the alienation of
groups, neighborhood-based, from larger structures
of the society--in this case from the conventional
production and distribution systems. Partly, the
irregular economy arises from a lack of institu-
tional response to a misallocation of goods and
services, i.e., to a failure of the distribution
and pricing systems to adjust and serve areas of
unmet needs. In the main, the study attempts to
identify these unmet needs and analyze the condi-
tions under which neighborhood-based coping pat-
These comments clearly beg the question "what is work?"
Kathleen Newland in her new book The Sisterhood of Man re-
cords how differently different countries define which activ-
ities are included in national income accounts. She
describes the long work days of Iranian nomad women who, in
addition to the care and feeding of the family,
...haul water into the camp on their backs. They
milk and shear the animals, mostly sheep and goats.
They collect such edible plants, berries, roots,
and fungi as the surroundings afford. They churn
8. Berndt, Louise E., and Louis A. Ferman, "Irregular Econom-
ic: Cash Flow in the Informal Sector." Center for Metropoli-
tan Problems, NIMH, 1977, mimeo. See also Dow, Leslie M. Jr.,
"High Weeds in Detroit: The Irregular Economy Among a Network
of Appalachian Migrants." Urban Anthropology, Vol. 6, No. 2,
1977, pp. 111-128.
butter, make cheese and yogurt, and refine the
left-over whey into the daily beverage. They spin
the wool and goat hair into thread or press it into
felt and make clothes, tent cloths, and carpets for
their families' use. From each tent-household of
an extended family a woman goes daily to collect
firewood from the brush; on the average, she spends
half a day at the task, plus another hour at the
camp breaking the torn-off branches of thorn-bush
into pieces small enough for the cooking fire.
In the national economic accounts of Iran...the
only portion of the nomad woman's work that will
show up even as subsistence production is her out-
put of woolen textiles and dairy products. If she
lived in the Congo Republic instead of Iran, the
accountants would also include her food-processing
activities in calculating the Gross Donestic Pro-
duct, but they would omit her production of hand-
crafted articles. Taiwan's bookkeepers also would
leave out handicrafts; they would, however, assign
economic value to the woman's water carrying and
wood gathering. But in Nigeria, it would be argued
that, in rural areas, wood and water are free '
goods, like air, and so are the human efforts that
make them useful.9
The inconsistencies of the present method of income ac-
counts is increasingly apparent in the United States today.
With the rise of two-income families, nearly half of the food
consumed in America is eaten outside the home. Suddenly the
effort to feed the family has been moved from an invisible
category to economic activity. Many of the .services to the
sick and infirm which were formerly undertaken by compassion-
ate volunteers, predominantly women, must now be paid for.
While many women, as well as men, are anguished over the de-
cline in volunteering, no one should be surprised. Money is
the measure of success and status in the United States; non-
productive activities are seen as peripheral and marginal--at
least until they begin to disappear.
Women's Contributions to Family Survival
A second factor largely ignored is the importance of the
woman's economic activity to family survival. Among the
poor, every family member that is able must contribute to the
family support. Such support becomes even more crucial as
9. Newland, Kathleen, The Sisterhood of Man..NY: Norton,
1977, pp. 129-130.
modernization pushes the poor family to the margin. Ann
Stoler has analyzed women's economic activities in Java in
relationship to the family budget and finds that the women in
landless and near landless families earn one-third of the
household's total income, a much larger share than contribut-
ed by wives from larger landholding classes.10 In Mexico the
contribution of women to their families' budgets varies by
cultural group as well as class.11 Not only do women con-
tribute to family income, but because of their responsibili-
ties to the family they often are more adaptable in crisis
Particularly in Africa, the persistence of sex segrega-
tion both in occupation and responsibilities means that every
woman is expected to provide food, clothes, and education for
her children and food for her husband from her own separate
budget.-During the Sahelian drought, many observers noted
that if the sauce to the millet gruel had only a single piece
of meat, that was the share of the husband who of course ate
first. Peace Corps volunteers urged women to grind the meat
so that some protein might be left for the children; they did
not presume to suggest that the man contribute money to buy
the food.13 As men's earnings have increased through cash
crops or urban employment, they often feel no obligation to
increase their share of child support. Recently a Kenyan
woman sued her urban-dwelling husband in District Court for
school fees for their son. His defense was that he had pro-
vided her with a piece of land; she was responsible for the
care and schooling of the children. Surprisingly the judge
found .for the woman who had argued that the size of the land
made it impossible for her to save enough money for fees; be-
sides, the husband was well-employed.
Because African women provided the bulk of family sup-
port, modern industry and plantations were able to siphon off
the men without paying them wages sufficient to provide for
10. "Class Structure and Female Autonomy in Rural Java,"
Signs, Vol. 3., No. 1 (Autumn 1977), pp. 74-89.
11. Elmendorf, Mary, "Mexico: The Many Worlds of Women," in
Janet Zollinger Giele & Audrey Chapman Smock, Women: Roles
and Status in Eight Countries. NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1977,
12. See, for example, Marilyn Hoskins, "Vietnamese Women in a
Changing Society," 1973, mimeo; and Stoler, op. cit.
13. Personal interview, October 1978.
the entire family. A recent UN report comments this "func-
tional relationship between the subsistence and the modern
sector" in Lesotho, South Africa provides 95 percent of the
S cash earned in Lesotho. At any given time, close to 40 per-
Scent of the working-age male population resides in South Af-
rica, thereby leaving the villages with a substantial numeri-
cal predominance of women. Since the men's earnings are not
sufficient, the subsistence output provided by women is nec-
essary for family survival.14
The pressures on the family of such migration patterns
have clearly contributed to the increased numbers of women-
headed households around the world. Economic development
policies which have left women behind in the subsistence
economy while pushing men into the modern sector encourage
'the disintegration of the family.15 Today between 25 and 33
percent of all households are de fact headed by a woman due
to divorce, death, desertion, long term migration, or because
she never married. These female-headed households constitute
the poorest group in every country.16
Poor women, whatever their living arrangements, must
work to survive. Being invisible to development planners,
and being the poorest of the poor, they have as a group been
most adversely affected by development.17 Perdita Huston
quotes their own words in her book Third World Women Speak
Out: "Life is more difficult than before.""I
14. United Nations, "Development and International Economic
Co-operation: Effective mobilization of women in development."
A/33/238, 26 October 1978, p. 21.
15. For a longer exposition, see Tinker, I, "Development and
the Disintegration of the Family," Assignment Children.
UNICEF, 36, October-December, 1976.
16. Germaine, Adrienne, "Poor Rural Women: A Policy Perspec-
tive," Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 2,
Fall-Winter 1976-77. ISuch figures are extrapolated from
micro-studies. An attempt to project this data to the na-
tional level may be found in Buvinic, M. and N. Youssef,
"Women-headed Households: The Ignored Factor in Development
Planning," a report submitted to AID/WID, March 1978, mimeo.
17. I have spelled this process out in "The Adverse Impact of
Development on Women," in Tinker, I. and Michele Bo Bramsen,
eds., Women and World Development. Washington, D.C.: Over-
seas Development Council, 1977.
18. Chapter 2. NY: Praeger, 1979.
Women and the Food Crisis
The three major strategies for meeting the world's food
crisis--increased production, greater income-producing activ-
ities, and a reduction in postharvest food losses--are also
strategies for aiding the rural poor women. Women in Asia
and Africa provide between 60 and 80 percent of agricultural
labor; they produce 95 percent of the village food supply in
Kenya. Indeed, poor women everywhere work in the fields,
though such labor is often denied because of the status im-
plications.19 Women's participation in processing, preserv-
ing, and preparing food is even greater than their participa-
tion in production. Women's responsibilities to help feed
their families are becoming harder to fulfill as moderniza-
tion restricts traditional activities which enabled women to
grow or earn food. Greater income-producing activities for
women will have a more immediate impact on proving basic food
and health to the poor than similar activities aimed only at
In order for the food crisis strategies to accomplish
their goal of feeding the world, women must not only be in-
cluded in olannine. they must be central to it. Since devel-
opment is essential to the introduction of new technologies,
women must be consulted in the selection of new technologies,
trained in their use, and given means to control those most
related to their spheres of economic activity.
Below I will review the impact of current development
policies and new technologies on women's work in the produc-
tion, processing, preservation, and preparation of food, em-
phasizing positive change while noting cases where women's
traditional activities have been undermined. Because the
fetching of wood and the drawing of water are necessary to
carry out many of these food-chain activities, I will also
discuss household energy needs and the requirements of a safe
water supply. Many technologies have long been available to
increase the efficiency of these activities, even to provid-
ing surplusses for sale. I will argue that the low priority
assigned to them is directly related to the two unexamined
biases under discussion.
19. Dulansey, Maryanne, "Can Technology Help Women Feed Their
Families?" Report on the AAAS Workshop on Women and Develop-
ment, May 1979.
New Technologies and Women
Almost universally, new technologies for food-chain ac-
tivities have been introduced to men regardless of women's
contributions. Technology, because it is modern, is somehow
assumed to be appropriate and understandable only for men,
not women. Besides, rural poor women are usually illiterate,
and so presumed unable to alter custom to adopt new technolo-
gies. Further, rural credit is scarce enough, and seldom is
extended to women because they lack assets for collateral.
Land is the major rural asset, and colonial governments reg-
istered communal land in the man's name.
Women's uncertain access to land, credit, and education
prevents their access to and control of new technologies
which might help them out of the mire of poverty so that they
-could afford land, credit, and education. This vicious cir-
cle had intensified women's dependency on men in rural areas
and undoubtedly encourages urban migration. WLth fragile
marriage patterns the rule rather than the exception, women
have little incentive to improve their use of land either for
production or for fuel-gathering. Given their incredibly
long workdays, poor rural women have almost no spare time
which they might use to learn new processing or preservation
techniques. Living at the margin, fearful that any change
would further reduce their ability tolfeed their families,
women are rightly suspicious of new technology. Interven-
tions must not only reduce the workday, but must also provide
sufficient income to buy the food or services which the woman
stops providing, and to pay for the cost of the technology.
To date, most new technologies introduced into agricul-
tural production have had a deleterious effect on poor rural
women. Small machines for processing agricultural products
and new techniques for improved preservation have had mixed
impacts. Technologies to relieve the drudgery of collecting
wood and refuse for cooking are only now being seriously con-
sidered as the environmental impact of current usage patterns
becomes apparent. The provision of water for cooking and
other household use has taken second place to water for irri-
gation regardless of the Water for Peace campaign in the
1960s and the more recent agreements at the UN Water Confer-
ence of 1977 on clean water for everyone by 1990.
I will briefly discuss each of these elements in the
food chain: production, processing, preservation, and prepar-
ation, illustrating the types of impact that new technologies
have had on women as differentiated from men. These various
activities are part of a continuous process; successful in-
tervention in one area can trigger change in another. Often
the spark vital for the first chan'
credit, or land, or training frequ
women's networks or organizations.
women's access to and control of n
presented in the final section alo
livery systems. Where possible I
pact which technology has had on d
as modernization contributes to in
tion. My focus, however, is always
Yet even among this group distinct
Thus while I argue throughout this
group are bypassed by modernization
stress the importance of refining
projects are undertaken to amelior
Women play a major role in al
the different aspects of agricultu a
crops, cash crops, market gardens, a
culture. The greatest impacts of e
production have.been on cash crops s
pineapples, rubber, tea, coffee, sug
sisal. While many of these crops a
part of the local diet. Even where
- tional, for example, the demand on t
has pushed up the price to a point
has dropped. The nutritional conse
high protein source have been widel
Asia and Africa are net exporters o
net importers of high-carbohydrate
Cash crops have competed for 1
crops. Until recently little resea
food crops. Only as wheat and rice
ties in the international market ha
attempts to improve production. Th
tion has affected rice and wheat, b
crops such as yams and millet have
efforts. Market crops and small an:
ceived little research attention,
ceived dichotomy between the modern
20. See for example Kathleen A. Stau
Politics of Women Farmers," Journal
Ann Stoler, op. cit.
21. Ingrid Palmer, Food and the New
Geneva: UN Research Institute for So
ge came from new access to
ently made possible through
Strategies for increasing
w technologies will be
g with a discussion of de-
ill note the varying im-
*fferent classes of women
reased social stratifica-
on the rural poor women.
ons are appearing.20 Thus
paper that women as a
and technology, I wish to
he target groups whenever
te their position.
developing countries in
pl production: subsistence
nd small anima- and fish
!chnology in agricultural
uch as bananas, cotton,
;ar cane, peanuts, and
e edible, they are seldom
eating peanuts was tradi-
:he international market
there local consumption
uence of exporting this
noted. In fact, both
high-protein foods and
nd and labor with food
ch went into improving
became exchange commodi-
re there been concerted
resultant green revolu-
t other major subsistence
et to respond to research
mal breeding have re-
iderscoring again the per-
commercial sector and the
dt, "Class and Sex in the
of Politics. May 1979; or
=ial Development, 1972,
traditional subsistence sector.22
The impact of the new technologies both on subsistence
and on cash crops varies both by major crop and by farming
systems. Ester Boserup in her landmark book on Women's Role
in Economic Development23 relates women's status to the need
for her labor in subsistence food crops or animals. Thus the
technology of the plow contributed to a loss in status his-
torically; similar impacts are recounted below when the in-
troduction of the sickle in Indonesia or new crops in the
Sudan lowers women's utility and hence their status.
The change in women's status as a result of moderniza-
tion can be seen most clearly in Africa. In the traditional
societies, women held fairly independent and equitable posi-
tions in both the nomadic and settled agricultural communi-
ties. Such societies were also characterized by little so-
cial stratification. Women did the bulk of farming work
among the settled agriculturists. The major impact of tech-
nology, being focused on non-subsistence crops, has been to
draw off land and labor from the food crops. Women continue
to grow and control food crops, but because this sector has
not been monetized, they must seek money from other activi-
ties, The specifics of this impact vary from one society to
-men migrate to urban areas or to mines in search of
--women work cash crops in addition to subsistence crops;
--women's land is taken away for cash crops;
--new settlements ignore food needs and thus women's
The culmination of these trends, discussed in more detail be-
low, is to increase the work of poor women while lowering her
status vis-a-vis men. Women from the growing elite classes
have tended to move out of food production, although some
have become extension workers or bureaucrats in development
Growing the subsistence crop has been increasingly left
to African women as men migrate to cities. Statistics show
that one-third of farm managers in Africa south of the Sahara
are women, with even higher percentages recorded in some
22. Wortman, op. cit., chapter 7.
23. London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1970.
countries: 54 percent in Tanzania and 41 percent in Ghana.
Algeria reported female participation in agriculture had more
than doubled between 1966 and 1973.24 Yet women's crops and
women's work continue to be largely ignored by extension
Most cash crops in Africa are grown on small holdings,
Thus, women are being asked not only to work their subsis-
tence crop fields, but also to contribute their labor to cash
crops. This added burden reinforces the inequity and inef-
ficiency of the present practices according to Louise Fortman
in her study of Tanzanian agriculture,
The inefficiency arises from the fact that women...
have limited access to...information and land which
would allow them to become more productive, This
differential access is based...on accepted social
norms and customs. Similarly, the heavy work load
already imposed on women often prevents them from
adopting improved technology that requires addition-
al labour inputs. Thus the present village and
household organization of labour limits the poten-
tial for increasing production.
[W]omen bear a disproportionately large share of the
work (of export crop cultivation) ,..Because of trad-
itional rules of land tenure relatively few women
are able to undertake cash crop production in their
own right. Those who work on their husbands' cash
crops rarely receive a proportionate share of the
Because women get few rewards from the production of cash
crops, it is no surprise that whenever there are competing
demands between food and cash crops, they work on the food
crops.26 In the Gambia, where women receive the proceeds
from the sale of onions they grew, over 4,000 willingly work
24. UN document, Effective mobilization.,., on. cit., p. 22.
25. "Women and Tanzanian Agricultural Development," Dar es
Salaam, Economic Research Bureau, 1978, mimeo.
26. Jean A. S. Ritchie, "Impacts of Changing Food Production,
Processing and Marketing Systems on the Role of Women, Im-
pacts of the World Situation, Proceedings of the World Food
Conference, 1976. Ames: Iowa State University Press, p. 133.
on this cash crop.27 The success of this onion scheme was
such that the men farmers was asked for assistance in plant-
ing this crop, and the government complied. The women, how-
ever, refused to work on their husbands' onion crop though
they continued to grow traditional crops on their husbands'
land, Apparently the men's onions withered.
Plantations are less common in Africa than in Asia, but
women in both continents have provided cheap labor. This
source of income is diminishing on the coffee and tea planta-
tions in Uganda and Kenya. The introduction of insecticides
and fungicides have reduced the need for weeding by as much
as 85 percent.
Thus, technology has been used in a way that has
had detrimental and paradoxical consequences for
African rural women. While, on the one hand, the
technological changes in the modern agricultural
sector have deprived women of employment, the
shortage of simple technological improvements in
food-processing, energy and water supply, on the
other hand, has left the rural women overburdened
in their daily tasks.28
Both national governments, eager for foreign exchange,
agricultural experts, using the US as a model, have tended to
view the use of land for subsistence crops as inefficient.
According to one expert, writing in 1970, "...parts of upland
Kenya could be devoted to vegetables, tea, dairying, and so
on, but instead they are used by housewives for grains that
take 9 to 11 months to mature." 9 Pressures to grow the more
profitable export crops have reduced acreage allotted to food
crops. Such changes have resulted in women losing their
traditional rights to grow their crops on communal land. In
Upper Volta, a foreign development scheme for swamp rice es-
sentially turned the crop over to men through male extension
agents working directly with men in the villages.30 In the
27. Elliott R. Morse, et al.,"Strategies for Small Farmer De-
velopment: An Empirical Study of Rural Development Projects."
Prepared by Development Alternatives, Inc. for AID, May 1975,
Vol. I, p. 190.
28. Ibid., p. 24.
29. Peter F. M. McLoughlin in his edited "African Food Pro-
duction Systems." Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1970, p. 7.
30. Janice E. Baker,
Cameroons, women were forced off the cleared land near the
village. Land near the village is nearly all taken up with
coffee and cocoa plantations.
Food fields are anywhere from one to ten kilometers
from the village with three to six kilometers most
often cited. This distance implies a one-half to
one and one-half hour walk to the food fields over
rough forest paths, often with slippery stream and
marsh crossings. The worst aspect of the trek
comes during the return-a woman is often carrying
the daily food supply of cassava, plantain, and
corn, plus firewood, and often her baby as well.
The weight is anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds. In-
juries from falls or scrapes are common, and much
spontaneous abortion and persistent backache is
blamed on this aspect of women's work."31
New settlement schemes have had a particularly deleteri-
ous effect on women. In Nigeria the government provided five
hectare plots for the growing of soybeans for sale. Corn
could be grown for personal consumption, but amounts were
limited by the seeds provided. No garden plots were provid-
ed, thus depriving women of land to grow food for the family
which they had done, with the exception of corn, before join-
ing the resettlement program. Income-from the cash crops was
given to the men; women received no wages for their labor.
Further, those activities normally done by men, the clearing
and ploughing, were mechanized, but not women's activities of
planting, weeding, and harvesting.32
The Mwea irrigated rice scheme in Kenya did allocate
small garden plots to the women, but these were small because
it was assumed that rice from the irrigated plots would be
added to the diet. Women in fact did receive some rice in
return for her labor on her husband's land, but since the men
refused to eat rice, women had to sell it and buy traditional
food at increasingly high prices. Women on the scheme did
not have time, nor land, to raise enough food for their own
consumption. Thus they worked longer hours than before but
could not provide as much food for their families as they had.
In addition, they often had to buy firewood for cooking since
31. Henn, Jeanne K., "Report on Women Farmers and their Rela-
tionship to the ZAPI de l'Est." Washington, D.C.: World Bank,
Rural Development Division, March 1976, nimeo.
32. Dulansey, Maryanne L., "Women in Development: A Training
Module." Washington, D.C.: Consultants in Development, 1977,
mimeo, p. 5.
fuel was scarce in the resettlement area, and women's time
was less. Thus while the total income of the families in the
scheme has gone up, and visible wealth in the form of tran-
sistor radios and bicycles is in evidence, nutritional levels
nonetheless have fallen.
The New Halfa Agricultural Scheme involved the settle-
ment of the nomadic Shukriya. The independent production
these women traditionally enjoyed came from their ownership
of animals and their rights to milk from all the animals they
Since the Scheme concentrated on cash crops men's
work acquired a new value: money. The only oppor-
tunity women have to make money on the Scheme, be-
ing deprived of their animals and not owning ten-
ancies, is cotton picking. But since they can
work on immediate family tenancies, the monetary
value of that labor is very slim....Poor Shukriya
women are the most likely to benefit from cotton-
picking on other people's tenancies since being so
poor exempts them from behaving according to the
dominant social norms.34
A recurring theme in all these studies of new technology
for cash crops is that while cash income may have increased,
nutritional levels tend to fall. The primary reason for this
seemingly contradictory phenomenon is the fact that this in-
come belongs to the man. Men use this money for improving
homes, throwing "prestige" feasts, buying transistor radios.
In the Cameroons men do use their income to pay school fees,
unlike Kenya. Men often spend their money on liquor, gam-
bling, or women, wile their wives lack money to buy food
they cannot raise.
A second major problem in ensuring that increased in-
come is translated into improved nutrition is the marketing
system. The fragmented nature of the present marketing
33. Palmer, Ingrid, "Rural Women and the Basic-Needs Approach
to Development." International Labour Review, Vol. 115, No.
1, January-February 1977.
34. Murdock, Muneera Salem, "The Impact of Agricultural De-
velopment on a Pastoral Society: The Shukriya of the Eastern
Sudan." Washington, D.C.: AID, April 1979, p. 54.
35. Wipper, Audrey, "African Women, Fashion, and Scapegoat-
*ing." Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2.,
1972, pp. 329-349.
system in Africa means that traditional subsistence crops are
not widely available.36 Market crops cannot be shipped any
great distance because of the spoilage problems and ineffi-
cient transport. Staples in many areas are sold only by one
merchant; in the Cameroons the price of salt and sugar, sold
only through the Zapi project store, rose with the availabil-
ity of cash.37 As areas urbanize, and markets include a
greater variety of food, cash becomes even more important
since in smaller markets it is still possible to barter.
This fact, and the cost of getting to the central market,
limited the ability of Shukriya women to obtain additional
Agricultural technology has clearly not worked in favor
of African women. Subsistence crops and market crops have
generally been ignored both by researchers and extension
workers. Cash crops and farm machinery were considered ap-
propriate only for men. Little concern has been directed at
improving breeds of small animals. There are signs of change.
The Integrated Farming Pilot Project in Botswana which was
started in 1976 for male farmers to improve their dryland
farming and livestock management techniques has recently ex-
panded its program to include 100 women. Week-long courses
will stress vegetable gardening and poultry keeping. Further,
agricultural extension agents will organize special field
days to demonstrate new techniques to-women.39 Scattered ef-
forts have been made by Peace Corps volunteers to encourage
the raising of bees, poultry, or rabbits, but there is little
evidence that these new productive activities were incorpor-
ated into the local economy.
The Peace Corps efforts in introducing or improving fish
culture in Africa have had a more lasting impact, particular-
ly in Northwest Cameroons. Because this is a new activity in
much of interior Africa, there is no cultural reason for in-
troducing this potentially important income-producing activ-
ity only to men. However, only since 1978 have any of the
"fish" volunteers been women. The current program in Zaire
features the tilapia, which is vegetarian. Fingerlings are
introduced into shallow ponds which have been built with a
36. Lele, op. cit., p. 180.
37. Henn, op. cit., p. 6.
38. Murdock, op. cit.
39. "Women in Development." The NFE Exchange, No. 13, L978/3,
Institute for International Studies in Education, Michigan
plug so that water can be drained for easy harvesting. While
men dig the ponds, women carry the agricultural and animal
wastes on which the fish thrive. In six months there can be
as high as a two hundred percent return! At present the fish
is sold and eaten so quickly that preservation is not a prob-
lem. There needs to be immediate attention to marketing be-
fore problems arise. Given the divided use of money within
an African family, improved nutrition will happen faster if
the ponds and the fish marketing are developed within the wo-
man's economic sphere.
The most successful African program for income-producing
gardening and pigs is in Kenya. Its growth seemed almost
spontaneous. While the government is now assisting in mar-
keting, they played very little role earlier. It is instruc-
tive that the women expanded their gardens and small animals
'once they had time to do so. Every study of African women
speaks about their overwork. How can women so close to sur-
vival dare to stop doing any one of the daily chores that
keeps her family alive?
The mabati movement in Kenya gave women time. Tin roofs
mean that rainwater can be saved and stored, releasing women
from the daily chore of fetching water, a chore that takes
two to ten hours per household.0 The women used the tradi-
tional rotating credit societies to accumulate cash to buy
the tin roofs.1 Each woman puts so much money in a communal
pot; each woman wins the pot with the turn drawn by lot.
With the time saved by available rainwater, and often with
cash earned by selling some of the water, the women increased
their production of vegetables, chickens, and pigs for sale
in the urban markets.
This project would seem to corroborate the assumption
that the major stumbling block for increased production of
food among African women is their present time overload. Yet
population pressures have meant that both water and fuel are
harder to find, so that the time women spend in the tradi-
tional support for the family is increasing. Children can
help the mother in these tasks. Thus concern for improved
water and energy supplies not only would release women for
more productive activity, but would also alter the present
40."UNICEF/NGO Water Project", National Council of Women of
41. Rotating credit societies are found throughout the world
among men as well as women: for example, the arisan in Indo-
nesia, susu in West Africa, gamava in Egypt, tanamoshi in
incentives for large families.
The green revolution has tended to increase unemployment
and contribute to the maldistribution of income in rural
areas.42More recently, studies have disaggregated the impact
on women and on men. In India the overall impact has been a
reduction of employment opportunities for women, a trend re-
ported in the Census of 1951. A study in Punjab, India,
Snorted that while displaced men were given an opportunity to
. take the training necessary to operate new machinery, women
were left,to work on the increasingly scarce unskilled
jobs.43 This "pauperisation caused by the disappearance of
their traditional avenues of employment" has pushed many poor
women into the cities.44 Nutritional levels are so low among
landless women that they lose twice as many children as women
:from landed households. 5 Children that survive are malnour-
ished, with the worst cases observed among female children.46
Such poverty has made plantation work attractive to
many poor Indian families, both in India and in neighboring
countries. On tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka, women
make up over half the labor force; on Indian and Malaysian
coffee estates, they make up 44 percent of the labor force,
while their participation in rubber estates is only somewhat
less. A major reason for this growing female labor force is
the wage differentials between males and females: women are
paid about 80 percent of male wages for the same work. As
42. A classic statement is found in Uma J. Lele and John W.
Mellor, "Jobs, Poverty, and the 'Green Revolution'," Inter-
national Affairs. Vol. 48, January 1972, pp. 20-32.
43. Billings, Martin H. and Arjan Singh, "Mechanization and
the Wheat Revolution: Effects on Female Baour in the Punjab,"
Economic and Political Weekly. December 26, 1970.
44. Muzamdar, Vina and Kumud Sharma, "Women's Studies: New
Perceptions and the Challenges," Economic and Political Week-
lv. January 20, 1970, p. 117.
45. Rosenberg, David A. and Jean G., Landless Peasants and
Rural Poverty in Selected Asian Countries. Ithaca: Cornell
University Rural Development Committee Monograph, 1978, p. 17.
46. Levinson, F. J., Morinda: An Economic Analysis of Malnu-
trition Among Children in Rural India. Harvard-MIT Interna-
tional Nutrition Policy Series, 1974.
production costs rise there is greater incentive to utilize
new labor-saving technologies and to increase the percentage
of women being paid reduced wages in the labor force.47
The differential impact of the green revolution on women
of different classes has also been noted in Indonesia, where
the intensive farming system has traditionally supported a
more equitable society than the plough farming system of
South Asia. The new high-yielding varieties of rice have
triggered a change in the traditional harvesting patterns.
Because of the high investment in the new varieties, particu-
larly in fertilizer, landlords wanted an increased return
from the crop. Further, population increase has multiplied
the number of harvesters, who are traditionally women. Women
use a small knife, the ani-ani, for cutting individual stalks
of rice. Leaning from the waist, the women might leave as
much as 10 percent of the rice in the fields--a practice
which provides a sort of social security for the poorest in
the village. The harvesters divide the rice stalks, not
evenly, but rather by levels of obligation which may reflect
class. Between 12 and 15 percent of the crop goes to the
harvesters under this system. Thus traditional harvesting
patterns mean that the available rice is only about three-
fourths of the rice in the fields.48
The new harvesting pattern involves a new technology: a
hand sickle. Gangs of men are hired by a middle-man to com-
plete the harvest; with the sickle, little rice is left in
the field. Further, the men are paid by weight rather than
by rice stalks. Total "cost" of the harvest is therefore
only between 6 and 8 percent of the rice in the field. This
change in harvest practices automatically showed an increase
in rice production, has drastically reduced female labor, es-
pecially among the landless, and has effectively abolished
the gleaned rice for the poorest.
Population pressures and technological change have also
reduced work opportunities for the poor males, thus increas-
ing the importance to family survival of female income from
trade and handicrafts.
47. UN document, op. cit., pp. 25-26.
48. Rosenberg, op. cit., pp. 70-72; Ann Stoler, "Class Struc-
ture and Female Autonomy in Rural Java," Signs. Vol. 3, No. 1
(Autumn 1977), pp. 74-89; Gary E. Hansen, Rural Local Govern-
ment and Agricultural Develooment in Java, Indonesia. Ithaca:
Cornell University Rural Development Committee Monograph,
November 1974, pp. 49ff.
It is men, in fact, who have a smaller set of viable al-
ternatives to agricultural labor. Women are, in a
sense, better equipped to deal with the situation of in-
creasing landlessness and can manipulate a more familiar
set of limited options....49
The multiple strategies which poor rural families use
for survival can be illustrated with two cases from the wet
zone of Sri Lanka.
One household with 13 members had seven sources of in-
come: (1) operation of 0.4 acres of paddy land by the
adults, (2) casual labor and road construction by the
head and eldest son, (3) labor in a rubber sheet factory
by the second son, (4) toddy tapping and jaggery making
by the head and his wife, (5) seasonal migration to the'
dry zone as agricultural labor by the wife, eldest son
and daughter, (6) mat weaving by the wife and daughter,
and (7) carpentry and-masonry work by the head and eld-
est son. Another household with 11 members and six
sources of income, mostly agricultural: (1) home garden
by the family, (2) a one acre highland plot operated by
the wife, (3) labor on road construction on weekdays and
on the plot on weekends by the head, (4) seasonal migra-
tion to the dry zone as agricultural labor by the daugh-
ter and son, (5) casual labor in a rice mill in the dry
zone by the eldest son, and (6) casual agricultural la-
bor in the village by the head and his wife.50
The economic contribution of women to family survival is
evident in the study of two Philippine villages, one Muslim
and one Christian, near Davos on Mindanao. The Muslim women
grow, harvest, and sew nipa palm for house shingles, while
the major occupation of the Christian women related to fish-
All the women...worked for money at some point in their
lives. All control the family budget, and all but one
continue to contribute to the family income. Throughout
the Philippines, and indeed all of Southeast Asia, women
play an important entrepreneurial role. Traditionally,
such activity was not considered particularly high stat-
us; perhaps for that reason it was left to women....It
is clear that these women, even though they live in a
village economy that is often referred to as subsistence
49. Stoler, op. cit., p. 88.
50. Rosenberg, "Incidence of Landlessness and Near-Landless-
ness," op. cit., p. 8.
could not live without money to buy food. Even their
basic diet of vegetables and salted or dried fish must
be purchased in the market.51
A major factor which encourages women to increase their
economic activity in the monetized economy is the ability to
keep control of their earnings. The success of the Korean
SMother's Clubs is a case in point. Based on historic cooper-
ation of women in supporting each other in providing expen-
sive ritual festivals for marriage or death, the Mother's
Clubs were set up to facilitate the distribution of birth
control pills. Three-quarters of the Mother's Clubs organ-
ized Mother's Banks. Encouraged by financial resources of
their own, women in many villages started projects to earn
money with which to build schools, run stores, improve vil-
lage services. While the groups have now branched out into
a variety of income-producing activities, market production
including gathering of nuts for sale was frequently the first
income-producing activity.2 Women are also employed in public
works projects, but at lower wages than men, a fact that re-
iterates Korean women's low, if improving, status.53
Studies of women's roles in agriculture in the Muslim
countries of North Africa and West Asia have been inhibited
more than elsewhere by cultural norms that encourage under-
numeration. In Thailand the labor force participation rates
in the Southern province, where one-quarter of the population
is Muslim, for females over 11 years old is 63.9 percent, as
compared to a national average of 86 percent. This suggests
51. My section on the Philippines in Reining, Priscilla, et
al., Village Women: Their Changing Lives and Fertility. Wash-
ington, D.C.: AAAS, 1977, pp. 230 and 238.
52. Misch, Marion Ruth and Joseph B. Margolin, Rural Women's
Groups as Potential Change Agents: A Study of Colombia, Korea,
and the Philippines. Washington, D.C.: George WashingtonUniv.
Program of Policy Studies in Science and Technology, May1975,
pp. 26-58; also Hyung Jong Park et al., Mother's Clubs and
Family Planning in Korea. Seoul National University School of
Public Health, 1974.
53. Soon Young Song Yoon, "The Emergence of the Fourth World:
Korean Women in Development," Korean Journal. February 1977,
few Muslim women are reported as actively employed.54 Studies
in Turkey confirm the invisibility of Muslim women in statis-
tics even when they take complete charge of the farms in
areas of intensive out-migration of males. Mechanization has
contributed to greater social stratification, with resulting
leisure available to wives of the larger landowners. Wage-
working families continue to pick cotton, hazelnuts, tobacco,
Recent efforts to reach rural poor women in Bangladesh
have been impeded by purdah restrictions. Nonetheless, wo-
men's cooperatives are successfully marketing fish, bananas,
limes, ducks and chickens, and vegetables. Operating solely
with capital saved by the women themselves, these coopera-
tives are seen as models for the rest of the country. Yet of
the 13 cooperatives in the country, only two are totally Mus-
lim.' Muslim husbands still resist the idea of their wives
leaving the compound for weekly meetings.56
As men are drawn off to work in Saudi Arabia, Yemeni wo-
men are taking over much of the farming. As noted above, the
poorest women in the New Halfa resettlement scheme benefitted
from greater opportunity to pick cotton. Yet the recognition
of women's economic activity is resisted the most in the con-
servative Muslim areas. Status is attached to seclusion ex-
cept for the Westernized elite; with the recent revolution in
Iran, even that is subject to change. Nonetheless, it is
clear that poor women in all countries, including Islamic
ones, must and do contribute to the survival of their fami-
54. Oey Astra Meesook, "Working Women in Thailand." Paper
prepared for the Conference on Women and Development, Welles-
ley, Massachusetts, 1976, mimeo.
55. Kandiyoti, Deniz, "Sex Roles and Social Change: A Compar-
ative Appraisal of Turkey's Women," Signs. Vol. 3, No. 1 (Au-
tumn 1977), pp. 60-62.
56. Dixon, Ruth B., Women's Cooperatives and Rural Develop-
ment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1978.
57. For an insightful view of women's present and potential
roles in this area see Roxann A. Van Dusen, "Integrating Wo-
men into National Economies: Programming Considerations with
Special Reference to the Near East," AIP Policy Paper, July
Women in the agricultural labor force in Latin America,
while lower than that in Africa and Asia, is still an impres-
sive 40 percent, according to the Economic Commission of Lat-
This figure is low, according to Carmen Diana Deere. In
her review of women doing agricultural work in Peru, Deere
found that 86 percent of the women in peasant households par-
ticipated in the agricultural work as compared to the 1976
Peasant Family Survey of 38 percent. Self perceptions are
partly responsible; if a man resides at home, he is the farm-
er. "The majority of the women that considered themselves to
be agriculturalists were female heads of households with no
adult male present. "58
In Honduras, 13 percent of the rural households are
permanently headed by women; the figure rises to 25-27 per-
cent if seasonal migration is included. These women tend to
be landless, and must seek wage employment on the cotton and
coffee plantations.59 In the Peruvian highlands, the transi-
tion from the hacienda system to minifundio has relieved wo-
men of many servile tasks formerly required by the landlord.
But it is difficult for a family to live off the small plots
of land. As men are forced to seek wage income off the farm,
the responsibilities of 6he women increase, increasing her
self-esteem and status.
As landlessness or near-landlessness increases, the poor
farmers must increase their wage labor. In Peru and Honduras
men migrate seasonally from the mountains to work on large
farms. In Northeastern Brazil, the farmers assist with the
sugar harvest on the large plantations.
58. "The Agricultural Division of Labor by Sex: Myths, Facts,
and Contradictions in the Northern Peruvian Sierra," paper
for the joint Latin American Studies Association and the Af-
rican Studies Association, Houston, Texas, November 1977.
59. Gallup, Cynthia B., "Observations on the Role of Women in
the Agricultural Sector in Honduras," USAID Honduras, January
60. Deere, Carmen Diana, "Changing Social Relations of Pro-
duction and Peasant Women's Work in the Peruvian Sierra,"
paper prepared for the Fourth World Congress for Rural Soci-
ology, Poland, August 1976.
On the small farms, then, modernization has meant an in-
crease in women's labor as the men frequently seek work else-
where. In addition, manufactured goods in the market have
undercut many local handicrafts previously made by women,
making them more dependent on income from agricultural pro-
duction. Women in Mexico who work on commercial crops are
paid less than men. The rationale given is that women do not
work, they merely help with the farming.61
Technologies for agricultural production have been con-
centrated on cash crops and on selected basic grains. Gener-
ally the impact of these technologies has been to increase
production, concentrate landholdings, and encourage social
stratification. In Asia and Latin America the wives of larg-
er landholders have greatly reduced their involvement in the
fields. While this release from hard work is to be commended,
there is often an accompanying loss of status. In India, a
switch from bride price to dowry has occurred in some areas
where brides are no longer valued for their economic contri-
butions.62 In Africa, however, well-off farm women tend to
remain in the rural areas managing the farms and often hiring
other women to help with the harvests, particularly of cash
Poor women in all the developing countries have had to
work harder as a result of these new productive technologies.
Women heads of households or wives of men who migrate to wage
jobs elsewhere undertake both the traditional male and female
agricultural activities. Families with only a garden plot or
splintered field must send all adult family members to work
as wage laborers. As new technologies reduce the need for
unskilled laborers, a few men are trained for the semi-skilled
jobs. Men left in the unskilled labor pool are perhaps worse
off than the women; women's wages are less and so are dis-
placing men in plantation work. Women also have traditional-
ly worked at a greater variety of unskilled jobs and so in
many countries are able to survive through market selling or
handicrafts. Elsewhere, women have joined the urban migra-
tion, working for low wages in industries, or as domestics,
61. Young, Kate, "Changing Ecibinic Roles of Women in Two
Mexican Communities," paper prepared for the Fourth World
Congress for Rural Sociology, Poland, August 1976.
62. Epstein, T. Scarlett, South India Yesterday, Today, To-
morrow. New York City: Holmes & Meirer, 1973.
63. Reining et al., op. cit., p. 89ff.
or becoming prostitutes.
The garden plot where the poor women can grow food to
enhance her family's nutrition and then sell the surplus
emerges as an important factor in survival. Clearly, greater
attention to garden crops and to marketing of fresh vegeta-
bles and fruits should be a priority in any planning for rur-
al development. Similarly attention to small animals and
fish culture could add immeasurably to the welfare of the
poor, if not to recorded GNP.
Processing and Preserving
The processing and preserving of home-grown and home-
consumed food is not an economic activity which is counted in
the GNP.64 Women's contributions in this area are even more
invisible than their work on farm production. Yet it is here
that small technologies can have their greatest impact; they
can: reduce post-harvest food loss, thus providing more food
for consumption or sale; reduce drudgery and so give women
the gift of time; form the basis of income-producing activi-
ties. The test of any technology introduced at this level
must be its social utility. That is to say, the introduction
of the technology should improve the quality of life of the
people meant to benefit from its introduction. How the tech-
nology is introduced, who owns it, and who controls its use
are fundamental questions that must be the basis for planning.
Many of the "new" technologies presently being tried
around the world have in fact been tried many times before.
That is why the major focus today is on process and adapta-
tion. No longer can it be assumed that a piece of equipment
or a method of production can be packaged and dropped in a
village where, like a genii, it will transform the quality of
life. Disaggregating the intended beneficiaries by sex, and
also by socio-economic levels; is clearly a necessary step,
but not alone sufficient.
64. The National Academy of Sciences sponsored an Interna-
tional Working Group meeting on Postharvest Food Losses in
Developing Countries. One workshop focused on the importance
of interventions in the subsistence or non-market sector. "It
was observed...that in many places in the developing world
there is an increasing trend toward market-oriented agricul-
tural production, and interventions directed toward commer-
cial agriculture are generally quite different from those re-
quired at the subsistence level." Staff Summary Report, p. 31.
Nor is it sufficient to argue only for small technology.
While raising a series of crucial questions about the size
and use of technologies, proponents of alternative or appro-
priate technologies have taken on a moral tone which has
tended to polarize the debate. Much of the righteousness re-
flected in the AT argument results from the conviction that
indiscriminate use of capital-intensive technology has need-
lessly increased unemployment while escalating energy needs
which contribute to environmental degradation and pollution.
Third world politicians tend to favor high technology and
complain that AT is a method of foisting off second-hand
technology onto the developing countries.
Basic to the debate is the attitude toward technology.
AT essentially questions what has been a tenet of faith to
much of the world: technology is development; any technology
is better than no technology; the more advanced, large, and
complicated the technology, the more it hastens progress. Of
all the nationalist leaders only Gandhi and, in some phases,
Mao have seriously questioned modern'technology. Gandhi in
particular made a virtue out of simple living: the hand
spinning wheel became his symbol and his handspun dhoti and
shawl his uniform. Despite this political heritage, the
First Five Year Plan in India emphasized industrialization;
indeed, only recently has India begun to emphasize village
development and intermediate technology. China, in contrast,
seems now to be reversing the self-sufficient commune ideol-
ogy in favor of large-scale technology and interdependence.
Perhaps these two giants represent the future: the need to
mix rural small-scale development with national advanced
Underlining the AT argument is the impact of technology
on people. Disaggregating people required additional refine-
ments precisely because women's work cannot be equated to
men's work until household work is equitably shared. A major
error of social reformers has been to see only one part of
women's dual roles of economic activity and household-repro-
ductive support activity. Where the support role has been
neglected, as in Eastern Europe, low reproductive rates and
family instability are the penalties. Where the economic
roles are ignores, unsuccessful development schemes, growing
welfare costs, social unrest, and family instability
65. See my "Development and the Disintegration of the Fam-
ily," op. cit.
The questions to be asked when introducing new technolo-
gies also apply to agricultural production. There are many
useful tools for weeding, turning the earth, planting, har-
vesting. Solar-powered sprayers may soon compete with the
Chinese non-chemical pest control systems. I have not spent
much time on these technologies because I feel that more im-
mediate benefits will accrue to women through improved tech-
nology in the processing, preservation, and preparing of food.
Women do not dominate the production phases of agriculture,
given the present land systems, and the increasing world de-
mand for food, modern large-scale technologies will be hard
to resist for major grain crops. The number of poor, men as
well as women, will increase unless income-producing activi-
ties are set up in the rural areas. The purpose of this pa-
per is to emphasize how technology can ensure that women may
continue to play an economic role essential to their survival
-and that of their families.
Questions to be asked before introducing technology:
1. Who benefits?
Women or men? Poor or rich? Community or nation?
2. What are the benefits?
Time? 'For whom? Less time-
Less human or animal energy expended? At whose ex-
3. Who pays?
For the technology? For the use of the technology?
4. Who controls?
Group or individual? Through costs or licencing,
or group effort?
Human scale or mysterious other?
5. Who maintains?
Availability of parts? Skills to repair?
Costs to repair or replace?
6. Who introduces?
Government? Coercion, incentives?
Motive for accepting?
Unless such questions are asked of any technological in-
novation, the chances are high that technology meant to bene-
fit the poor, especially women, will not benefit them all.
The women of Upper Volta produced a report outlining their
perspective on development which emphasizes the masculine
drift of technology.
Traditionally women are in control of processing and
manufacturing many products which they use in their
homes. The surplus they trade or sell. As modern prod-
ucts are introduced, the market for home-made items di-
minishes. In many cases, industrialization changes the
item from woman's domain to that of the man's. When the
dolo (traditional millet beer) parlor becomes a bar,
when pottery pieces become imported plastic or metal
hardware, when traditional cotton thread is replaced by
factory manufactured thread, women lose control of both
production and distribution of these products. If women
wish to buy modern products, this new demand for money
comes at the very time their source of money from tradi-
tional products is declining.
...Women frequently mention that processing millet flour
is the worst part of being a woman. It takes 4 to 6
hours to prepare food for a hot meal and most of this is
the pounding of millet. When technical help is devised,
the process usually becomes the domain of men. This
means that something that used to be laborious and time-
consuming but which cost nothing and sometimes was a
source of income for women, is taken over by machines
run by men. Women now have to pay for the service.66
Too often the reluctance of women to utilize a new tech-
nology is interpreted as hidebound conservatism or as ignor-
ance. On the contrary, argues Maryanne Dulansey, a longtime
activist in this field.
Women are the most practical people in the world. They
have to be, especially the women we are talking about
here. There is evidence of a myth that women enjoy
their role as cultivators, as carriers of water andwood,
as harvesters, preservers, preparers and servers of food.
The "traditional woman" who spends long hours each day
in the arduous work needed to nourish her family is well
thought of. Yet if truth be told, women are human; they
do not appreciate the hard work and long hours any more
than men, even though social value attached to perform-
ance of these tasks is important to women. Indeed, wo-
men take the first opportunity to move into other occu-
pations, usually small commerce, so as to escape to some
66. Social and Economic Development in Upper Volta: Woman's
Perspective, Agency for International Development, Regional
Economic Development Services Office, West Africa, April
degree these tasks. If they are able to earn money,
they hire other women to hand pound or grind their sta-
ple food if mechnanized milling is not available. They
pay others to carry water and wood, to prepare meals,
to care for children. Therefore, women are prime candi-
dates for technology which helps them cut down on the
work involved in the whole process of getting food to
the family, or so it would seem.
What is the problem, then, with the technologies which
are available, which, have been introduced in developing
countries? Women have not perceived the technology to
work for them, to deliver what they need and want. What
good is a solar cooker to the woman who spends her time
in the field from sunup to sundown?...If improved stor-
age has the effect of taking the staple out of the con-
trol of the woman responsible for delivering it to her
family,6 an she be expected to embrace the improved tech-
Technologies are the basis of development, and develop-
ment means change. Change is disruptive, there is a price.
Clearly women often find the price too high. When they can
resist, they do. When governments assign technology a high
priority, they must include this social-economic cost in any
final accounting. Otherwise, the technology may not accomp-
lish the job it was meant to do; or the side-effects of the
change may engender problems as large or larger than the
original problem the technology was meant to solve.
Technologies for Food Processing
Technologies which can assist women in carrying out
their food-related post-harvest activities fall within two
general categories: mechanical technologies which reduce the
expenditure of human or animal energy, primarily in the pro-
cessing of food; and improved methods of preserving and stor-
ing food. I shall discuss the policy issues related to the
choices of technologies and review present technologies under
each category, giving particular attention to the impact of
the choices on income-producing activities of women.
Grinding mills for corn, wheat, and millet, as well as
rice hullers, are now widespread throughout the developing
world. Small presses for palm oil, cocoanut milk, or sugar
cane are widely distributed. Grinders and beaters for making
67. Dulansey, op. cit., pp. 3-4.
peanuts into oil are also becoming common. Simple, low-cost
hand-operated machines can relieve much of the drudgery from
these activities while not displacing too many laborers.
Preferably, these machines are sold on long-term credit to
women's organizations. As early as the 1950s corn grinders
were introduced into what is now West Cameroons through the
patronage of a respected elderly village woman. Once the
technique of drying the corn before grinding was understood,
the grinders were quickly adopted through corn mill societies
which were formed to pay back the cost of the grinder within
a year.68 These societies became the trigger for other devel-
With the increased leisure that the women now had they
turned to other community based projects. They dug
roads to their villages so that lorries could come in to
take out their produce, they piped water into storage
tanks so that the abundant small streams of the rainy
season could still provide them with water in the dry,
and they built meeting houses in central villages in
which they could hold classes throughout the year re-
gardless of the weather. They learned how to look after
their children and how to cook and make soap...to read
and write and to do simple arithmetic....They fenced in
their farms...set up cooperative shops....Above all they
learned how to improve their farming techniques....When
independence came in 1961 the movement had spread as far
as the coast...and the membership exceeded 30,000 women
so that it was able to make its voice heard in the com-
munity on most matters affecting women.69
Yet when the same organizer, Elizabeth O'Kelly, tried to
introduce rice hullers in Sarawak, the technology proved in-
adequate; the hullers were not strong enough to withstand the
constant usage by all the women in a longhouse. Yet the in-
tervention from outside was enough to encourage the formation
of women's Institutes which focused their activity on piping
water and improving farming. Fourteen years later these In-
stitutes run seminars, organize flood relief, and even run
their own radio station. This type of responsive interven-
tion is being tried in many parts of Africa today; the pro-
cess may be more important than any specific technology as
68. For a delightful account of the problems surrounding the
introduction of the first mills, see Elizabeth O'Kelly, Aid
and Self-Help. London: Chas. Knight, 1973.
69. O'Kelly, Elizabeth, "The Use of Intermediate Technology
to Help Women of the Third World." London: ITTG, mimeo, pp.
long as the technology is simple and inexpensive enough for
the women's organizations to buy and run it.
Marilyn Carr, in her excellent book on Appropriate Tech-
nology for African Women, argues that most hand-operated crop
processing machines used in Africa have proved more economi-
cally efficient than more sophisticated imported machines. A
study in Kenya compared four types of corn-grinding; a Niger-
ian study compared four types of palm-oil presses. "Another
study in Nigeria compared two techniques for processing gari
from cassava. This found that a locally-generated 'intermed-
iate' technique was far superior to a fully-mechanized for-
eign machine. Among other things, unit costs of production
are about 20 percent lower with the 'intermediate tech-
S-- In Upper Volta a government program is assisting women's
groups to acquire hand grinders. Yet even remote areas have
commercial mills powered by diesel oil. During the last
round of oil price increases one mill owner near the village
of Tangaye raised his grinding fee by 25 percent to compen-
sate for a piice rise in oil of 33 percent. "As a result he
lost so many customers that he was forced to open the mill
twice a week, on market days, rather than every day as he had
done in the past....Expenditures for fuel comprise 50-60 per-
cent of the monthly cost of running the mill."71 Currently
the government of Upper Volta, utilizing funds from US Agency
for International Development, is installing a solar unit in
that village to power a grinding mill and to pump water.
This photovolaic system is highly experimental since the pre-
sent costs of battery storage make the unit very expensive.
For the time being, then, hand grinders may still be the most
economically efficient method of grinding local grains. But
for how long? .
In Indonesia the intermediate alternative for rice hull-
ing is a small, relatively low-cost, Japanese-made, machine-
powered rubber hull roller. In the four years from 1970 to
1974 the number of these small rice mills exploded until they
dominate the market, and can process up to three-quarters of
the total rice crop on Java. The original figures were as-
sembled by Peter Timmer "with the intention of demonstrating
in simple, clear-cut terms...that the large scale bulk termi-
70. Marilyn Carr, advisor to the Intermediate Technology
Group of London and to UNICEF, wrote the book for the African
Training and Research Center for Women of the Economic Com-
mission of Africa in 1978.
71. Hemmings, op. cit., p. 4.
nals were inappropriate in the Indonesian countryside. The
battle to be fought in the planning agency was not hand-pound-
ing versus small rice mills but large bulk facilities versus
large and small rice mills. I was nearly laughed out of
court for defending the small rice mills."72
This rapid switch to rubber rollers cost over one mil-
lion jobs on Java alone and 7.7 million throughout Indone-
sia.' Estimating that 125 million woman-days were lost by
the introduction of the new technology, William Collier con-
cludes that "the total loss in laborers' earnings...seems to
be of the order of S50 million annually in Java....This rep-
resents a substantial diminution of income for large numbers
of households of landless laborers and small farmers. Three
million tons of rice (if hand-pounded) would provide wages
for one million women every day for four months each year."74
Whether the rice rollers should have been introduced is
irrelevant for Indonesia, but is an issue today in Bangladesh.
Hand-pounding continues in Indonesia for most domestic con-
sumption, about 40 percent of the crop. It is economically
sensible only when opportunity costs are virtually zero,
which is the case of women in the home. Costs for commercial
milling are very low because of the over-capacity of the new
mills. This results in lower consumer prices per kilogram
of rice of perhaps three times the value of lost jobs."5
These figures clarify the debate. Small rice mills us-
ing rubber rollers add to national income nine times the val-
ue of the lost jobs. But who benefit? Clearly the distribu-
tional impact of this change has been in favor of the larger
farmers and the owners of the rice mills. The losers are the
poor, but it is the women who lost the jobs. The Indonesian
government does have public works programs to provide income
to their poorest citizens. But where 125 million women-days
72. Timmer, C. Peter, "Choice of Technique in Rice Milling on
Java," Indonesian Economic Studies, Vol. IX, No. 2 (July 1973)
reprinted by the Agricultural Development Council, September
1974, p. 20.
73. Cain, Melinda, "Agricultural Technology and Labor Dis-
placement in Indonesia With Specific Implications for Women,"
prepared for the AAAS Workshop on Women and Development for
UNCSTD, May 1979.
74. Collier, et al., A Comment (on Timmer's article), reprint-
ed by the Agricultural Development Council, September 1974.
75. Collier, Timmer, op. cit.
of wage labor were lost on Java in 1972, the county public
works program provided only 43.5 million man-days of employ-
ment.76 Recent reports note that for the first time in Java
women in large numbers are now vying for this strenuous job.
The impact of rice hullers has clearly been an increase in
Governments should be able to anticipate such impacts,
altering tax, subsidy, or pricing policies in such a way that
the poor consumers benefit from lower prices and greater vol-
ume of grain. But only a job can replace a job; without in-
come, lower prices are irrelevant. Because statistics fail
to reflect the actual employment of the poor, especially poor
women, economic costs of new technologies in the area of food
milling are ignored. The first step is a more accurate ac-
counting of real work in rural areas.
.The nutritional dimensions of new grinders must also be
considered. Incomplete milling through hand-pounding leaves
sufficient bran in the rice to provide needed vitamin B.
Husks are fed to chickens, later consumed. What will prevent
deficiency if hand-pounding is further reduced? Can new tech-
niques for handling tusks prevent their turning rancid and so
provide an alternative food, a new breakfast cereal for the
In Bangladesh, government policy could presumably slow
the introduction of small rice mills, allowing time to devel-
op alternative economic activities for displaced labor. A
hand rubber roller is being considered a halfway measure
which may reduce the economic advantage of the power mills.
This intervention should be carefully monitored. No one can
really argue that the hand pounding is of itself good. But
the heavy work must be balanced against no work when evaluat-
ing the impact of any new technology.
Postharvest food losses are enormous. Most observers
agree that a 10 percent increase in the available world food
supply could be more easily achieved through a reduction of
losses than through increased production. Some of these in-
creases may be illusory, as with the increased yield of rice
by the use of sickles: the "lost" rice had provided free food
76. Collier, op. cit.
77. No one, that is, but Mirabhen, a disciple of Gandhi, in
her cattle ashram in Uttar Pradesh, India, who argued that
physical labor sweetened the grain. Interview with M. Walker.
as a sort of social security for the poorest in the village.
On the other hand, the improved efficiency of mills over
pounding has been demonstrated.
Improved storage for grains has been a goal of many de-
velopment agencies including the Peace Corps. Weevils and
rodents destroy half the corn stored in rural Cameroon
homes78; small changes can reduce that loss in half. Rodent
baffles, inverted funnels on support pools of the cribs, can
be fashioned from old kerosene tins or molded in clay. Metal
storage tanks work well in dry areas but cause mildew prob-
lems in more humid areas. VITA, under contract to Peace
Corps, has issued a training manual on storage techniques.79
Waxing cassava has reduced losses in Latin America and
is being tried on plantains in West Africa. Solar dryers are
being touted as a substitute for the habit, widespread in
South Asia, of spreading grain on the black tarmac: one car
can wreak havoc.o0 Yet buying a piece of heavy black plastic
to line a box is out of reach for many poor. Selling such
dryers at subsidized prices would seem an important project.
In Tanzania an improved solar dryer was demonstrated at a
recent workshop; women were taught to make the mud container
and the form for the plastic core.81
Many traditional methods of smoking or drying fruit,
vegetables, fish, and even meat are being studies for im-
provement and wider dissemination. In Thailand fish pickled
by one methods frequently produces illness; another tradi-
tional method is safe. In Ghana one group traditionally
smoked fish until cheap electricity from the Volta Dam gave
an advantage to freezing fish; the knowledge is rapidly van-
Canning has not been widely taught, perhaps because of
the concern over botulism poisoning. Ester Ocloo, owner and
manager of a commercial cannery, said she once came to the
United States on her own to learn home canning techniques at
a university in order to teach women in Ghana to do their own
78. Henn, op. cit., p. 5.
79. Lindblad, Carl and L. Druben, Small Farm Grain Storage.
80. "Postharvest Food Losses in Developing Countries," Staff
Summary Report, National Academy of Science, 1978, p. 13ff.
81. Workshop on Food Preservation and Storage, report pub-
lished by the Government of Tanzania, distributed by the UN.
,canning.- In 1977 the UNICEF in Dacca brought out an instruc-
tor's manual on Food Preservation in Bangladesh as part of a
project to encourage income-generating activities among women.
The emphasis is on canning: chutney is featured in addition
to fruits and vegetables. Canning lends itself much more to
community enterprise than to individual effort. Finding mar-
kets must be a part of the planning,for the glass container
itself prices the product out of the reach of the poor.
In Honduras, Save the Children Foundation assisted a re-
mote mountain village to set up a cooperative mango cannery.
It has survived many setbacks. The institutional consumers
actually bought less than anticipated; the remoteness of the
village added greatly to transportation costs; and the re-
source poor area has made diversification difficult. Attempts
to encourage local consumption through a deposit system on
the glass jars has worked only in the immediate neighborhood
due to the rugged terrain. But local women take advantage of
bottle return; they buy the puree and dilute it with water
for sale at soccer matches. Attempts are now being made to
market the mango puree as dried "fruit leather", a familiar
product in Asia-the Bangladesh book calls it "mango dried
sheet"-but not well-known in Latin America. Experiments
using plastic sheets to wrap the leather produced a product
more chemical than natural. In addition, the cooperative
hopes to utilize a system of vacuum-packed plastic bags as
soon as it is perfected by a similar cooperative in Costa
Rica. Meanwhile, the coop members are planting mango trees;
they have also contracted with a neighboring village to pick-
le their excess onion crop.82
Despite the difficulties of setting up this women's co-
operative in such a poor and remote village, the coop is
functioning. The husbands migrate out at least half the year,
but they did help with the building of the cannery, and main-
tain the equipment. Perhaps if the foreign technician had
been female, the women might have been taught this skill. The
women, working a six-day week during the mango season, earn
$1.50 per day or $42 per month. Men in the region earn be-'
tween $150 and $300 a year, so that the cannery earnings are
an important addition to family income.
For shorter-term!preservation, solar coolers and refrig-
erators are being developed. Improved handling of both fresh
and dried perishables are expected to reduce losses. Chemi-
cal fumigants and insecticides are particularly useful in re-
ducing losses among cereals and tubers. Experiments in bio-
82. Conroy, Kim, "The San Juan Bosco Canning Cooperative: The
Case Study of a Small Rural Industry." 1979, mimeo.
logical control of pests through the introduction of preda-
tors continue. Resistent species are being developed. De-
tails of the state of the art for reduction of food losses
may be found in the 1978 report by the National Academy of
Sciences report, Postharvest Food Losses in Developing Coun-
The careful scientific language of the report masks the
dominant role which women play in postharvest activities.
One paragraph in the staff report alone recognized the human
element behind technological change: the discussion group
"took note of the fact that the subsistent fisherman and fish
merchant are generally second class citizens, often living in
crushing poverty, with no hope for the future. This fact and
the role of women in the society conditions what, how and by
whom technology should be offered, how it should be delivered,
and what incentives are necessary to convince the people to
adopt the remedies."
Such oblique language is not sufficient to counteract
the biases among developers and planners that technology is
for men. Community-based technologies which reduce food
losses and so provide surpluses for sale can and should pro-
vide alternative incomes for women displaced in the agricul-
tural production activities.
Preparation of Food
Selling of cooked foods is an income-producing activity
of great importance to the poor woman, though it is seldom
recorded in national accounts. Outstanding among the sparse
literature on this subject is Emmy Simmons' study of "The
Small-Scale Rural Food-Processing Industry in Northern Niger-
ia." Even among the secluded women living near the Muslim
city of Zaria, "It is rare...to find a rural woman who has
never set up production in some food-processing enterprise."
These women produce a variety of traditional lunch and snack
foods from grain, cowpeas, peanuts, and cassava. Most of the
women work alone at home in seclusion, sending their daugh-
ters or other young relatives out to sell to neighbors or in
the market. Their work is sporadic, more an extension of
home activities than a commitment to enterprise. Nonetheless
Simmons found that all the products, with one exception,
turned a profit of between 6 and 40 percent.
Two major problems threaten the future of this important
83. Staff report, op. cit., p. 24.
84. Food Research Institute Studies, Vol. XIV, No. 2, 1975.
income-producihg activity: (1) the single owner-operator pat-
tern of the industry, and (2) government policy. Working out
of their homes, the women mingle family feeding with commer-
cial cooking, confusing the profits. Also such small scale
production leads to uneconomic buying of supplies and ineffi-
cient distribution of the products. Much of the profit or
loss relates to the size of portions versus the price: fre-
quent price fluctuations of ingredients means that the seller
must understand the market. Many women have a canny sense of
pricing, but others quickly go out of business. A coopera-
tive organization would seem a logical alternative which
would improve investment return, make credit easier, and al-
low intermediate modernization of the industry. Yet Simmons
remarks on the apparent unwillingness of the women to work
together. Whether this reluctance to organize stems from
cultural or religious practices such as seclusion or easy di-
vorce, or whether no appropriate model or collective action
has been tried, is unknown.
Currently the single owner-operator pattern remains com-
petitive with products made by larger industrial establish-
ments, both those in the area offering similar traditional
products and those located on the coast which produce Europe-
an style breads and candy. Government policies favor larger
industry through subsidies and taxes. It seems clear that if
the women do not join together to become more competitive,
their share of the market will inevitably shrink. Simmons
summarizes the impact of this decreasing production on the
women themselves and on the rural village economy:
[W]omen's ability to meet social and economic obli-
gations on their own with earnings from their pro-
fitable commercial enterprises will be decreased;
the village economy will become less self-suffi-
cient as far as producing and consuming local pro-
ductions; and the value added and income generated
by the agricultural.sector will migrate more direct-
ly to the urban sector. Nutrition may be adversely
affected....The deprivation of a substantial means
for earning income will have the effect of down-
grading women's independent and family roles.85
Selling of lunch food and snacks is a traditional part
of the economic activity of the West African coastal market
women. As the Ivory Coast becomes more urban and workers
commute further to their jobs, both breakfast and lunch are
often purchased from vendors. While western style lunch
shops and fast food chains are appearing, their prices are
85. Ibid., p. 160.
too high for the average worker. Government h.as begun subsi-
dizing com-ercial caterers to provide modern pre-packaged
meals at offices or on work sites.
Consistent with its pell-mell rush to copy the west, the
government of the Ivory Coast celevrates only the modern.
Barbara Lewis, in her insightful study of the over-crowded
world of petty traders in that country, notes the lack of
government support for the organizational efforts.-f che =ar-
ket women to set up wholesale purchasing and group:savings
schemes. Indeed, go-arnrmental policy, as demonstrated by
courses for women offered through Social Canters r;n by the
Ministry of Work and Social Affairs, appears "designed to re-
focus women's attention away from mcnemaking toward home-
making, rather than providing social or technicalskills to
upgrade gainful productive activities."86
In Abidjan the workforce, drawn from all over West Afri-
ca, needs cheap familiar food. Experienced and organized
market women are being squeezed out of their traditional ac-
tivities az the same ti=e that more and more wome,.flccd int
the informal sector. An imaginative program concerned w-ith
supplying indigencus food to workers during the day xcul
benefit both the wLkers and the woman in that capital im-
mensely. The biases against women's work are coupledd hera
with slavish imitation of the west, to the dec-imeht of the
majority of Ivoreans.
The reluctance of modernizing governments to accept the
continued existence of a mdre traditional sector has been
overcome in many Latin American countries. "L.'cal" markets
have been funded by AID along with modern supermarkets. .Thi
insight has only occasionally been extended to include iczal
industry. A recent review of.Mexico's rural industry pro~ran
noted the complete lack of attention to women's employ-ment.
Of the 60 industries studied,.only nine related to focd-pro-
cessing; but no mention was made o; women's traditional or
present role in these industries.'
This report reiterated the danger of assistance agencies
setting up non-competitive industries through grant programs:
once the subsidy runs out, the industry fails.IThe literature
86. Lewis, "Pecty Trade and Other Employmenrt CO:ibhs for the
Uneducated Urban West African Women," paoer prepared fr t-he
AAAS Workshop on Women and Development,~1March -9;79-,'p. 9.
87. Ccnroy, Kim.berly:, ".exic.o Rural Dee.loome-nt ?Prect ? D':"
Analysis of Rural Industry Program," The W.orld-,'anki Rural
Development Division, April 1979.
on women's projects is full of such failures. It is impera-
tive that women's projects be fully competitive and economi-
cally viable. Small crafts projects to help -omen earn "pin
money" are not only passe, they are almost destined to fail.
Such failures reenforce the biases against woean's real econ-
omic activity. Even well-conceived schemes =ay fail if they
are not totally integrated into the country's national plan.
Will the increased production of millet beer by women's or-
ganizations in Upper Volta be undercut by the new Heineken
beer factory? Both projects have heavy government subsidies.
In India, a number of very successful women's coopera-
tives provide possible models for rural industry. In Women's
Cooperatives and Rural Develc-m.nt: A Poli:z Proposal, Ruth
Dixon discusses both the dairy industry and a dispersed fac-
tory system which produces a soft wheat flatbread for later
-crisp frying at home.88
There are several lessons to be learned from these sev-
--the importance of an organizational base for women's
economic endeavors, and
-gcvernmental recognition of and support for the econ-
omic parameters of the projects.
There is a tendency to overload women's projects with
welfare concerns: health, education, family planning. These
often take precedence, and sink the enterprise. As self-suf-
ficiency is preferable to dependency, so economic activities
should be given priority over welfare programs. Recognizing
the economic role of women is the starting point.
The Basics of Water and Ener=z
Rural survival, much less rural industry, depends upon
the availability of water and fuel. The tine spent scaveng-
ing for fuel or fetching water consumes large amounts of the
day for rural women, children, and men. :educing this expen-
diture of time must be a priority for rural devalo=tenc.
Solutions must be appropriate to the need. Too nany wells
have caused desertification in the Sahel; too =uch water has
casued severe sanitation orcbhems in India. Elaborate
schemes for modern water supplies lie on the planners'
shelves in many developing countries.
Clean water for all by 1980 is a slogan often repeated.
But where arA the develoomenc Zians to acc=.clish :his? Is
38. Johns Hopkins Press, 1973.
part of the problem the lack of monetary value assigned to
domestic water supply? If water is seen only as welfare,
then hardheaded planners, anxious to show an increase in GN?,
do not encourage such projects. If clean eater were tied to
rural industry as irrigation water has been linked to agri-
culture, perhaps more funds would be allotted to this need.
Similarly, energy for use in the household and for rural
agriculture and hcmecrafts has gone largely uncounted in na-
tional energy statistics. This is due to the custom of meas-
uring only "modern" or "commercial" energy: oil, coal, natur-
al gas, hydroelectricity, and nuclear fuels. Yet such an
energy-accounting procedure ignores what in many cases
amounts to mor than one-half the total energy used in many
developing countries, exclusive of animal and human power.
-Rural areas, where a majority of population in the de-
veloping countries still live, are seldom served by electri-
cal power grids. Diesel motors power pumps for irrigation,
provide energy for small industries, and run small lighting
systems for wealthy enclaves. But most rural people as well
as the urban poor cannot afford commercial energy in any form
even where kerosene is subsidized.
Some two billion people continue to rely on non-commer-
cial energy resources to cook, smoke food, hear waatr and
space, or provide light and safety. These resources are pri-
marily firewood, twigs and brush, agriculture residues, and
animal dung. Resources for the Future has just completed a
study on "Household Energy for Use and Supply b- the Urban
and Rural Poor in Developing Countries" which underscores
the lack of data on these non-commercial fuels. They con-
clude on the basis of available data that the lowest energy
consumption is among rural areas of South Asia; due to heavy
deforestation, animal dung provides as =uch as 50 percent of
the total rural energy consumed. As the amount of dung
burned increases, food production will fall unless artificial
-and energy intensive--fertilizers are substif-ted.89
It would seem that =any countries are following India's
path toward deforestation. Experts estimate that Senegal
will be bare of trees in 30 years, Ethiopia in 20, 5urundi in
seven.90 Ninety percent of wood consumed annually in- devel-
89. Dunkerly, Joy, e: al., A Report to the world d 3ank Chao-
ter III, October 1973.
90. French, D., "The Firevood problemm in Africa," Recor: on
the Africa Bureau Firew.cc Conference, Washin;:n, D.C,
USAID, Augus: 1973, ni c.
oping countries is used as fuel.91 Reasons for this alarming
increase in the use of forest reserves are largely related to
the population increase both directly in increased cutting
and indirectly as more land is cleared for agricultural crops
to feed the growing populations. Improved health measures
have opened up river valleys in Africa and the Terai in Nepal
to settlers, also reducing forests and exacerbating erosion.
As available resources drop, the time consumed in gath-
ering fuel increases. In India it has been stated that one
person in a family of five must spend full-time gathering
dung, firewood, and refuse.92 Even higher estimates apply to
Tanzania.93 Such time requirements encourage larger family
size, for children help the family more than they cost.
When one examines the use to which this energy is put,
it appears that some 40 to 50 percent of the total energy
consumed in rural areas is used in cooking alone.94 In the
case of India, for example, this leads to the conclusion
that approximately one-fourth of the country's total energy
budget is used in rural areas just for cooking, while rural
Bangladesh uses about 40 percent of that country's total na-
tional energy budget just to cook food.95
The urban poor must also eat, yet their energy consump-
tion is estimated as lower than that of the rural poor.96 As
much as one-third of the family's budget may go for fuel in
91. World Bank, Forestry Sector Policy Paper. Washington, D.C.
92. Mahajani, A., Energy Policy for the Rural Third World.
London: International Institute for Environment and Develop-
93. USAID, Environmental and Natural Resource Management in
Developing Countries, A Report to Congress, Washington, D.C.,
February 1979, Vol. I, p. 13.
94. Pimentel, D., et al., "Energy Needs, Uses and Resources
in the Food Systems of Developing Countries," Report of a
workshop held at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
Ithaca: Cornell University, December 1977.
95. Revelle, R., "Requirements for Energy in the Rural Areas
of Developing Countries." In Brown, Norma L., ed., Renewable
Energy Resources and Rural Applications in the Developing
World. Boulder: Westview Press, 1978.
96. Dunkerly, op. cit., p. 28.
the Sahelian countries. One study states that "to obtain the
same amount of usable energy which can be purchased in the
U.S. for about $1.30, a charcoal burning family in Addis
Ababa may have to spend about $8.00."97
As the worldwide energy crisis has engendered a new look
at renewable energy resources, some interest is being direct-
ed toward improving both the supply of fuel and the efficien-
cy of its use. Mud and sand "Lorena" stoves have cut fire-
wood use in half in Guatemala.98 But experiments in Mali sug-
gest that the traditional three stones and open fire is still
the most efficient cooking method for local food. Pressed
rice husks are being marketed; improved methods of making
charcoal are being developed; brojas is being produced in
many village plants.
Reforestation projects are being upgraded and new plant
and tree varieties tried. Biomass plantations will be tried
in the Philippines; this fuel will go for large electrical
installations as well as for local needs. Small hydro plants
may reduce the erosion in Nepal caused by overcutting of
trees for firewood. Solar water heating can reduce other
fuel usage by a third in Gambia. Solar dryers, solar water
pumps and purifiers, and solar sprayers are all in various
stages of production. Uses for windpower are being expanded
as styles and capabilities are the subject of experiments.
Technology turns to the energy crisis. Will development
once again have an adverse impact on poor women? Improved
access to fuel supplies will certainly lessen the drudgery of
daily living if the women can afford the new fuel or the new
stove. Economics is not the only determining factor in the
adoption of new'technology. Taste, ease of preparation, even
the sociability of the kitchen, must be taken into account.
Yet shortage of fuel has already changed diets in Guatemala,
where many families can no longer afford fuel for the long
cooking of beans. Such variables can only be learned at the
project site. This was recognized by the participants at the
AAAS Workshop on Women and Development sponsored by the U.S.
Department of State to develop recommendations for the U.N.
Conference on Science and Technology for Development meeting
in Vienna in August 1978. The Workshop recommended that the
United Nations sponsor worldwide pilot projects, one in each
major region of the developing world, focussing on household
energy. And because household is clearly a women's issue,
97. USAID, op. cit., p. 12.
98. Evans, lanto, Lorena Owner-Built Stoves. A Volunteers in
Asia Publication, January 1979.
women's views and women's groups must be involved at every
phase of study and implementation.
A similar recommendation was put forward by the working
group on Energy for Rural Requirements, part of a UNIDO In-
ternational Forum on Appropriate Industrial Technology which
met in New Delhi in November 1978.
[I]t is the women of the developing world who are
most concerned with the problems of energy supply
and use, because it is they who do the cooking and,
in most countries, gather the fuel. Furthermore,
it is usually the women who draw and carry the
water for domestic use. Thus, although action
programmes undertaken to meet the energy problems
of rural areas must involve people at the village
level during planning and implementation, their
impact on women must be taken into account and
indeed, should not be planned or implemented with-
out the significant involvement of women at both
the planning level and the village level.99
Women's traditional economic contribution to the surviv-
al of their families is being eroded by technology. Often
that technology can free women from back-breaking and time-
consuming labor. But without income, the woman cannot afford
the new technology. Without time, the woman cannot try her
hand at new economic activities, much less improve the health
of herself and her family or attend literacy classes. The
vicious circle must be broken. Technology is part of the
problem and part of the solution.
99. UNIDO, Draft Report, Chapter XI, pp. 71-72.