Gender in Agricultural Research

The relevance of much of existing agricultural research can also be questioned from a gender

35. J├╝rgen Hagmann, Edward Chuma and Oliver Gundani, 'Integrating formal research into a participatory process', ILEIA Newsletter, Center for Research and Information on Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture, Leusden, The Netherlands, 11(2), 1995, p. 13. See also Jean-Marie Diop, Marga de Jong, Peter Laban and Henk de Zeeuw, 'Building Capacity in Participatory Approaches,' PTD Working Paper 4, ILEIA, Leusden, The Netherlands, 2001.

36. C. Pray and D. Umali-Deininger, 'Private sector investment in R&D: will it fill the gap?', World Development, 26(6), 1998, pp. 1127-1148.

viewpoint. Even when researchers do not pursue a top-down approach, the farmers they consult are likely to be male farmers - in spite of the above-mentioned example of the efficacy of the participation of women farmers in research in Colombia and Rwanda. Often, this is putatively justified on the ground that they are interacting with heads of households. However, in male-headed households women often have significant agricultural responsibilities, and in addition a significant number of rural households are headed by females. For example, in the Dominican Republic female-headed households represent about 22% of the total in rural areas.38 In Colombia, 'between 1973 and 1985 the share of women in the rural economically active population rose from 14 to 32%'.39

This gap in research programs is increasingly recognized as a limitation both for women's development and for the improvement of household welfare in general in rural areas. Thelma Paris, Hilary Feldstein and Guadalupe Duron have summarized the problem in the following words:

More than twenty years of experience with research and development has shown that technology is not neutral. Women are vital to food security and family well-being and their need for labor-saving and income-generating technologies is acute. However, most research and development programs from the 1970s through the mid-1990s only partly recognized women's contributions to the development process and the effect of the process on them. As a result, new technologies often had detrimental consequences not only to the economic security and social status of women and their families but also to these programs' and projects' ability to meet national and regional development objectives.

Women's work, particularly in rural areas, is arduous and time consuming. Women and children carrying heavy loads of wood and water, and women pounding grain, are familiar images. Increasingly, though, girls are also headed to school, studying science, and contributing to technology development. Three areas of technology research and adaptation can make substantial contributions to rural women's well-being and empowerment: agricultural production and post-harvest processing, information technology and energy.40

Most existing research modalities will have to be modified if they are to start to meet the needs of rural female producers. Improvements in household technologies, almost always ignored by research and extension systems, can play a valuable role in increasing household income, by releasing women's time for more agricultural work. Pareena Lawrence, John Sanders and Sunder Ramaswamy analyzed the effect of both agricultural and household technologies on household incomes in rural Burkina Faso.41 Since there is very little rigorous empirical evidence regarding the gender effects and total effects of introducing new household technologies, their study merits a close review.

In Burkina Faso, as in many countries, women typically have their own private agricultural plots, and both from cultivating the plots and working off-farm they have their own sources of income. The authors also cite empirical evidence that women are often paid by their spouses for various

38. Elizabeth Katz, 'Gender and Rural Development in the Dominican Republic', note prepared for the World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, mimeo, November 2000, p. 2.

39. Elizabeth Katz, 'Gender and Rural Development in Colombia', note prepared for the World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, mimeo, June 28, 2000, p. 2.

40. Thelma R. Paris, Hilary Sims Feldstein and Guadalupe Duron, 'Empowering Women To Achieve Food Security: Technology', A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment, Focus Note No. 6, Policy Brief 5 of 12, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, USA, August 2001, p. 1.

41. P. G. Lawrence, J. H. Sanders and S. Ramaswamy, 'The impact of agricultural and household technologies on women: a conceptual and quantitative analysis in Burkina Faso', Agricultural Economics, 20(3), May 1999, pp. 203-214.

tasks such as supplying fuelwood and cultivating rice fields. Their analysis was carried out under three alternative assumptions about decisionmaking within the household on labor allocation and wages: exploitative (male controlled; paying women the traditional wage regardless of their marginal productivity), bargaining (between spouses) and altruistic (males paying females at least their marginal productivity). They point out that in reality most household decision-making is some variant of the bargaining mode,42 but by covering the entire spectrum of options their results are more robust. In their analysis, the choice of household decision-making mode affects women's incomes but does not affect total household income. The household technologies considered include improved fuelwood stoves, pestles with steel tips, parboiled sorghum, and wells with pumps that are closer to the village. The new agricultural technologies include application of moderate amounts of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides and use of new cultivars of cotton and maize.

Their results (pp. 211-213) show that adoption of the new agricultural technologies alone increases farm household income from the family plot by 26% (animal-traction households) to 58% for hand-traction households, and that adoption of both the agricultural and household technologies leads to further increases in household income of 11 to 12%. For women, the effects of new agricultural technology vary markedly with the decision-making mode, as expected. The resultant increase in their incomes ranges from zero, under the exploitative model, to 25-60% under the other decision-making modes, depending on the household's form of field traction. However, the effects on women's incomes of the introduction of new household technologies (with adoption of new agricultural technology) were rather constant over types of decision-

making. Women's incomes increased by a further amount of 30-38% as a result of the improvement in household technologies alone.

Although these results refer only to one case, they suggest the potential value of emphasizing improvements in household technologies as well as production technologies, especially from a viewpoint of promoting greater gender equity.

It is frequently remarked that women-headed rural households are slower to adopt new agricultural technologies than those headed by men. This phenomenon warrants close analysis in order to facilitate better design of adoption strategies, and understanding it is central to improving the status of rural women through technological advances. Cheryl Doss and Michael Morris have analyzed this question with data from a national survey of maize growers in Ghana, and they also comment that 'A wealth of case study evidence suggests that female-headed households are less likely to adopt new technologies than male-headed households', citing evidence from Malawi and Zambia in particular.43 Their empirical conclusions for Ghana are that gender itself does not determine adoption rates, but rather land ownership, ability to hire labor, education, contact with extension services, and market access are the main determining factors and are the reasons why male-headed households display greater adoption rates:

after we control for a farmer's age and level of education, access to land and labor, contact with the extension service, and market access, there is no significant association between the gender of the farmer and the probability of adopting modern varieties or fertilizer. . .. Failure to control for gender-linked factors can lead to misleading conclusions about the importance of gender per se as an explanatory factor.

42. Op. cit., p. 209. There is some evidence from Mali that sometimes male-dominated household decisions make women worse off with the introduction of new field technologies, since they are paid less than their previous returns from labor on their own private plots (op. cit., p. 208).

43. C. R. Doss and M. L. Morris, 'How does gender affect the adoption of agricultural innovations? The case of improved maize technology in Ghana', Agricultural Economics, 25(1), June 2001, p. 32.

Given the experiences with women as clients of rural financial institutions that are mentioned in Chapter 7 of this volume, it is reasonable to expect that women also would be good farm managers. The Doss and Morris study concludes, for that particular case at least, that women are as amenable to implementing new technologies as men are. It is other kinds of constraints that may inhibit them from doing so as rapidly as men.

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