Whatever the exact historical particulars, it is clear that today women are largely excluded from the community's garden spaces. To establish their commercial enterprises, men have appropriated the physical space of the lowlands, as well as the garden production niche itself. They have laid claim to land where their mothers and wives once cultivated and collected plants for the household saucepot. This has important implications for women's contributions to the food economy and their relative standing in the community.
Women's marginalization from the gardening niche in Niamakoroni limits their ability to produce traditional foodstuffs. They endeavour to grow sufficient sauce crops on the upland fields, allocated to them by their dutigiw, but productivity there is limited. Women's range of domestic obligations limits the time available for cultivation of these fields. Moreover, some traditional crops may not grow well in upland environments, because the upland fields can only be cultivated in the rainy season, while sauces require fresh plant material throughout the year. Thus, even if the women are fortunate enough to secure a harvest of some sauce crops from their fields, they still need to locate additional local plant resources for their sauces. With constrained access to the low-lying areas, their ability to procure these items is hindered. Women's marginalization from gardening limits their access to financial resources, which could be used to purchase some of the sauce ingredients they are unable to secure locally.
It should be noted that this shift has not gone unnoticed or unchallenged by the women of Niamakoroni. During interviews, several women voiced their dissatisfaction with the situation. As one woman said, 'Men get all the gardens. They get all the money. Yet they don't give us anything, not even money for sauce or our babies.' Some women clearly resent that the traditional woman's sphere has now become part of a man's world. Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that there were three female nakotigiw. Their gardens were very small, located at considerable distance from the village on relatively minor streambeds; nonetheless they had commercially oriented gardens. However, unlike most married women in the community, these women gardeners were senior wives who had retired from most of the regular duties associated with the household food economy. Their accomplishments, meager as they might be, were not likely to be widely replicated.
In addition to the emergence of a series of social and economic challenges, women's exclusion from the garden realm may lead to detrimental shifts in a number of other important domains. The shift documented here indicates changes in culinary patterns; a possible decline in nutritional status, reduction in local plant diversity and overall environmental stability. While these issues were not specifically evaluated in the study, the data presented do reveal a number of significant threats.
The expansion of men's market gardening may lead to a decrease in the availability of local plants for the diet. Men have pushed women and women's crops out of the gardening niche. In the process, many garden plants maintained by men, and associated with urban consumers, have replaced local plants, which are linked with women and the saucepot in Niamakoroni gardens. Today's male market gardeners are not interested in maintaining women's sauce crops, unless there is a suitable urban market for them, for bitter eggplant. Indeed, most men see women's plants, especially traditional leaf crops and wild sauce plants, as weeds to be removed in favour of income-earners such as tomatoes or bananas. The well-manicured market gardens rarely contained traditional vegetables and wild or semi-domesticated plants.
In short, lacking access to traditional gardening and collecting areas, women had fewer options when it comes to making their sauces. Although this result has not been documented, a change in local culinary patterns may be underway. Ironically, by growing and selling garden crops, male gardeners may be contributing to a decline in the nutritional value of their own meals. Without access to appropriate gardening niches, women lack the opportunity to maintain traditional plant resources in situ. While some of their traditional plants may be suitable for upland cultivation, during the rainy season, many more wild or semi-domesticated plants are adapted to the low-lying stream areas. Thus, this situation presents a challenge for the maintenance of viable locally adapted plants and, over time, to the continuity of local knowledge of these tried and true species. In short, without continuous management, it is possible that these species may be locally eroded.
The threat to local plant biodiversity is not limited to garden areas. A number of important secondary environmental effects are related to the development of men's market gardening in Niamakoroni. Without access to lowlands for sauce production, or other alternatives for income-generation, women are increasingly focusing their attention on the exploitation of other local, bush-based plant resources for food and for income generation in support of their domestic cooking obligations (Wooten, 1997). Specifically, they are expanding their commercial production of charcoal, shea nut butter and toothbrushes made from plants. In interviews, several women noted that they use the proceeds from these activities to secure sauce items for their household meals. All of these activities are dependent upon the use of wild native plant resources. Women's expanding use of these resources reveals what may represent a vicious cycle. Without access to garden spaces, women may over-exploit bush resources to acquire income for sauce ingredients they can no longer produce locally.