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Impact of international agricultural trade and gender equity: selected country case studies

Current trade liberalization strategies emphasize the need for an export-driven economy. In recent years, developing countries have tailored domestic agricultural policies to respond to changes associated with the expansion and liberalization of international trade. The review of selected commodities and country-specific experiences in this section illustrates some of the issues related to domestic agricultural export strategies and the effect these have had on the welfare and livelihoods of women.

As trade liberalization strategies are geared towards increasing export production, women farmers in the subsistence sector are often neglected. Women’s unpaid work on family farms is not reflected in national accounts. As a consequence, this non-economic or unpaid work goes unnoticed and is not reflected in the design of agricultural policies. This neglect of women’s ‘invisible labour’ contributes to the marginalization of women in the economy. However, women’s work is often integral to the functioning of smallholder farms, by carrying out sustenance activities and participating in post-harvesting. Furthermore, in many countries women are also the main providers of food for their household.

As shown in the following country case studies, women are responsible for between 60 and 90 percent of total food production in their respective countries. Government incentives in developing countries which have switched land and labour to export crop production may force women to reduce time tending farm plots that are the basis of food security, and seek employment in the export-oriented sector. Such a move would increase women’s double burden - their responsibility to earn an income as well as to fulfill their role as food providers for their household, which might be difficult to fulfil through the extra monetary income they gained, given the very low wages they get as unskill labour. On the other hand, it is usually argued that this participation of women in the export-oriented sector, could also raise their autonomous income-earning capacity.

The issue of resource allocation is an important one, because as many developing countries are gearing their policies towards trade liberalization, agriculture smallholders, and especially women farmers, tend to be dislocated from the land they tend for household food production.

Moreover, the increased female labour input into agricultural exports is not associated with greater access to or control of agricultural resources. In Uganda, for instance, a large proportion of women engaged in the export sector are not directly involved in the marketing and therefore do not necessarily benefit from it. Household income is often controlled by men in the household.

The question of whether women have benefited from trade liberalization is complex to address. The following selected country case studies attempt to throw some light on the various aspects to be considered in carrying out a gender analysis of trade.

Labour conditions in non-traditional agricultural exports in Ghana: banana production

Agriculture and the policy environment

Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in Ghana, employing 55 percent of the workforce and producing 45 percent of the GDP.[9] Approximately 70 percent of the rural population depends on agricultural activities as a source of income. The subsistence agriculture sector accounts for 36 percent of agricultural GDP and employs 60 percent of the total workforce.[10] Smallholder farmers - the majority of whom are women - on familyoperated farms generate 80 percent of total agricultural production in Ghana.[11]

In the last decade, Ghana implemented a structural adjustment programme with trade liberalization as a major component. In 1990 its government formulated the Medium-Term Agricultural Development Strategy (MTADS) with an outward-looking focus on export promotion. Ghana’s economy has historically been dependent on the production and export of cocoa. As the cocoa price[12] fell in world markets by the end of the 1980s, the government began to emphasize the need to diversify their agricultural base and promote non-traditional agricultural exports (NTAEs), such as fish, fish products, oil palm, rubber, pineapple and banana.

Although one of the objectives of the MTADS was to improve food security and rural employment, resources were mainly allocated to the export-oriented sector; there was no institutional support for food crop production. Under the NTAE strategy, the area for the production of pineapple is estimated to have more than quadrupled between 1985 and 2000.

The growth in pineapple exceeded the growth rates of food crops such as cereals and starchy staples. The value of Ghana’s exports of horticultural products more than doubled in the period from 1995 to 2000. The leading export by value is fresh pineapple, exports of which account for about 40 percent of total export earnings in this sector.

Food production in Ghana has been in decline since 1974 owing to bush fires, and severe drought in 1983. Importables such as maize, rice and millet decreased for the period 1980- 1983. There was a brief upsurge in food production for the period 1984-1986, after the nearfamine situation in 1983 compelled many families to go into household farming when weather conditions improved. Programmes were implemented to increase grain and starchy staple productivity, but further drought in 1990 caused another sharp drop in food production.

Women’s contribution to the agricultural sector

In 2003, 49.4 percent of the female population were employed in the agricultural sector, compared to 51.7 percent of the male population (FAO, 2003). In agriculture, the majority of women are food producers working on joint family farms and tending their own land for household food production, while only a small percentage are independent farmers. About 90 percent of women in Ghana are self-employed or work as unpaid family labour in farming, agro-based enterprises, or small-scale manufacturing in the informal sector with low productivity and low incomes (Fontana and Joekes, 1998: 15-18). In periods of labour shortage, women are often engaged, without any remuneration, in post-harvesting activities on cocoa plantations.

Societal and cultural restrictions have limited the potential of the work of women farmers in Ghana’s agriculture sector. Uncertain access to land and a history of losing land rights have discouraged women’s long-term investments or improvements in their own land, where they are responsible for household food security. With their access restricted in general to less fertile land, women often are able to cultivate only cassava and other food crops, while men cultivate the more fertile land with cash crops.

Participating in paid labour activities, women are very much constrained by their role as the primary providers of food for their household. On family farms, while women can influence decisions, the male head of household has final decision-making power and often controls household capital and labour. Providing women farmers and workers with the right incentives, such as access to credit, to increase their productivity and skills could foster higher growth rates in Ghana’s agriculture sector.

Owing to the way in which the economic reforms have been targeted, benefits have largely accrued to medium- and large-scale farmers in the cocoa sector, where few women are employed. A World Bank study in 1995 emphasised that households headed by women have experienced a sharp decline in poverty levels. This is largely attributable to growth in nonfarm self-employment, which is the main source of income for female-headed households. As women are tied to their role as primary providers for household food production and consumption, they tend not to be involved in the export-oriented sector.

Promotion of NTAEs: Volta River Estates Ltd. (VREL) as an example of Fair Trade

The Volta River Estates Ltd. (VREL) banana export company, in which a relatively low percentage (approximately 16-20 percent) of employees are women, illustrates the benefits which women may have gained as a result of participating in export-oriented activity. While VREL’s exports only account for 0.1 percent of Ghana’s total export earnings, these are part of the government’s wider strategy to export NTAEs. VREL is of importance to Ghana’s agriculture sector because it is the sole Fair Trade banana exporting company. It is also one of only two Fair Trade initiatives in Ghana, the other being the Kuapa Kokoo, an initiative among smallholder cocoa farmers. VREL banana plantation employs 900 workers and is in the top forty companies in Ghana both for turnover and number of employees. VREL’s main export market is the European Union where it enjoys preferential access but, owing to quality problems, 20 percent of the banana produced are sold in the local market.

There is a marked gender division of labour on the plantation. Women are employed as unskilled labourers, mostly in cleaning and packing the banana, while male employees harvest, clear and replant. Women comprise about 20 percent of the workforce but are not represented in high-level management. It is not clear whether women’s low participation in the VREL labour force is because of a ceiling on the kind of tasks (packing and cleaning) assigned to women within the plantation, or because of constraints on women heads of household that prevent them from engaging in full-time employment in the plantation (requiring, for example, their time and labour to the extent that it detracts from their role as food providers for their families).

Since VREL is part of a Fair Trade initiative, the working conditions undertake to be better than elsewhere in the eastern region of Ghana, where few employment opportunities exist. VREL workers are represented by the Ghana Agricultural Workers’ Union for which there is also a women’s representative on each site. The salaries are equal for both men and women (about 8 000 Cedis a day or USD 1.2) and much higher than the country’s minimum wage of 4 200 Cedis or USD 0.61 (Budu, 2001). Workers are paid overtime and enjoy other social provisions such as three weeks annual leave, medical benefits, and on-site child support, providing incentives, particularly for women. Wages at VREL are, however, lower than at textile factories and not significantly higher than day rates for casual labour in the area. This is balanced by the fact that VREL staff have permanent jobs that are not subject to seasonal fluctuation in labour demands, which is seen as a great benefit (Blowfield and Gallet, mimeo).

VREL seems to constitute a very limited source of employment, in an area where water is insufficient for farming and employment is often seasonal and limited - where unemployment stands at 40 percent despite the area’s manufacturing industry. The majority of VREL’s male employees were formerly smallholders and fishermen who left their occupations for the benefits, such as higher wages, VREL had to offer. It is unclear whether women have fully benefited from VREL’s employment opportunities, since there is no information available about what the trade-offs have been for them. A more in-depth analysis would have to be carried out to find out what forms of labour those women working at VREL were previously engaged in and to assess what has happened to their household food production. Yet, although a small operation in terms of employee numbers, the Fair Trade aspect of the VREL initiative has set a precedent for more gender-sensitive schemes.

Reduction of agricultural work in banana production in the Windward Islands

Trade liberalization

Since the mid-1990s, Caribbean economies have introduced market reform measures into their national policies in order to comply with WTO rules. Historically, agricultural exports in the Caribbean were plantation-based but these large estates have in recent years been turned into small family farms. The agricultural sector began to experience decline during the 1980s, as Caribbean economies shifted towards tourism. Tourism now accounts for ten percent of GDP and agriculture for eight percent (FAO, 2003).

The region’s two main export commodities, banana and sugar, will be affected as preferential market access is phased out. Countries in the Caribbean recognize the need to respond to the new economic challenges this poses and to create a domestic environment conducive to reducing poverty and sustaining rural livelihoods in their respective agricultural sectors, by diversifying and developing non-traditional crops, for instance. The danger is that, "in the anxiety to capitalize and commercialise the agricultural sector, Caribbean Governments continually negate the contribution of the informal sector or the subsistence mode of production to the sustenance of livelihoods in the rural and agricultural sector", in which women play a fundamental role (FAO, 2003).

Women in agriculture

In the Caribbean, generally, data for the involvement of women and men in agriculture is confined to transactions in the formal market sector. Statistics for production and marketing of banana and sugar, the principal exports, indicate that men dominate the cash crop sector.

The prevalence of women in the municipal markets throughout the region points to female dominance of the domestic market. Women, known as hucksters (or higglers), are also the principal operators of the regional food export trade, buying on-farm and exporting agricultural produce to neighbouring islands. In Grenada and St. Vincent, the trade is with Trinidad and Barbados. A 2002 social audit of the sugar industry in St. Kitts reveals a three-to-one ratio of male to female workers in the sugar industry. In the absence of official information, it is generally recognized that the marketing of banana is done by men while the labour-intensive work of packing and cleaning is primarily carried out by women.

In the Caribbean, women in agriculture play important roles as, amongst other things, food producers, income earners, nurturers, and managers of natural resources, although their efficiency in executing these roles is conditional on the degree to which they are entitled to factors of production such as land, labour, capital and technology. In Jamaica, for instance, most women farmers, principally engaged in food production for domestic consumption, are smallholders with a significantly smaller average farm size than men. Production constraints related to land access therefore impact more heavily on women than men.

While women dominate in agricultural marketing’s domestic and regional spheres, it is usually men who are actively engaged in the marketing of traditional and non-traditional agricultural commodities targeted at the extra-regional and international markets. There appear to be gender differences in choice of market and also in crops traded. Women are more active in domestic markets, and their production and marketing activities are generally more diversified than those of men. In conclusion, although rural women in the Caribbean perform important tasks in food production, income generating activities, nutrition and the management of natural resources, their limited access to productive resources such as land, labour, capital and technology conditions their effectiveness in carrying out their tasks.

The banana sector in the Windward Islands

The Windward Islands’ banana industry has been its most important economic sector during the second half of the twentieth century. However, since the 1990s, there has been a decline in banana production in the Islands. In St. Lucia, for example, the contribution of banana exports to total GDP dropped from 20 percent in 1990 to 8.7 percent in 1997. Out of total banana exports from the Windward Islands, 50 percent come from St. Lucia (R. Paul, 2003). The Islands have been experiencing low levels of productivity and a decline in production levels; competitive pricing pressures in key European markets, especially the United Kingdom, continue to undermine the industry’s profitability.

The progressive phasing out of the European Union quota system for banana is likely to cause further deterioration of the Windward Islands’ already fragile banana export sector, directly affecting women in two ways. First, a large majority of banana farmers are women, whose livelihoods are already being affected by this decline, with a sharp increase in poverty and unemployment levels affecting women throughout the Windward Islands. A 1999 study on the impact of new trade arrangements on the Islands, conducted by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), revealed that rural women’s living conditions had worsened over the previous five years because of the decline in banana cultivation and price. Second, a large proportion of households in the Caribbean, almost 40 percent, are headed by single females (Robinson, 2001), meaning that, often, there is no second adult income into the household to mitigate the effects of this decline in the banana trade.

The Windward Islands Farmers Association is increasingly involved in developing programmes to support 10 000 banana-growing families, and to help them get a better deal by joining Fair Trade cooperatives.[13] Particular attention is paid to the rights and needs of female farmers, many of whom are single heads of household.

Expansion of non-traditional agricultural exports and changes in land use in the Philippines

Agricultural policy

The contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP in the Philippines stood at 20 percent for the years 1995 to 2000, and accounted for 40 percent of total employment (FAO, 2003). Two-thirds of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Rice takes up 32 percent of the approximately 12 million hectares available for crops; coconut, 26 percent; corn, 21 percent; sugar cane, banana and coffee, 8 percent; and the remaining 13 percent is taken up by root crops, vegetables and fruit trees.

The Medium Term Agricultural Development Plan for 1993-1998, prepared with possible entry into the WTO in mind, called for a reduction by 65 percent of the land devoted to staple food - namely rice and corn - and for a switch towards NTAEs such as asparagus, banana, eucalyptus and cut flowers. This approach limited rice and corn production to 1.9 million hectares and freed up some 3.1 million hectares for raising cattle and cultivating nontraditional high value crops (Bello, 2003).

Traditionally, the agriculture sector in the Philippines has been dominated by small-scale rural producers but their livelihoods are at stake now that high-value crops such as carrots, asparagus, broccoli, green onions, garden peas, lettuce, radish and cauliflower have become the top priority for government assistance. Traditional crops grown by women, such as rice, corn, potatoes, garlic, onion and cabbage, are threatened.

Effects of the trade agreement on agriculture

The period following the conclusion of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture has been characterized by higher food prices and increased incidence of poverty in the Philippines (FAO, 2003: 439). The entry of foreign commodities, facilitated by trade liberalization, has resulted in significant displacement of local production and of large numbers of producers. Rice, the staple food of the Philippines, was central to the achievement of the Philippines’ food security goals but, following entry into the WTO, rice imports flooded the market and drove down the price of domestic rice, to the severe detriment of the domestic rice sector. Just six months after the accession of the Philippines to the WTO in 1995, the country plunged into a severe rice crisis and had to import massive volumes of rice. Since then, from 1997 to 2001, average farmgate prices of rice grew at a "measly 0.89 annually", with total rice production only increasing marginally over the past decade, owing to the continued erosion of the domestic rice sector.

By 2001, employment in agriculture had dropped to 10.85 million, from 11.29 million in 1994 (Bello, 2003). In the period 1995-2000, following the Philippines’ accession to the WTO, agriculture grew at an average rate of 1.8 percent. Liberalization enabled food imports to increase at a rate that threatened the livelihoods of many domestic farmers (Briones, 2002).

Women's role in the agricultural sector

Approximately half of all rural women are classified as economically active. In 1992, women made up 25.8 percent of the agricultural labour force (including fisheries and forestry).

Women play important roles in the production of cash and subsistence crops, and in small livestock rearing. They also take part in some fishing activities. To feed their families, women cultivate kitchen gardens and subsistence crops, mainly root crops.

The gender division of labour in the Philippines is clearly marked in farming. Land clearance and preparation is usually carried out by men, except where minimum tillage is required, for example in vegetable gardening. Women engage in planting, weeding and harvesting, while men spray chemicals and fertilizers and carry out more mechanized tasks. Women are heavily engaged in post-harvest tasks, such as threshing and processing. In addition, women bear the responsibility for household tasks.

Rice production in the Philippines - from selecting the seeds, to uprooting and transplanting the seedlings, and storing the grains - has long been the domain of women, many of whom have been unable to compete with the massive imports of rice. In the Cordillera region of the Northern Philippines, irrigated rice production is the main livelihood of many villages but as the government has shifted its focus towards NTAEs, less irrigation water has been available for rice. This has led to the abandonment of rice fields, reduced production of rice and outmigration (Kohr, 2001: Chapter 9). It also means the loss of practices that, for generations, ensured that indigenous peoples remained self-reliant and self-sustaining in meeting their basic food needs.

Changes in domestic policy have promoted free entry of traditional agricultural products such as onions, garlic and potatoes. For instance, as the market began to be flooded with machine-sliced, ready-to-fry potatoes from the United States, prices collapsed to almost half of 1990-levels, affecting around 50 000 Benguet potato farmers (Oliveros, 1997).

Landless peasant women

Of the 11.2 million people in the agricultural labour force, 8.5 million are landless. The impact of international trade practices on rural agrarian structures in the Philippines appears to have intensified the exploitation of peasant women and their families (Oliveros, 1997). The current tenancy system in the Philippines is based on a 70/30 or 60/40 product-sharing scheme, in favour of the landlord. Millions of tenants work under extreme and exploitative conditions whereby, although the landlord pays only the male labourer, the entire family, especially the unpaid labour of women and children, is mobilized to complete the work.

In the production of copra, for instance, work is done with bare hands and involves long hours of labour. The crop is harvested every three months, with each family member intensively engaged from dawn to dusk. For a hectare of land planted with 250 coconut trees, the tenant family gets a share of about PHP 130 or US$ 5 per harvest, while the landlord gets PHP 450 or US$ 17 per harvest. Furthermore, there are reports that in many of the large coconut and sugar haciendas, landlords try to eject the peasants/tenants from the land they tend (Oliveros, 1997). This is favouring further concentration of land, exacerbating economic disempowerment, migration and social disruption in rural areas.

As vast areas of prime arable land are planted with non-traditional export crops, peasant women are forced to till far-flung rocky uplands for their livelihoods. Because of prevailing local land ownership patterns, women are not granted access to credit and training that might result in increased productivity. Women are also burdened with housework, owing to the gendered division of labour, in addition to their work as subsistence farmers. Furthermore, as women do not hold the title to their land, they are unable to reap any financial benefits from its sale when land is converted to other uses. In such cases, rural women may be displaced to cities and tourist zones to work in domestic service or in prostitution, in order to survive. Otherwise, peasant women and their children tend to end up in irregular jobs with very low pay and exploitative work conditions.

Participation of women farmers in non-traditional agricultural exports in Uganda

Agricultural sector

Agriculture in Uganda accounts for more than 40 percent of GDP and is a primary source of income for 80 percent of the population (FAO, 2003). The main cash crops include coffee, cotton, sugar cane, sunflower and tobacco. Dual-purpose crops such as banana, beans, cassava, fruits, maize and vegetables are also grown (IFAD, 2000). The Ugandan government, in its current macroeconomic policy, has fostered higher agricultural productivity as a prerequisite for poverty alleviation. The 1998 Plan for Modernisation is premised on a holistic strategic framework for increasing agricultural productivity, eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life of poor rural smallholder subsistence farmers. But owing to lack of marketing infrastructure, information asymmetry (especially on input and output prices), high post-harvest losses and financial constraints, smallholder farmers - women in particular - are still confronted with a number of problems constraining productivity.

Uganda has the capacity to produce enough foodstuffs but over half the population does not have access to sufficient food because of the agricultural sector’s vulnerability to natural and weather calamities. There is no specific buffer stock programme to release food onto the markets during times of shortage and stabilize retail food prices during periods of low supply.

The main staples consumed by households are matooke (plantain), sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, millet and sorghum. Own production constitutes a significant proportion of the consumption basket; the remainder is sold at market for income. Stockholding at the household level is very low or non-existent, which makes it difficult for rural households to go through off-season periods and times of poor harvest. Poor or lack of affordable postharvest technology at the household level leads to food losses that have been estimated at about 30 percent (World Bank, 1999).

One of the priorities of current macroeconomic policy in Uganda is the promotion of NTAEs. These are considered an important agricultural intensification strategy as the world prices of Uganda’s main cash crops, namely coffee, tea and cotton, have declined (Elson and Evers, 1996). Uganda’s most important NTAEs are maize, beans and cassava, accounting for 70 percent of total such exports (Kassente et al., 2002). NTAEs comprise approximately 25 percent of total exports and also include cereal, as well as fish and other high value-added products such as vanilla and horticultural products. Most NTAEs are grown by smallholders in rural areas.

Women's contribution to agriculture

Agriculture is the main occupation of women in Uganda; 72 percent of all employed women and 90 percent of all rural women work in agriculture, compared to 53 percent of rural men. Women are responsible for 90 percent of the total food production in Uganda and 50 percent of cash crop production (Elson and Evers, 1996), not only playing a central role in food production but also being involved in the post-harvest processing, storage and preservation of crops.

Women in Uganda tend to be allocated small fragmented plots on marginal lands to grow crops for household consumption. While women are involved in growing NTAEs up to a point, men are primarily responsible for the marketing side (70 percent, or jointly, 15 percent) and women often do not benefit from the sale of their produce (IFAD, 2000). In 1992, 48 percent of all women farmers were producing some form of NTAEs, for example green beans (Elson and Evers, 1996). In the case that a male head of household controls the agricultural output, the extra work is carried out as unpaid labour and may also impinge on household food security (Kassente et al., 2002). The number of women participating in the NTAE promotion programme is still low, as is the number of women farmers with access to agricultural extension services, possibly owing to cultural and societal constraints and to lack of information. A more in-depth analysis is required in order to assess whether exportoriented policies in the agricultural sector have actually improved the condition of women.

Sugar-cane production and new non-farm activities for women in Fiji

Agricultural sector

In 2001, the agricultural sector contributed approximately ten percent to Fiji’s total GDP. Subsistence agriculture accounted for 30-40 percent of agricultural GDP, employing over half of the EAP; followed by sugar production, with approximately 23 000 contractors engaged in this sector. Other agricultural exports include copra and cocoa. Horticultural export crops such as ginger, tropical fruit, root crops and vegetables are now the fastestgrowing part of the agricultural sector (FAO, 2003: 209).

Traditional food crops such as sugar cane, coconuts, cassava (tapioca), rice, sweet potatoes, and banana are grown throughout Fiji, representing a hidden strength of the economy. This strong commercial food production sector supplies the domestic market. However, Fiji’s vulnerability to natural disasters has resulted in a degree of food instability and high food imports. At the household level, because of urban poverty, 25 percent of the population are living below the poverty line; lacking food security, access to land and other resources, a situation that seems to be exacerbated with the phasing out of preferential trade agreements.

The sugar industry is of fundamental importance to the archipelago’s economy, occupying 50 percent of all arable land and employing 13 percent of the total workforce. It contributes to 9 percent of GDP and generates some 30 percent of domestic exports. Production of sugar cane in Fiji began in the late nineteenth century when an Australian-owned company called Colonial Sugar Refinery set up the plantation system. As labour costs increased and indentured labour came to an end, the plantations were transformed into smallholdings, still in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refinery. The company sold its operations in 1973 to the Fiji government, which formed the Fiji Sugar Cane Corporation (ADB, 2000).

Women's role in sugar-cane production

Women’s unpaid labour has been essential to the operation of sugar-cane smallholdings, and therefore to the production of sugar cane, in Fiji. Female family members contribute to the cultivation process and perform low-profile work that allows male members of the family to participate in sugar-cane production. The work women do tends to be masked by the set-up of the nuclear family, with the tendency for work that is unpaid to remain unnoticed, but they engage in subsistence agriculture, animal husbandry, domestic work and small goods and handicrafts production (Carswell, 2003).

In 1995, the average farm size was 4.6 hectares, 3.65 hectares of which would typically be devoted to growing sugar cane, and the rest managed by women family members - growing staples such as rice and root crops, as well as a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices. Household food production on the farm accounts for 50-90 percent of the family’s weekly intake and is therefore vital for the survival of the household.

The perception that women are only engaged in peripheral activities on the farm and do not participate directly in sugar-cane production is mistaken. Most women on the farm have harvested cane during labour shortages, especially when there has been pressure to complete harvesting. They have also participated in planting, weeding and fertilizing when labour was short. But it is women’s indirect support, in carrying out sustenance activities and working in post-harvesting, that is integral to the functioning of these smallholdings.

Preferencial access for sugar

Fiji has relied on preferential trading arrangements, mainly with the European Union (the Sugar Protocols of the Lomé and then Cotonou Conventions), for exporting its sugar cane. The progressive phasing out of preferential treatment may result in a significant decrease in income for cane farmers, likely to render the average sugar farm non-viable and increase poverty (Carswell, 2003). The adverse impacts will fall most heavily on small producers, placing more pressure on female family members to supply the food needs of the household. Women and children, additionally, suffer greater privation when food for the family is insufficient, as food is first provided for the men of the house. Under such conditions, smallholder families will need to seek alternative means of generating household income.

Women in sugar-cane farms realize that to feed their family they may have to diversify and grow alternative cash crops such as yaqona,[14] or develop market gardening and sell the produce at the nearest urban market. Some women will be able to increase sales of their handicrafts or seek off-farm employment, although they were aware of the gender constraints in off-farm employment with most existing opportunities, for example in gold mining and forestry, favouring men. Since women are actively involved in producing food for domestic consumption, and male members of the family may have to migrate in order to gain employment, women taking up paid work outside the household will burden those who are left behind on the farm with an additional workload.

The transformation of agriculture and implications for women's employment in China

Agricultural sector

Agriculture as a share of China’s GDP has declined from 33.3 percent in 1982 to 14.5 percent in 2002. Over 50 percent of the labour force in China’s agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fisheries is female (UNDP, 2003), the feminization of these sectors being accentuated as male agricultural labourers migrate to urban areas. Yet the wages of those migrants still support rural households because women’s incomes derive primarily from sectors of agriculture with low productivity.

The majority of workers in cultivation and stockbreeding are women, 51.6 and 75.2 percent respectively, and their percentage continues to grow (UNDP, 2003). In agricultural production, women have replaced men as the dominant force, while its management and decision-making processes remain male-dominated. One illustration of how this situation is perpetuated is that women are not allowed to apply for loans without their husband’s authorization under existing agricultural loan policy.

Effect of WTO accession on women in the agricultural sector

China has one of the world’s lowest ratios of farming land per capita, so in the long run the country has a comparative advantage in developing labour-intensive stockbreeding such as poultry production rather than land-intensive cultivation of soy, corn and cotton. As both sectors are dominated by women labourers, China’s accession to the WTO has implications for female labour. The number of women who work in land-intensive planting, especially of soybeans, corn and cotton, may decrease. On the other hand, the impact of WTO membership on the chicken-breeding sector is expected to create new job opportunities for women in the long run, although new opportunities in the poultry trade will largely depend on technical and sanitary regulations in developed countries (UNDP, 2003).

Alternatives for those women likely to lose jobs in the agricultural sector, as currently organized, involve moving to labour-intensive agricultural production or to non-agricultural employment (UNDP, 2003). It is important to note that even if women switch from landintensive planting to stockbreeding, they are likely to remain responsible for cultivating crops for household food consumption. The double burden of production and housework may actually intensify as in other countries. Once more, in order to ascertain whether women will be able to strengthen their position in the economy as a whole by engaging in the labour market, a more detailed analysis of such factors as wage levels and working conditions for women in non-agricultural employment is required.

[9] Trade Reforms and Food Security Project: Ghana, FAO, 2003.
[11] Trade Reforms and Food Security Project: Ghana, FAO, 2003.
[12] Cocoa accounted for 96 percent of Ghana’s exports in 1986. In 2001, this figure stood at 75 percent.
[13] See OXFAM Web site,
[14] A pepper plant used to make drinks.

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