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2. Gender roles and technology use

Agricultural research and data collection in Thailand has tended to neglect the impact of gender roles in different agro-ecological production systems. The emphasis has been on crop yields, new breeds and varieties, soil fertility, land area per crop, price per unit, and such related aspects. Socio-economic indicators have not normally been studied. Where socio-economic data have been collected, the approach generally been related to income per household or per capita, and has not been disaggregated by sex. The analysis of gender roles in different agro-ecological zones and rural production systems (agricultural production, post-harvesting, and household) was therefore a key component of the SPPD research.

Thai rural men and women are involved in rural production systems in different ways based on their gender and the production potential of the agro-ecological zone. Different agro-ecological characteristics define the production system which influences household members’ allocation of time, knowledge as well as production inputs and technologies to different activities.

The SPPD research found that men and women are involved in rural production systems in different ways based on their gendered socialization and the production potential of the agro-ecological zone in question. In addition, different agro-ecological characteristics and types of production systems affect how household members allocate their time, inputs and technologies to different activities.

2.1 Gender roles and technology use in agricultural production

Rural women in each of the villages studied play a major role in all aspects of paddy production, including seed preparation, transplanting, weeding, fertilizer application, harvesting, and seed storage. Given the lack of appropriate technologies for most paddy-farming activities, women perform labour-intensive tasks with the use of simple and traditional technologies. As a result, they are sometimes overworked and exhausted (for instance in Kuan Nua Village). By comparison, men are responsible for those parts of paddy production that are mechanised such as use of the tractor for ploughing.

Similarly in orchard (such as guava and mango) and cash crop production (such as peanuts and mung beans), women are involved in labour-intensive, simple and low-prestige tasks, while men are responsible for mechanised tasks. For instance, in cassava production women are responsible for weeding, hoeing and digging at harvest time. In horticulture, with the exception of a few hand tools, most of the tasks undertaken by women are performed manually. Where technologies are available to women, they are normally very simple like the hoe, spade and knife. Women play the main role in raising small livestock, particularly poultry, and also assist men with some of the manual tasks involved in raising cattle and buffaloes such as sweeping pens, carrying water. However, men take the lead when small livestock is farmed commercially (such as ducks) and women play a supporting role. In the rubber-producing villages studied, research revealed that, women are involved alongside men in all steps of rubber tapping due to inadequate labour and the seasonal nature of rubber production. In addition, like men, women often work as self-employed or hired labour.

2.2 Gender roles and technology use in post-harvesting and processing

Research confirmed that women play the major role in food preparation and processing activities, which tend to be regarded as an extension of their household responsibilities. A wide variety of snack foods are produced for domestic consumption (such as naam: fermented minced pork), as well as for sale (such as buttered banana chips, donuts and curry puffs). In each of the provinces studied, it was found that processing is normally done at home and organised by local housewives groups. In some villages, women have access to training and support from home economists in the Department of Agricultural Extension (Ban Nam Kob Village) and non-formal education centres (Ban Kuan Nua Village). The technology used for processing is generally basic (such as charcoal stoves, gas stoves, cooling racks, plastic bags and staplers for packaging) and, in some cases, dangerous. An example of dangerous task would be such as the open pans in processing toddy palm syrup into sugar in Ban Sri Chai Village and traditional banana slicing tool used for slicing raw banana to make buttered banana chips in Wat Bot Village.

2.3 Gender roles and technology use in household production

The study found that women perform the majority of household tasks, yet receive little recognition for their contribution. Men are seldom, if at all, involved in household tasks. The village of Ban Nam Hin (Nan Province) is a notable exception; here men help women in a number of household tasks including preparation of sticky rice and “naam” and “laab” (spicy minced meat appetizer), gathering firewood, feeding poultry and washing clothes.

Household tasks are usually time-consuming and labour-intensive. In most instances, only simple traditional technologies are used (such as bamboo baskets, knifes, manual rice grinder, northern style cooking pots, firewood stove). However, in some villages (Ban Nam Kob, Ban Sri Chai, Ban Tukud Tasa), more modern appliances - like rice cookers, gas stoves and electric irons - that help to reduce drudgery are also being used. As a result of the demands on their time, the research found that women in some villages (Ban Kuan Nua) have insufficient time to devote to household tasks, and in response cut short their sleeping time to fit everything in. They also resort to buy already cooked food to lessen their time spent in the kitchen.

2.4 Key findings: Impact of gender roles on access to technology and training

Intensive demand on rural women’s time to balance multiple tasks both economic and care giving that are labour intensive leads to drudgery and welfare loss as well as an impediment to participation in community meetings and training. Their participation is further constrained due to social expectations of appropriate behaviour and social realities of mobility constraints.

2.5 Rural women’s technology needs

In brief women participating in the PRA exercise indicated that they need material inputs and simple technologies to save time and reduce the drudgery of their daily work. An overview of the constraints faced by rural women and their technology needs is presented in Table 2. The summary of the PRA findings is presented in this section below.

Table 2: Rural women’s technology constraints and demands




Agricultural production

Paddy farming · Labour-intensive
· Time consuming
· Simple technologies for seed germination, transplanting, planting and harvesting
Raising farmyard chickens and pigs · No direct transfer of technology · Direct transfer of technology and information about animal health, vaccinations, care and feeding
Application of fertilisers and pesticides

· Chemical fertilisers and pesticides are dangerous if improperly used

· Sprayers and tanks are too heavy

· Training on appropriate use of fertilisers and pesticides (chemical- and organic-based)

· Light-weight sprayers and tanks

Land preparation and ploughing · Small three-wheel tractor is heavy and difficult to operate and control · Light-weight and affordable tractor with automatic start switch
Post harvest activities

Food processing

· Lack of tested, standard recipes

· Inadequate knowledge about sources of technology

· Lack of effective tools for traditional food processing

· Short-shelf life of processed foods

· Weak marketing and management

· Strong competition and gluts caused by availability of too many similar products

· High fuel costs

· Intensive labour and time consuming nature of toddy palm sugar and syrup processing

· Standard recipes in hard copy

· Recipes for new products that can be produced with locally-available resources

· Improved and less dangerous slicing tools

· Sealers to make packages air-tight

· Training and demonstrations to build capacity

· Hard copies of simple management manuals

· Diversification of products and reduction of input costs

· Low-cost and assessable sources of energy

· Low-cost labour-saving technologies

· Simple, mechanised technology

Household Production

Collection of water for drinking, household use, washing clothes, home gardening, farmyard chickens and pig-raising

· Time consuming and labour intensive

· Mobile water pump

Cooking fuel

· Expensive

· Low cost of fuel and alternative energy sources

Cutting grass for animal feed

· Sickles are dangerous and time-consuming

· Low-cost small tool for grass cutting and weeding

Agricultural production

Post-harvesting and processing

Household production

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