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Ethiopia: country study of anthropological gender and (wheat-based) livelihood literature

Author: Peveri, V.
Author: Drucza, K.L.
Year: 2016
Abstract: This review provides a synthesis of the literature on the links between gender and social relationships, livelihood choices, and wheat-based systems in Ethiopia. It collates evidence from several different fields (this includes, among others, anthropology, feminist economics, cultural geography, international development, environmental studies, and agricultural sciences) and reads the available data through an anthropological lens. The current research literature on gender in agriculture has notable gaps, specifically in terms of farmers’ own voices, perspectives, and lived experiences in relation to food and crop choices. The introduction discusses these literature gaps. It begins by describing the policy approaches for agricultural transformation that have dominated the Ethiopian development trajectory, with a special focus on agricultural extension services. Next it discusses the Green Revolution approach to wheat productivity and production vis-a-vis the farmers’ preferences for landrace over improved wheat varieties. Finally, it highlights the biased perception of women as “non-productive,” which results in their contributions to agricultural food production becoming marginalized and invisible. Following the introduction is an annotated bibliography, which includes the sections: (a) The Political Economy of Development; (b) Farmers’ Knowledge, Indigenous Adaptations; (c) Gender Bias, Gender Blindness; and (d) Seeds of Diversity. The existing literature points to a persistent, positive correlation between women’s (and by extension children’s) nutritional status and women’s decision-making autonomy. Moreover, the normative division of activities, according to which men dominate field activities and women home affairs, is contradicted by the limited yet highly relevant ethnographic evidence that reveals how in practice women exert “soft” power in decision-making and, specifically, in saving, classifying, storing, and sharing seeds. Households headed by women or households with more female labor are found to grow more diverse crop varieties. This literature review substantiates the, so far neglected by the research literature, link between women and on-farm crop genetic diversity and suggests that women are traditional seed experts. Modern farming marketing practices overlook the role of women by targeting and selling to men. Furthermore, markets seem not to value the crop traits that farmers, and especially women in their home uses, prefer as consumers. If gender is a relevant category that affects the adoption of wheat varieties and perceptions of their traits, then more research is needed to elucidate the extent of “gendered” influences on matters of food security, nutrition, and crop/livelihood choices. For instance, how is diversity managed in traditional small-scale farms; and how are the responsibilities and decision-making shared by men and women? In order to specifically capture the point of view of women farmers, the literature needs to move from only thinking in terms of formal markets to also considering informal social networks, home gardens and kitchens, and other “informal” aspects. Similarly, broadening the perspective from food production and productivity to food preparation, consumption, and preferences may reveal women’s soft power and its influence over the small-scale farming system. Categories such as taste—that is, qualitative/subjective traits such as gustation, olfaction, feel, and appearance—may also need to be considered in breeding projects and agricultural research. Women’s preferences, roles, and gender relations, along with ecology and the agricultural landscape, are overlooked in agricultural research and policy development, to the detriment of local livelihoods and food security.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: CIMMYT
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Report
Place of Publication: Ethiopia
Pages: 69 pages

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  • Socioeconomics
    Including topics such as farming systems, markets, impact & targeting, innovations, and GIS

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