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Part one: Introduction

Part one: Introduction

Chapter 1: Rural households and the environment

1.1 Our Changing Environment

Land, water and forests are the primary resources of agricultural production, and are the resources essential to maintain human life and well-being. The use of these resources must be balanced with conservation to support sustained national development, and to avoid environmental degradation and losses in agricultural productivity. The natural resource base provides many benefits to different groups of people in both urban and rural areas.

The environment that sustains human populations is used by people in many ways. Farms and forests supply nations with a wide range of important raw materials: timber, wood, pulp, minerals, leather, and foodstuffs, which are further processed into manufactured goods such as lumber. paper, pharmaceuticals, footwear and flour. These raw materials and finished products are important to the economic security of the country, and to the food security of its citizens. Water resources are essential for life, and are harnessed as a critical input for economic growth, including agriculture and industry. Natural resources also provide rural people with food, medicines, game, honey, gums and resins, condiments and other goods that are exchanged or used for secondary processing, and contribute greatly to rural subsistence economies.

Land, water and forests are the primary resources of agricultural production, and are essential to maintain human life and well-being.

Yet many countries are experiencing a decline in the availability and condition of their resource base. The causes of environmental change and degradation are very complex, and stem from different levels - from global and national, to individual farms and households (Commonwealth Secretariat 1992). Recent demographic pressures have changed the way that people use land, water and forests, and have contributed to a widespread deterioration in the condition and productivity of these resources. In developing countries, population growth, migration, and resettlement are changing how people use land, and where they settle. Past economic development policies, international lending, and development assistance programs have contributed in some cases to environmental mismanagement. In addition, destructive land use practices of the past are resulting in present-day reduced productivity of croplands, forests, pastures, and fisheries, and in increased poverty and hunger (Brown et al., 1993).

There are also linkages between the macro and micro biophysical and socioeconomic environments. Macroeconomic factors including market structures and availability, terms of trade for agricultural commodities, and national debt and structural adjustment can impact rural households in terms of cropping systems and land use. In addition, national policies concerning land tenure and land use can have significant impacts on farmers. Global economic and political linkages also exist through transfer of environmental degradation, waste and pollution from North to South. At the local level, farmers are linked through mutual reciprocity and cost sharing, demonstrating that rural communities are highly interdependent economically. However, social and economic relations at the local level can be disrupted by imposed or non-adapted "modem" technologies for food production or for natural resource management. These and many other interacting geopolitical and economic factors contribute to environmental degradation and rural poverty (see Box 1.1).

Demographic pattern are changing where people settle, and how they use environmental resources.

Box 1.1. Influencing factors in a stable environment

Why and how certain systems become non-viable

1.2 Rural Families and the Environment

Families are the fundamental building blocks of social and economic development (Firebaugh 1991). Families, as rural households, are key to understanding environmental changes in developing countries, as they are the immediate users and managers of rural ecosystems at the subsistence level. Rural households are those closest to the environment. and have the potential to play the primary role in conserving and protecting land, water, and forests. Farmers, especially women, are the direct and everyday users of land and water, and are those most in need of new technologies, information, and services (such as credit) that can increase their productivity and conserve scarce resources. It is essential that decision- makers recognize that women are at the center of the development process and that the improvement of their status and the extent to which they are free to make decisions affecting their lives and that of their families will be crucial in determining future population growth rates (UNFPA in Dankelman and Davidson 1991).

As the building blocks of rural communities, the family is the nexus for the transfer of social and economic behavior patterns, survival skills, and environmental values across generations.

The family represents one of the major ways that human populations organize and adapt to meet goals and needs and communicate values in diverse environmental circumstances (Bubolz 1991). Significantly, women's activities involving the socialization of children in the space of the household provide an excellent opportunity for teaching environmental values, attitudes and behavior to children (Steady 1993).

As the building block of rural communities, the family is the nexus for the transfer of social and economic behavior patterns, survival skills, and environmental values across the generations. Examples of this transfer abound. Women in Tanzania learn from their grandmothers that trees bring rain, and that cutting large blocks of trees will have a deleterious effect on rainfall. Young girls in India learn to tend livestock from their maternal relatives. In Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and other countries undergoing long-term stress, indigenous knowledge of survival strategies of various family members are passed on through the generations. In Malawi, family members plant saplings at the death of a relative or friend, preserving and protecting indigenous species on sacred lands. Agricultural skills, conservation techniques, and many other forms of indigenous technical knowledge are handed down from one generation to the next.

Rural people have extensive knowledge about their environments, and about the sustainable use of marginal areas. However, many of these people are being squeezed by a number of interacting processes. Economic and political factors, such as the privatization of common property resources, and inappropriate land use policies, can negatively impact rural people. Broad demographic changes, such as population growth, resettlement, migration, urbanization, and movements of refugees can also impact rural communities. These pressures frequently change the land-person ratio in an area, and place additional pressure on the resource base. People are sometimes forced into shorter-term land use practices that are not sustainable. Additionally, newcomers may bring with them land use practices from their area of origin that are not necessarily to the new environment in which they have resettled.

Rural households often face difficult trade-offs in decision-making about natural resources, as they seek to balance the conflicting demands of managing the surrounding environment with the economic survival of the family. For example, privatization of land may reduce the amount of land that is available to a family for grazing. A decision must be made whether to maintain the same number of animals in poor condition on the smaller area, or to destock the herd, which may result in a loss of household income, savings, security, and status.

To support households in facing these trade-offs, innovative new technologies and investment must be generated so as to relieve pressure on the natural resource base. Under conditions of food insecurity in low income countries, new technologies for crop and livestock management cannot be chosen exclusively for their compatibility with the environment. They must also allow for higher incomes for the rural poor (FAO 1993f).

There may also be difficult environmental trade-offs in balancing industrial and urban growth with sustaining the natural resource endowments available to households in rural areas. There may be increased demands for water, timber, minerals and other raw materials to support national economic growth as well as for rural small and cottage industries. Urbanization and industrialization may contribute to deforestation through increased demand for timber for construction or charcoal, to watershed degradation downstream through the deposition of urban and industrial wastes, and to pollution through the concentration of wastes and pollutants. The natural resources available to rural households may be seriously effected by economic growth. Understanding the environmental links between urban and rural areas is an important element in reorienting home economics curricula to meet the changing educational and information needs of local people.

As consumers and producers, rural families have complex exchange patterns for different resources, such as labour and raw materials, from the surrounding environment. The family unit is the organizing unit for the exchange of one valuable resource, human labour, as family members assume different economic and productive roles within the household, the marketplace, and the formal and informal workforce. Yet rural households are often fragmented either economically or spatially. During hard times, children are often sent to live with distant relatives who are better off. When a child does not reside with both parents, the household cannot be considered a closed economic system (IFPRI 1992). Family structures throughout the southern hemisphere are complex, and may include extended family groups and polygamous arrangements. Consequently, intrahousehold economic and property relations may be very different than western nuclear family systems.

The structure and composition of rural families in developing countries is changing, as local resource availability declines, forcing families to reallocate their labour. Almost worldwide, families are changing from extended to nuclear forms; traditional family structures also are changing, primarily in large urban centers. Divorce, remarriage, single parenthood, rising number of female-headed households, teenage motherhood, and single-sex unions all are a part of these changing family forms and structures (Firebaugh 1991). As a result, women everywhere have assumed greater responsibility for the economic support of their families, and for the maintenance of local ecosystems.

Some family members may migrate, and export their labour to distant cities or to other countries. The numbers of landless families among the rural and urban poor are also growing. Migrants and the landless are both consumers and producers, and require potable water, fuel, food, raw materials, and produce wastes. As such, the physical impacts of migration and landlessness on the environment can be severe, especially in urban and peri-urban areas.

If women were to apply the same volume and quality of inputs as men, their gross value of agricultural output would increase by about 22%.

The migration of men to urban areas to seek employment leaves women as de facto heads of households in many countries. Environmental degradation frequently results in large-scale migration, leaving women solely responsible for the family and the farm. The absence of men from the family and community disrupts the normal social structure (Rodda 1991), and places additional burdens on women for the day-to-day maintenance of their families.

About one-third of all households worldwide are headed by women, and the percentage is increasing. Women make up a slight majority of the world's population and a visible majority of the rural poor (Dankelman and Davidson 1989). A large share of rural households are comprised of women and their dependents, who tend to be disproportionately represented among poor, refugee and landless households. In southern African countries like Lesotho, the absentee rate of men can reach as high as 60%, as men spend the bulk of their working lives in the South African mines. In Botswana, over one-third of all households are permanently or temporarily headed by women (Rodda 1991). A large portion of the world's homeless - about 1,000 million people -- are women. And of the world's ten million refugees, women and children make up, in some areas, 90 per cent (Celik in Dankelman and Davidson 1989).

Overall, the main issues of concern to women as household and farm managers in rural areas are the lack of access to and control over land, financial resources, cash income, technical training and appropriate technology (FAO 1993f). In addition, women face several limitations due to their gender-specific roles and responsibilities, and excessive demand on their time and energy. Furthermore, women lack opportunities for participation at all levels of the decision-making process, and frequently face de facto fiscal policy gender discrimination. Therefore, to develop an operational framework for the integrated management of natural and human resources, these constraints need to be recognized and addressed, and workable solutions proposed (FAO 1993f).

Looking broadly at resource use, all family members are users of natural resources. Ultimately, we need to understand the ways in which changes in the environment and in community structures affect both men and women across all social categories (Thomas-Slayter et al. 1991; Ofosu-Amaah 1993).

However, development is still ruled by macroeconomic policies and structures, which are in turn based on an international division of labor and capital, where the natural environment and women's work are considered as unproductive resources, without economic accounting value (van den Hombergh, in FAO 1993f). Many development programs and policies are still based upon inaccurate or inappropriate models of farming systems and assumptions about household economic relations.

The structure and composition of rural families is changing, as local resource availability declines.

The conventional assumption of many development planners that the rural household is a single unit where all resources and budgets are pooled should be challenged (Elson 1990). Policies and programs that are based on these assumptions are likely to be ineffective, and may actually be detrimental to the rural and national economies.

The development and training of human resources - the world's farmers - are fundamental to accelerating increases in food and agriculture (FAO 1981a). For many years to come, the bulk of training and extension efforts in agriculture and natural resources management will have to be concentrated on the world's farmers, and therefore on rural households (FAO 1981a).

1.2.1 Rethinking Development in Sustainability Terms at the Household Level

There is a growing recognition that even well-planned development policies and programs sometimes have negative environmental impacts that are undetected until their impact is severe (Eckman 1993). There is also considerable interest on the part of development planners in fostering sustainable solutions to rural poverty and resource degradation problems. Consequently, the concept of sustainability has come to be regarded as both a goal in development assistance programs, and as an approach to development policies (Eckman 1993). FAO defines sustainability as:

"the management and conservation of the natural resource loose, and the reorientation of technological and institutional in such as manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development fin the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable, and socially acceptable" (FAO 1988).

For rural households, sustainability has both environmental and socioeconomic elements, and one element cannot be sustainable without the other. Hunger and malnutrition are closely linked with both environmental unsustainability and inadequate socioeconomic development, and are not simply problems of inadequate agricultural productivity or supply. Improving the potential for environmental sustainability will likely have a positive impact on the socioeconomic sustainability of rural households.

Rural households in developing countries have the greatest potential to be the prime force for generating agricultural productivity and rural viability (FAO 1991w). Improving the access of rural households to environmental information and to conservation-oriented technologies can enable them to better manage and care for the natural resources upon which they depend. Without innovative educational and extension programmes for the world's farmers, we are underinvesting in the human capital in our countries (Seltzer 1983). The sustainable use of natural resources requires a reorientation of prior development efforts, including a reorientation of conventional approaches to extension and training for rural families.

Rethinking development in sustainability terms also means linking the global and local use of natural resources. Where many households are using natural resources in an unsustainable way, the associated costs and problems can be exported to neighboring villages and towns, downstream dwellers, or to distant continents through airborn pollutants or through the movement of water. For example, pollution from burning fossil fuels, smoke from swidden agriculture and wind erosion of African soils contribute to global climate change, and to atmospheric pollution over distant continents. The transfer of industrial pollutants from developed to developing countries and of nuclear wastes in oceans will bring costs to future generations when clean-ups are needed. The challenge is to foster the sustainable use of natural resources in ways that can be economically viable to rural populations, and that limit the export of environmental problems to others.

1.2.2 Changing Educational Needs at the Family Level

As the environmental and economic contexts facing rural households change, so do the educational needs of family members. Better access to education can improve the ability of farmers to use natural resources more productively, and to diversify their income sources away from dependence upon natural resources alone (Mink 1993). And in regions experiencing demographic change and environmental degradation, educational needs will expand to include skills, technologies, and information in environmental management and rehabilitation, resource conservation, waste and pollution management, energy, and other relevant areas.

In the southern hemisphere, one out of two children does not complete the primary education cycle and four out of ten people over the age of ten are illiterate. The larger picture that emerges is that the majority of youth in the labor force is illiterate or semiliterate, living in rural areas, and is struggling to make a living from agriculture and other rural occupations. In the developing world, 80% of young people have serious deficiencies in resources or preparation for adult life, and at least 50% lack both (Ahmed in Seltzer, 1983). The social and economic costs of limited educational opportunities becomes more significant when coupled with the realization that women and girls are among the least educated, yet are the group that produces the bulk of agricultural harvests at the subsistence level.

Agricultural output is reduced when women have less access than men to inputs and support services, such as extension. If women were to apply the same volume and quality of inputs as men, their gross value of agricultural output would increase by about 22%. Given that women in Africa produce three-fourths of the region's food, total food production in Africa could increase by 10 to 15% (World Bank 1992).

The education of girls and young women is particularly important because of the extensive range of women's resource management. Improving their income earning possibilities increases the opportunity costs of raising children and the incentives to have smaller families, while providing the means to improve the health and educational prospects of children they do have; both developments have clear environmental benefits (Mink 1993). The economic and social returns to education for women and girls are substantial, and are on the whole greater than for men. Recent studies by the World Bank have shown that by improving training and education for women, a country can reduce poverty, improve productivity, ease population pressure, and offer its children a better future (Herz, Subbarao, Habib and Raney 1991; Subbarao and Raney 1993).

1.3 Home Economics in a Changing World

1.3.1 New Directions in Home Economics

The field of home economics has assumed new directions and responsibilities in recent years, and has reclaimed its early roots that rest squarely in the field of ecology. In the early 20th century home economics diverged from the development of ecology and other related disciplines, such as biology and anthropology. Home economics became centered on aesthetic and functional relationships primarily in the context of western middle-class households. There was an emphasis on household technologies, and on traditional values related to home, motherhood, and the ideology that these were women's primary vocation (Hartmann, 1974 in Bubolz 1991; FAO 1991w). Home economics developed a reputation for "stitch and stir." It was this model that was in part transferred from western countries to developing nations in the post-independence period as part of development assistance efforts.

As Seltzer notes, it is not that aspects of home economics have not been and are not now involved to some extent in development activities. Home economics has a long and successful history in development, much more limited but paralleling in many ways what agriculture has been doing in research, technical assistance, education and training (Seltzer 1980).

In recent years, however, the theoretical rationale and scope of home economics has moved far beyond the conventional image of sewing and cooking, and has returned to its roots once again to embrace the ecological and economic relationships of rural families: the household and its near environment. New conceptual frameworks have been developed based upon ecological models and human/environmental interactions (see e.g. Deacon and Firebaugh 1988; FAO 1990g; Bubolz 1991; FAO 1992f; Bubolz and Sontag 1993). The new model of home economics focuses on mutually sustaining interactions that link people and environments, and on the decisions that families make to creatively adapt and foster human development (Bubolz 1991). This document reflects this evolving reorientation of home economics toward broader ecological and environmental relationships.

The family is an important income-earning and consuming decision-making unit in all developing country societies, and it should be a focal point for efforts to put adequate food within reach of all people.

Tucson Conference, in Selzer 1980

1.3.2 Relevance of Home Economics to Developing Countries

Home economics, if still evolving in western countries, is at a crossroads in developing countries. The reorientation of home economics is a response to concerns about the relevancy of home economics programs in developing countries in serving the rural household (FAO 1991w). This traditionally female-dominated profession, commonly credited as serving a predominantly female clientele, needs to utilize its capabilities more effectively in national development. In particular, there is a need to broaden agricultural education curricula to better serve the diverse rural household production needs of all family members through extension services (FAO 1991w).

As Pankhurst notes, there is a growing literature on women and development which points out the dangers of assuming that economic growth benefits men and women equally within rural households in developing countries. It is now common knowledge that certain approaches to development have failed to bring benefits to all members of rural households (Commonwealth Secretariat 1992). Development can even be detrimental to women and children (Pankhurst 1992), especially in their roles as resource managers and rural economic actors. One way that this occurs is through the gender imbalance of extension work. The vast majority of agricultural and forestry extensionists in Africa are male, with the number of women extensionists averaging only 3%. This represents a serious limitation in the extent to which women farmers are in contact with outside advice on agricultural technologies (Commonwealth Secretariat 1992).

In particular, many home economics curricula are not appropriate to the needs of rural families with regard to agricultural production, processing, preservation, storage, exchange, and environmental management. Women's meager access to agricultural training programs in no way reflects the overwhelming percentage of time that they spend in agricultural labor (Verghese, in Dankelman and Davidson 1989). Nor do home economics curricula include environmental conservation topics and methods appropriate to rural households as they manage natural resources such as water, land and forests in their immediate environments.

Alongside the general neglect of women farmers, the extension services which they do receive are often restrictively stereotyped. Women are often regarded as gardeners and are provided with extension services in small-scale poultry or vegetable production rather than staple crops or large livestock, even through they are often also responsible for the latter. In addition, cash crops are normally introduced to men, rather than women, which in turn tends to marginalize the women from the financial benefits of this production (Commonwealth Secretariat 1992). This approach also fails to recognize the often significant domestic roles of men in some countries.

Conventional home economics curricula have also overlooked the productive and consumptive roles of households in developing countries, which face a very different set of natural resource endowments, constaints, and opportunities than do western households. The solutions to those resource constraints, such as technologies and extension messages, as well as productive opportunities, are consequently also likely to be very different.

Yet there has been a persistence of the western model of home economics that is inappropriate to the needs and realities not only of rural households, but of the diverse productive and consumptive roles of different family members. Many professionals and higher education administrators hold the view that the role of home economics education is to impart knowledge of western life styles to women students. Their perception of cultural enrichment and improved levels of living is symbolized by western living styles, diverging from national economic development needs. This bias is reflected in the curricular development and learning experiences in predominantly female-dominated home economics programs of developing countries (FAO 1991w). Consequently, the early phases of home economics development programs have been directed toward the transfer of western technologies and extension models and methods to the developing world (FAO 1991w).

Perhaps most importantly, extension services and home economics curricula have generally not supported or reached rural households that are struggling with the effects of environmental degradation. In areas where the carrying capacity has been exceeded, families critically need information on alternative economic strategies, family planning, and environmental conservation and rehabilitation. Similarly, communities in such areas need information on participatory strategies that can empower people to achieve common goals, on resolving conflicts over local resources, and on organizing community-based environmental activities. Aligning current training efforts with the farm and home production needs of rural households, toward which this paper takes a first step, is a step in the right direction (FAO 1991w).

1.3.3 Need for New Approaches and Tools

The family is an important income-earning and consuming decision-making unit in all developing country societies, and it should be a focal point for efforts to put adequate food within reach of all people (Tucson Conference, in Seltzer 1980).

Rural households in developing countries have the greatest potential to be the prime force for generating agricultural productivity and rural development.

FAO 1991w

In light of the rapidly changing nature of both the environment and of families worldwide, it is dear that conventional training and extension methods, approaches, and curricula are insufficient to meet the evolving needs and realities of households in developing countries. There is a need for new tools and more holistic approaches that view rural households accurately. that can enable rural families to improve their productivity, deal effectively with environmental change, and improve their well-being. Attitudes toward the training of women and other family members within rural households that use scarce natural resources will have to change.

More resources devoted to these efforts and better coordination are also needed (Dankelman and Davidson 1989). Operationally, this indicates that more resources and attention must be paid to a number of chronic problems and issues that have previously been regarded as too peripheral to agricultural production -- problems of family planning, family nutrition, education, alternative employment strategies, health, sanitation, and migration (Seltzer 1980). In addition, an array of environmental topics need to be incorporated into agricultural and home economics curricula, to put practical knowledge into the hands of rural farmers.

Curricular reorientation requires that the targets of extension programmes should be trained in more broad-based agricultural and environmental subject matter. Additionally, the targetting of extension messages should be reviewed, to ensure that messages reach the appropriate family members. In particular, home economics training must help women fulfill their roles in development, by helping them to increase their agricultural productivity (Weidemann 1976), to manage natural resources sustainably, to acquire new skills in all areas of industry and government, and to achieve positions of leadership at the community and national levels.

1.3.4 Relating Home Economics to Sustainability

Home economics has had a long history of teaching the conservation of household resources in the near environment. Expanding the concept of resource conservation is the logical next step in considering environmental and gender issues. The World Conservation Strategy, an action plan for governments to develop their own national conservation policies, provides a useful definition conservation:

"Conservation is a process to be applied cross-sectorally, not an activity sector in its own right. In the case of sectors directly responsible for the management of living resources, conservation is that aspect of management which ensures that utilization is sustainable and which safeguards the ecological processes and diversity essential for the maintenance of the resources concerned" (lUCN 1980, in Dankelman and Davidson 1989).

Living resource conservation has three specific objectives:

Conservation and sustainable development are therefore mutually dependent. From an ecosystem perspective, family members are organisms that directly interact with their environment. Families constitute a population and a basic unit of analysis, which are interdependent upon each other (Bubolz and Sontag 1993). The reliance of rural (and urban) families on living resources is direct and immediate, and unless its resources are conserved, there is no prospect of improving living standards (Dankelman and Davidson 1989).

Because of its focus on the family and its near environment, new models of home economics are well-placed to guide the reorientation of information and technologies for the sustainable use of land and water, and to encourage the conservation of natural resources at the household level. With its holistic approach to family ecology, the new home economics can provide flexibility, new insights and a systems perspective on rural households and their environments in developing countries that is lacking in other disciplines.

1.3.5 The Role of Institutions in Promoting Sustainable Development

Institutions and development organizations can play a major role in promoting sustainability and resource conservation strategies. In particular, proper education, training, and orientation as well as effective information dissemination pertaining to the environment and sustainable development constitute the critical foundation for the proper perception, attitude and behavior of rural households towards nature and its significance to mankind for the attainment of the desirable national development goals of the country (FAO 1992d).

Responsibility for programs affecting the well-being of individuals and families may cut across a number of government agencies and institutions, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (Weidemann 1976). With regard to teaching institutions, there are several priorities relevant to the subject of this paper, and that relate to the reorientation of educational curricula. First, increasing population pressure and other demographic change, one of the most problematic elements of unsustainability, should be addressed through the inclusion of population education concepts and principles in the curricula of intermediate and higher level institutions (FAO 1991s). Second, improving the quality of instruction through enhanced teacher training and motivation is a needed element. Third, widening the breadth of curricula for rural farmers to include environmental topics is needed, as well as reorienting curricula toward the specialized needs of rural agricultural households. Fourth, the inclusion of practical information and technologies that can enable households to cope successfully with environmental degradation is imperative.

Nongovernmental organizations have an important role to play in fostering environmental conservation activities that can be supported by rural people, as well as in fostering people's participation. Many NGOs have direct contact and outreach in isolated rural areas that sometimes surpasses that of national government institutions. A number of NGOs have supported successful environmental initiatives, and employ effective participatory methods that have also been applied to extension work and nonformal education. People's participation is an orientation promoted in the 1980's by nonformal educators, which has gained wide acceptance (FAO 1990g). People's participation in the planning and implementation of environmental and conservation initiatives which benefit them is fundamental to the socioeconomic sustainability of technical assistance as well. Methodologies and approaches to promote people's participation already exist through community forestry efforts worldwide, as well as certain pedagogical approaches used by many NGOs (Freire 1989; Drummond 1975; ILO 1984). NGOs in many countries have solid experience in facilitating local participation in environmental conservation and in working with women's groups, particularly where they have strong community links in rural areas.

Within educational and extension systems, home economists may have to assist in redirecting or supplementing the missions of existing government institutions in order to provide new skills and services to farm women (Weidemann 1976). Furthermore, stronger links between home economics extensionists and NGOs in field activities and programs would benefit the knowledge base and applied methodologies of both, as each has much to learn from the other. Finally, because of the unique and holistic perspective of the new home economics approach, it can create important linkages between and across various institutions and agencies, and between institutions and rural households.

Summing Up

Every country pays a high price for environmental unsustainability and degradation. The challenge is to foster development that is technically sound, culturally acceptable, and economically viable.

Rural families are the key to the sustainable use the natural resources. Development planners and educators should seek to reconcile the resources, needs, and realities of rural households with the requirements of national development strategies. The challenge for educators is to not only enable rural families to use resources at their disposable in a sustainable manner, but also to transfer knowledge and skills that can increase their productivity and improve their well-being. Home economics has the potential to treat rural households in an ecosystem perspective, recognizing that households are both consumers and producers of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources.

Every country pays a high price for environmental unsustainability and degradation.

Chapter 2: Relevance of environmental concerns to home economics

Why an environmental focus?

2.1 Relating the Home Environment to the Biophysical Environment

As Buboltz (1991) has noted, home economics, or human ecology, has an underlying base value, which is survival. This includes the survival of humans as well as other living species, and the maintenance and sustainability of the nonliving environment to support human life. Other fundamental values are improvement of the well-being of humans, and enhancement of the environment. From an ecological perspective, the quality of life of humans and the quality of the environment are interdependent. The well-being of individuals and families cannot be considered apart from the well-being of the whole ecosystem (Bubolz 1991).

The household environment consists of the totality of the physical, biological, social, economic, political, aesthetic, and structural surroundings of human beings and the context of their development (FAO 1993w). FAO has recommended an expanded farm-household systems model, the Farming Systems Development Model (FAD/UN Farming Systems Development, 1989), that describes the interrelationships within the micro and macro levels. Farming systems development (FSD) is a holistic framework for understanding the dynamic resource flows, functional spheres, and interelationships of rural households (FAO 1991w). Farming systems is an approach to developing farm-household systems and rural communities on a sustainable basis, and can be initiated through training courses in a practical, iterative manner (FAO 1990c; 1992c). FSD can help to diagnose problems with rural resource use that link the environment with food insecurity and energy shortages.

The well-being of individuals and families cannot be considered apart from the well-being of the whole ecosystem

Bubolz 1991.

Fundamental elements of the overall farm household can be divided into the following environments:

A key point is that these elements are closely interrelated at the household, community, national, and global levels. There are vital linkages and interdependencies between land use, fuelwood shortages or soil erosion, the maintenance of environmental stability for food and crop production, and rural development (FAO 1986a).

The household, or family, represents one of the major ways that human populations organize and adapt to meet goals and needs and realize values in diverse environmental circumstances, both locally and non-locally. Thus, it is a particularly critical level of a human ecosystem (Bubolz 1991). Human systems do not merely react to environmental changes. Human systems are complex adaptive systems that can take action to change their environments to serve human purposes (Bubolz 1991). As such, rural farm households are both consumption and production units, and can significantly alter the physical environment that they inhabit for economic purposes. In this sense, households are interactive key elements in the larger ecosystem.

2.1.2 Gender and Environment

In communities around the world, rural households are important natural resource users and managers. Each family member has different roles, responsibilities, opportunities, and constraints in managing natural resources both within the household and in the community. The differential access to natural resources by gender is an important dimension that governs who utilizes land, forests, water, and other resources, and in what way (see Box 2.1). Analyzing these gender roles is key to understanding the ways that resource users and managers relate to resources and to each other (Thomas Slayter, Rocheleau, Shields & Rojas 1991).

At the household level, women, men and children are responsible for different specialized activities for the maintenance of the family. Men often hold tenure to land and have a more proprietary role, while women may perform most of the agricultural tasks and have a more productive role. Girls often assist their mothers in farming and tending livestock. managing water resources, and processing or storing food. Boys may also assist in the fields, or sell goods at the market. There is often a mutual arrangement with men to exchange labor with women, so that women are paid in kind if not in cash (Rodda 1991). There are also cultures and circumstances where men share part of the household tasks.

Obviously, gender roles with regard to natural resources vary enormously around the world. The key point is that they exist, and that educational planners should understand patterns prevailing curricula to meet local needs.

Box 2.1. How the work is divided (Africa, percentage of total labour in hours)

Most rural families are directly dependent upon their immediate environment, and their own skills in using it, for the daily necessities of life (Rocheleau 1985 in Dankelman and Davidson 1989). All household members are consumers of natural resources, and of raw materials collected from the surrounding environment (see Box 2.2). Women, however, are the key players at the subsistence level, and are the largest body of consumers (Rodda 1991). In developing countries, households use a wide array of materials from the natural environment. Water, forest fruits, herbs, and wild game are materials are processed into other goods, such as wood for implements and tools, tendu leaves for bowls and dishes and for beedi cigarette wrappers, roots and bark for medicinal preparations, and gums and resins for waterproofing, fumigation, and industrial processing.

Environmental degradation affects all family members in some way. However, environmental degradation affects poor men, women and children most, since it threatens their food supply, incomes and health, and since they have the fewest resources to cope with these stresses (FAO 1993f). Of these groups, poor women are particularly affected by environmental change (see Box 2.3).

Box 2.2: Sources of Income for Men, Women and Poor Women

Box 2.3: Gender and Fuel Scarcity

The Symptoms of Fuel Scarcity...

Result in Increased Workloads for...

· Use of bushes, twigs and roots as fuel preparing)

· Women and children (gathering,

· Use of residue fuels for cooking preparing)

· Women and children (gathering,

· Walking long distances to collect fuel

· Women

· Cutting living trees

· Women, men

· Use of carts or animals to collect fuel

· Men

· Purchasing fuel

· Women or men (depending on whom provides cash

Given the diverse economic and productive roles of men, women and children throughout the southern hemisphere, western economic models of the family are inappropriate in the developing country context. Within the household, income transfers that are provided to one individual, for instance the male head of household, will not necessarily benefit all family members equally (IFPRI 1992). Many policy makers still have illusions about the degree of pooling and sharing in the household, and imagine that women have sufficient access to resources through intra-household transfers. Such a vision supports a view of the household as an institution that can safely be taken for granted by designers of development policy, for food security and nutrition or any other goal. It fosters the idea that there is no need to inquire into the processes of decision-making within households (FAO 1990f).

Dankelman and Davidson (1989) note that women have the potential to be key agents of change in promoting and conserving natural resources, and in making a major contribution to environmental rehabilitation. First, they have the knowledge and skills of natural resource management that can be built upon. Second, women have a remarkable and demonstrated ability to work together. Third, in caring for children, women have a powerful influence over changing attitudes toward the environment. Finally, it is likely that restoring women's capacity to care for the environment will be associated with improvements in their independence and status: There is a major convergence of interest between environmentally sound and sustainable development and the development of women (Dankelman and Davidson 1989).

By using traditional methods, rural farmers have generally been quite effective in conserving soil and water resources. Given access to appropriate resources, they employ managed fallowing, crop rotation, intercropping, mulching, and other soil conservation techniques. Women farmers in particular have played a leading role in maintaining crop diversity (Brown et al. 1993) and indigenous seed germplasm. Faced with the endemic insecurity of their situation, rural households have evolved techniques to make efficient use of all available resources. For these reasons it is important to build upon and enhance the strong skills in agriculture, natural resources management, and survival strategies that rural people already have. And while all family members have specific roles to play in sustainably managing resources and need information about conservation, women are the main partners to be addressed in targetting extension messages.

As Rodda notes, women's traditional roles are being affected by changes in social patterns and the introduction of technology. As more men have left home to work in urban areas, mines or plantations, women's responsibilities and workloads on the farm have increased. Women are more involved in the production of cash crops and are taking on jobs that once were in the domain of men. In Swaziland, for example, women now do 59% of the ploughing, and in Kenya 60% of households are headed by women (Rodda 1991). In Africa, women are responsible for an estimated 60% of the food produced for direct household consumption, and an estimated 80% of the agricultural labor (ILO 1989).

Women's sphere of influence and informed participation in traditional societies is apt to be relatively strong at the household level and grow progressively weaker as one goes toward centralized government (FAO 1983). The degree to which women are active and influential in local or regional decision-making arenas where natural resource use is determined is also likely to vary considerably from one place to another. For these reasons, it is important to carefully assess the situation of a;; household members in a particular setting before initiating new programs or educational curricula dealing with environmental issues (see Box 2:4).

Box 2:4 Finding Out Women's Needs

Major questions that should be asked when involving women in environmental or development activities include:

    · What are women's specific problems in gaining or retaining access to land or tree products?

    · What specific time, financial and other factors constrain women's participation?

    · What measures ensure that women benefit from development projects?

    · What different social structures allow women to participate as individuals or in groups?

Source: Hoskins 1979

While patterns of work differ greatly among countries and communities, it is important to realize that all family members have important productive roles to play. Gender is therefore important in structuring rights and responsibilities among family members with regard to land, water and vegetation (Thomas-Slayter et al., 1991). Obviously, gender roles vary enormously around the world; the key point is that they exist, and that education planners should understand the labor patterns prevailing in the country when reorienting curricula to meet local needs.

2.2 Avoiding Environmental Unsustainability

2.2.1 Viewing Rural Households as Resource Conserves

In the West, an ecological perspective on the family emerged in the latter part of the nineteenth century, a period of social reform, urbanization, industrialization, expansion of public education, and concern about the health and welfare of families. It reemerged in the 1960's with the increased awareness of the interdependence of human actions and environmental quality, and with the interest in viewing phenomena from holistic and systems perspectives (Bubolz and Sontag 1993).

One central tenet of conservation is to avoid harm.

This renewed interest paralleled a series of world events and notable social and technological developments that have had a profound impact on human use and control of natural resources (Bubolz 1991). These included the 1973 oil embargo, increases in pollution levels, pesticide toxicity, population growth, and the dramatic increase in the number of refugees. At the same time, theorists in ecology, entomology, forestry, and other disciplines in the natural sciences published a number of influential works on unsustainable environmental trends (Mellanby 1967; Ciriacy-Wantrup, 1968; Bormann and Likens 1971; Berry et al. 1974). Perhaps the best known of these was the publication in 1962 of Rachael Carson's book Silent Spring about the ecological impacts of pesticides on non-insect populations.

The period has witnessed the emergence of populist environmental and women's movements worldwide, environmental legislation and policies in many countries, new initiatives in research and technology, growth in the field of environmental education, and a new awareness of sustainable use of natural resources. The reorientation toward an ecological perspective on the family has also been reflected in the discipline of home economics, bringing in a period of reassessment of the goals, scope and appropriateness of the discipline to a changing world. In developing countries, there has been a questioning of conventional approaches to economic development, as well as the appropriateness of Western standards as models for emulation.

The result of these developments has been not only to increase public interest in environmental and gender issues, but also to reinforce certain basic environmental and cultural values. Of these, one central tenet of conservation is to avoid harm. Linking the avoidance of harm with sustainable development has been the subject of much interest in the last decade. Of growing concern has been increasingly unsustainable environmental and socioeconomic trends in both the developed and developing nations. Considerable effort and investments have been made to monitor these trends and to initiate various conservation programs, so as to avert further environmental harm.

A number of development organizations have reoriented their programs around the broad goals of sustainable development, focusing on both socioeconomic and biophysical sustainability, and the necessity of avoiding unsustainable situations. FAO has recognized the fundamental importance of sustainability in natural resource use and in economic and social development, and has considerable experience in community forestry and other participatory initiatives. FAO teas also recognized the necessity of people's participation and in working with the poorest in achieving sustainable development. FAO has developed a plan of action based upon sustainable agricultural and rural development, or (SARD) (FAO 1991e). Through this approach, voluntary organizations and nongovernmental organizations are partners in reaching the rural poor.

Effective solutions to ecological problems must be based upon a recognition of the diversity that exists in rural settings around the world.

Slayter-Thomas et. al. 1991

Summarizing the practical recommendations on the themes of sustainability, women and the environment that have emerged recently (including those of the Forward Looking Strategies, the Environmental Liaison Centre's Plan of Action, UNEP advisors, and SARD), the following are priorities for action:

Avoiding environmental unsustainability in developing countries means enabling all members of rural households, and especially women, to take positive action to preserve and protect the resources upon which they depend. The new home economics has a potentially central role in achieving these broad policy and programmatic goals. Similarly, extensionists and educators are important agents of change in the process of empowering rural women, and enabling them to avoid environmentally unsustainable trends.

2.2.2 Reorienting Curricula to Include Environmental Sustainability

Training is a dynamic and adaptable tool of interaction, and a powerful means of bringing women into the development process. Special training can revive and strengthen traditional skills and build upon their enormous fund of indigenous knowledge, transforming it into the capacity for action. Training can also help to eliminate the isolation of rural households and build confidence. However, conventional home economics curricula offer skills that are necessary, but not sufficient to enable households to deal with environmental unsustainability, or participate equally in the development process.

Presently there is a widespread lack of curricula and training materials for home economics professionals who wish to incorporate environmental and gender concerns into existing home economics curricula. Currently extensionists must improvise to incorporate issues of concern to rural households. Of special concern is the lack of curricula and training materials relating to environmental concerns at the household level such as land and watershed degradation in developing countries. Also needed are participatory methods and approaches that can empower the learner to identify and solve problems of natural resource constraints. This document takes a step toward building a curriculum that incorporates conservation oriented techniques appropriate for families living in insecure environments. As a practical consideration, actual environmental problems and risks confronting the learner must serve as the starting point of the curriculum (Bakshi 1980).

Actual environmental problems and constraints confronting the learner must serve as the starting point of the curriculum.

Extension networks are among the most effective means of reaching rural households in developing countries. Since home economists in extension services are responsible for the implementation of nonformal education (FAO 1986a), their field experience will be essential in developing and testing nonformal and formal education curricula that integrate environmental concerns into home economics and agricultural curricula. Home economists serving in the field are also more familiar with the problems, practices, and attitudes of rural households, and their participation in policy review and decision making will contribute to developing more effective strategies (FAO 1986a).

There is also a need to broaden the knowledge base of home economics extensionists and other professionals and trainers to include environmental concerns, consistent with the farming systems household model. The objective of reorientation in home economics is to create a cadre of home economists who are sensitive to the agricultural and rural development needs of their respective countries (FAO 1991w), but who can also communicate effectively about a wide range of environmental issues that affect rural households. It is through the important training and work of extension professionals that thousands of others are reached, and those extension professionals are the targets of this paper.

Summing Up

Effective solutions to ecological problems must be based upon a recognition of the diversity that exists in rural settings around the world (Slayter-Thomas et al. 1991). Prescriptive action must also recognize the very significant role of women in managing natural resources in the southern hemisphere, in order to appropriately target conservation messages and techniques. There is clearly a need for an integrated, holistic approach to training and extension, and to expand curricular content in a way that relates the local environment to the global community, and that relates macro and micro levels of interaction.

Ecological ways of knowing nature are necessarily participatory. Nature herself is the experiment and women, as sylviculturalists, agriculturalists and water resource managers, the traditional natural scientists. Their knowledge is ecological and plural, reflecting both the diversity of natural ecosystems and the diversity in cultures that nature-based living gives rise to.

The curricular reorientation proposed in the following chapters is based upon a holistic framework that considers the rural household as both a production and consumption unit, and recognizes the interactions of various household members with their surrounding environment.

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