|Environment, Biodiversity and Agricultural Change in West Africa (UNU, 1997, 141 pages)|
|15: Women, environmental change and economic crisis in Ghana|
This paper illustrates how macroeconomic adjustment policies have combined with environmental degradation to make women in Zorse, a small savanna village in northern Ghana, more vulnerable to impoverishment. The effects of adjustment - rising food prices, increases in the cost of social services and declining real and household incomes, combined with declining and erratic rainfall conditions and deteriorating soil fertility - have meant increasing workloads and falling standards of living. There is a visible process of impoverishment taking place in Zorse, which is reflected in deteriorating health and nutritional status, changes in the pattern of food consumption, a growing school drop-out rate for girls, and an intensification of women's workloads, as shown by increasing work hours, especially in the dry season, and the intensification of labour inputs in agriculture. In spite of increased workloads, women in Zorse appear to be losing access to land and cash income, as their private land is now used for cultivating the staple crop millet for household consumption.
The division of labour on the farm has become more gender neutral as women take on tasks traditionally reserved for men in response to declining household incomes. At the same time, household duties remain gender specific and men have not taken on new responsibilities.
In response to the question of whether men or women are more affected by the crisis, almost all women thought themselves to be in a worse position relative to men, as they felt that women were more concerned with and responsible for household welfare. Gender inequalities in access to land, credit, capital and labour increased women's difficulties.
By ignoring the sexual division of labour in work and intra-household distribution of resources, as well as women's triple role, macroeconomic policies of structural adjustment appear to have given rise to greater gender inequalities and placed heavy burdens on rural women. By doing so, they have increased pressure on the resources of the environment of the poorest people and thereby exacerbated the downward trend of population pressure and environmental deterioration.