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close this book Gender issues in integrated pest management in African agriculture
View the document Foreword
View the document Acknowledgements
View the document Abbreviations and acronyms
View the document Summary
View the document Introduction
View the document IPM and gender - an overview
View the document Relevance of gender to IPM in African agriculture
View the document Policy implications
View the document References
View the document Further reading

Relevance of gender to IPM in African agriculture

Women's participation in pest management

Women's specific technological needs

The gender division of labour

Labour/time constraints

Lack of land resources

Financial constraints

Educational constraints

Women's needs and agricultural research

Gender bias in agricultural data

Gender bias in agricultural research

Women's access to agricultural information and technology

Gender-specific indigenous knowledge

Knowledge of specific crops

Knowledge arising from specific tasks

Gender and environmental understanding

Gender-specific knowledge systems and communication networks

Conclusions

Women's participation in pest management

Across the developing world, women play an essential role in agriculture. Representing between 60 and 80% of the agricultural workforce of the developing world, women are principal contributors both as labourers and as agricultural managers and decision-makers. The extent to which rural women exercise agricultural decision-making authority is debatable and appears to vary considerably from case to case. According to the FAO, African women produce over 80% of the food and 60% of the total agricultural output of that continent (FAO, 1983). In sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations estimates that women contribute two thirds of all hours spent in traditional agriculture, three fifths of hours spent in marketing and over four fifths of hours spent in food storage and processing (UN, 1975).

Due to gender divisions of labour, women's agricultural work is concentrated around certain types of tasks, many of which are directly linked to pest management. In many parts of Africa, women are almost exclusively responsible for tasks such as weeding, the control of vertebrate pests and the cleaning, sorting and storage of agricultural produce. According to Pala-Okeyo (1984), African women perform 70% of weeding and 80% of tasks related to crop storage (see Table 1).

If women are likely to be the main users and beneficiaries of IPM technologies, the next important question to ask then becomes: "Are IPM technologies well suited to women's needs?" This question will be posed in two parts. First, do the technological needs and priorities of women in IPM differ from those of men? And, second, are these gender-specific needs taken into account in the research and development of IPM technologies?

Table 1 Division of agricultural tasks by gender in Africa

Type of work

Men

Women

 

%

%

Felling trees and clearing land

95

5

Ploughing

70

30

Sowing and planting

50

50

Selling of surplus food products

40

60

Harvesting

40

60

Hoeing and weeding

30

70

Gathering in the harvest

20

80

Storing the harvest

20

80

Food processing

10

90

Fetching water and fuel

10

90

Source: Pala-Okeyo, 1984

Women's specific technological needs

Although detailed research on the technological needs of women farmers is lacking, the available evidence about African women in agriculture does reveal a number of gender-specific factors which would be expected to affect women's particular technological requirements. Unless these gender-specific needs are taken into account in the development of agricultural technologies, including IPM technologies, then innovations run the risk of being inappropriate, inaccessible or useless to women farmers. Factors affecting women's specific technological needs are related to the gender division of labour as well as women's relative access to resources such as land, labour, finances and education.

The gender division of labour

Men and women perform different tasks and concentrate their labour in different sectors. As has been noted, women perform a majority of weeding, harvesting, post-harvest processing and storage tasks, while men are more involved in felling trees, clearing land, ploughing and planting. The gender division of labour also tends to be crop-specific. Evidence from across Africa shows that while women contribute significant labour to the production of non-food cash crops, their greatest contributions tend to be in the cultivation of subsistence food crops, over which they typically hold responsibility and control.

Agricultural research has exhibited a relative neglect of women's crops and produced comparatively few innovations aimed specifically at facilitating women's tasks. National agricultural research centres (NARCs) have shown a general bias against food crops, instead giving priority to: "quick payoffs in more productive areas and to cash crops which earn foreign exchange" (de Janvry and Dethier, 1985). Although the international agricultural research centres (IARCs) have adopted subsistence food crops as their official research priority, the extent to which this 'commodity bias' has been redressed, especially at the level of NARCs, remains unclear (de Janvry and Dethier, 1985).

While technologies for ploughing and planting have been much improved over the years, tasks related to weeding and post-harvest processing have received relatively little attention. In some cases, the introduction of tractors has expanded and facilitated planting, but with no complementary advances in weeding, threshing and winnowing, women's workload is increased and a labour bottle-neck results (Mascarenhas, 1985). Additional difficulties may also arise when women's tasks are mechanized. According to the gender division of labour, the trend has been that as soon as a task is mechanized, it is taken over by men. Although this may have the positive effect of lightening women's workload, it has also led to an erosion of women's control over certain crops and a subsequent loss of income.

Compared to many other fields of agricultural research, IPM has responded comparatively well to women's needs in the sense that much IPM research has been directed at food crops and that pest management itself is a predominantly female task (Kiss and Meerman, 1991). As national and international agricultural research centres take a growing interest in IPM it is hoped that emphasis on essential developing country subsistence crops will be continued.

Case-study: Women and weeding in north-western mali

In the area of north-western Mali covered by ODA's Mali Millet Pest Project, women's participation in cultivation is generally confined to small plots of millet, usually of less than 0.25 ha each, and representing only 5-10% of total area under millet. Women are responsible for these plots on an individual basis and cannot draw on the labour of other family members. They can sell the produce of the plots but are expected to put some towards family consumption. In some villages women also cultivate vegetables, for consumption and as cash crops, in small irrigated gardens.

A study of weeding practices (Sharp, 1992), found key differences between women (both those cultivating 'women's plots' and the few examples of female-headed households) and men. The method preferred by most people for weeding millet uses a plough, but very few female-headed households own ploughs. Women cultivating individual plots do not have a right to use the family plough, and only a few get access to the plough even as a favour, and then after the men's fields and the main family field are finished. Only 17% of women had had their fields weeded with a plough, compared to 64% of men. Women also have many other pressing demands on their time. Women are less likely to have access to manure, which is critical in determining the strength of the grain plants and therefore their resistance to weed attack, or to the transport to carry it to their fields, which are often distant from their homes. Women also appear to have less access than men to knowledge about grain cultivation.

For all these reasons, only 47% of women questioned weeded their millet twice a year, compared with 69% of men. In two of the three districts studied, male farmers unanimously thought millet should be weeded twice a year, while women farmers tended to say that one was satisfactory. Why they should say this demonstrates some of the methodological problems of researching gender issues in IPM: they may have been constrained from expressing dissatisfaction by the presence of male relatives, and they may not have considered a second weeding a real choice, given their lack of access to resources. In some ways women, even those from relatively wealthy families, could be considered 'resource-poor farmers', and it was clear that resources, rather than knowledge, were the key constraint in improving ways of tackling the weed problem.

Lab our/time constraints

A second factor affecting the technological needs of women farmers is the time constraints they face in comparison to their male counterparts. In addition to her agricultural work, the woman farmer is also responsible for food preparation, domestic chores, the supply of the household's water and fuel, and the care of children, the sick and the aged. Women's work in the reproductive and social spheres, aside from their productive activities, result in what is often referred to as women's 'triple workload'.

Studies from several different countries show that women's working day is, on average, longer than that of men. Gabriel (1991) reports a 16-hour working day for African farming women at certain times of the year, while

Whatmore (1991) points out that no matter what the extent of women's agricultural activities, there is little variation in the extent to which domestic labour is shared by other members of the household.

Women's time is further constrained by the nature of their tasks. While there is a certain flexibility in the timing of male activities, such as clearing land, digging and chopping, women's tasks such as cooking meals, child-care and fetching water tend to be necessary on a rigid and daily basis. As a result, women have little control over the scheduling of their working hours and are tied to a highly inflexible routine.

One of rural women's greatest needs is for timesaving technologies which will lighten their excessive workloads and reduce the length of their working day.

Agricultural technologies which require an increase in labour time or are not adapted to women's daily and seasonal time schedules are unlikely to be adopted. In addition to constraints on their own labour time, women cannot call on the labour of other household members in the way that men can.

Many IPM technologies are labour-intensive and time-consuming and are, therefore, poorly suited to this specific technological need of women farmers. Women who are already working at their maximum daily threshold are unlikely to be able to provide the time and labour required to conduct detailed pest monitoring or surveillance or to carry out trapping or manual egg removal. Cultural and agronomic measures such as crop rotations, inter-cropping and the altering of planting dates are not necessarily labour-consuming, but must take account of women's seasonal schedules and be adapted to simultaneous demands on women's time.

Pest-resistant varieties and classical biological control (CBC) are two important IPM strategies which are not labour-intensive and, where applicable, have proved highly effective, time-saving methods of pest management. Pest-resistant varieties are usually no more labour-intensive than traditional varieties and should reduce the need for alternative methods of manual or chemical pest control. CBC, which involves the introduction of natural predators into the area where pests occur, has proved successful in controlling over 15 important insect pests in Africa (admittedly a minute fraction of the total) (Kiss and Meerman, 1991). If undertaken directly by the NARCs and IARCs, as has often been the case, CBC entails virtually no direct costs or labour requirements on the part of the individual farmer.

Lack of land resources

Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa shows that women in female-headed households typically farm smaller, more scattered and less fertile plots of land than their male counterparts. Within male-headed households, women's subsistence crop plots are similarly small scale and non-uniform. As a result, women require technologies which can be effectively and efficiently implemented on small, scattered and diverse land plots. Technologies which are cost-effective on a large scale only or require a substantial initial investment are likely to be adopted by men only.

Women's lack of access to land resources is rooted in patriarchal systems of land tenure. Across sub-Saharan Africa official land rights are vested in the male household head, who also controls crops and the income deriving from them. A study from Kenya by Collier (1989) shows how women's lack of control over land resources can lead to reduced efficiency in pest management. Collier found that in female-headed households, weeding raised maize yields by 56%, while in male-headed households (where women were also responsible for weeding, but received no direct remuneration) yields increased by only 15%. This evidence suggests that if women control a crop and income from that crop, they will have a greater incentive to ensure effective pest management.

Integrated pest management is generally well suited to women's need for technologies which are suitable for use on small, scattered and non-uniform fields. Manual, cultural and genetic forms of pest management are all equally effective on a small scale as on a large scale. Kiss and Meermen (1991) find CBC:

. . . particularly attractive for very low-value crops, grown by highly dispersed small-scale farmers, where it may be impossible or uneconomical to use external inputs or even many types of cultural controls.

Financial constraints

Many African women farmers lack the financial means to purchase external inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, tools and machinery.* Women's relative lack of financial resources in comparison to men stems from two sources. Firstly, male members of the household control income from cash crops and are more likely to engage in paid employment than are women whose time is devoted to unpaid labour within the household. Women's own income (from casual labour, marketing surplus vegetables, beer-brewing etc.) is limited and usually devoted to immediate consumption needs. Secondly, rural women's access to credit is limited due to a lack of collateral, problems of illiteracy, the need for a male co-signer etc. (Kandiyoti, 1985).

These financial constraints hinder rural women from adopting technologies which require large capital investments or costly external inputs. Resource-poor women will benefit most from technologies which reduce or replace the use of external inputs with alternative, low-cost and locally procured inputs and techniques. IPM is particularly well suited to the needs of women in this respect, as many IPM technologies are low cost and aim to reduce the need for costly insecticides and herbicides.

Educational constraints

Across the developing world, women's levels of education and literacy are lower than those of men. A survey by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conducted in 1981 (Lewis, 1981) found levels of illiteracy among rural women to be 85% in Tanzania, 88% in Malawi, 90% in Kenya, 94% in Nigeria and 96% in the Sudan. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 1992), in sub-Saharan Africa the adult male literacy rate is 62% compared with a female rate of 40%.

The reasons for women's lower levels of education are complex and deeply rooted in cultural and socioeconomic realities. From an early age, girls' contributions to household tasks and subsistence agriculture may prevent their parents from sending them to school. In poorer families, where money for school fees is scarce, boys' education will invariably be given priority over that of girls. Since women's earning potential is generally lower than men's, and because the benefits of a girl's education accrue to another family after marriage, devoting resources to girls' education is not viewed as a profitable investment. Girls are also disadvantaged in educational opportunities due to factors such as higher levels of malnutrition, pregnancies at a young age and institutional biases within educational systems.

Women's lower educational levels may hinder their understanding and use of agricultural technologies. Berger et al. (1984) point out that:

. . . education enhances the ability of farmers to acquire accurate information, evaluate new production processes and use new agricultural inputs and practices efficiently. (p 53)

Studies also show that uneducated and resource-poor farmers are more likely to misuse pesticides or to acquire pesticides which are outdated or have been banned.

Integrated pest management has the potential to circumvent these constraints, both because it minimizes pesticide use, and because it values the knowledge and perceptions of farmers themselves. The understanding which a farmer has about the causes of plant disease, the harmfulness of various insects, pest regeneration etc. will necessarily affect the way in which IPM practices are adopted and implemented. Innovative research has found that even illiterate farmers may possess extensive and detailed indigenous technical knowledge. The most important factor is for technological innovation to recognize, respect and build on farmers' own particular forms of knowledge.

Women's needs and agricultural research

A review of the literature on agricultural research quickly reveals that women's specific technological needs are seldom taken into account in the establishing of research priorities and the development of new technologies. Examples of innovations which have had an ineffectual or, in some cases, negative impact on the welfare of women farmers are well documented. Although the principles underlying IPM are compatible with women's needs, IPM innovation has seldom taken place with specific regard for women farmers, and examples have been cited of IPM projects which have been rejected by women farmers as inappropriate. Given the fact that women constitute the majority of agricultural producers across Africa and the developing world, how is it that processes of agricultural research and development have failed to adapt to their specific needs?

The research and development of agricultural technologies (including IPM) is carried out, in large part, by the NARCs and IARCs. At the national level, surveys and studies are conducted to collect information about agricultural activities and farmers' needs, priorities are established as to which particular crops or problems will be addressed, and new technologies are developed through laboratory work, research centre activities and on-farm experimentation. Much of the work of the IARCs has focussed on biological and genetic research (de Janvry and Dethier, 1985).

An explanation for the general failure on the part of the agricultural research centres to respond to the needs of women farmers can be related to (a) a lack of knowledge and appreciation of the extent and nature of women's work, and (b) certain structural factors which lead to gender bias in processes of agricultural research.

Gender bias in agricultural data

In order to develop technologies which are appropriate to women farmers, detailed information is required as to:

• the specific nature and extent of women's work according to the gender division of labour

• the relative rigidity of the gender division of labour

• the allocation of resources, responsibilities and decision-making authority within the household

• the daily and seasonal schedules of men and women, including the length of their working day, and the timing and flexibility of specific tasks

• the specific constraints faced by women farmers and their own perceived needs and solutions.

Such information will allow researchers to identify more accurately the most relevant recipients of various technological innovations and to predict better the extent to which women and men may be able to take advantage of new opportunities and the trade-offs which may be required due to competing uses of time. Far from providing this type of detailed and disaggregated information, mainstream methods of data collection have tended either to omit information about women farmers altogether or to provide distorted and cursory accounts which belittle their significance.

In the vast majority of agricultural surveys both the enumerator and the respondent are men. Despite the significant and growing number of female-headed households in rural Africa, the officially identified household representative has invariably been a man. Buvinic and Youssef report situations where, in the absence of an adult male, boys as young as 12 were identified as head of the household and questioned by enumerators about the household's agricultural activities (Dixon-Mueller, 1985 ).

The failure to consult female respondents when collecting data has several obvious drawbacks. For

example, because men and women perform different agricultural tasks, the information they possess is distinct. When women's input is excluded, valuable agricultural information is lost. Also, when questioned about their wives, men have a tendency to underestimate the true extent of their wives' domestic and agricultural activities. Women's daily tasks of garden work, weeding, food preparation, child care, cleaning and supplying water and fuel are not considered es 'work' but as a natural part of housework. This point is well illustrated by the following dialogue from an International Labour Office (ILO) survey, reported by Gabriel (1991):

Question

"Does your wife work?"

Answer

"No, she stays at home."

Question

"I see. How does she spend her day?"

Answer

"Well, she gets up at four in the morning, makes the fire and cooks breakfast. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. After that she goes to town to get corn ground and buys what we need in the market. Then she cooks the midday meal."

Question

"You come home at midday?"

Answer

"No, no. She brings the meal to me in the fields- about three kilometres from home."

Question

"And after that?"

Answer

"Well, she takes care of the hens and the pigs, and of course she looks after the children all day...then she prepares the supper so it is ready when I come home."

Question

"Does she go to bed after supper?"

Answer

"No, I do. She has things to do around the house until about nine o'clock."

Question

"But you say your wife does not work?"

Answer

"Of course she doesn't work. I told you, she stays at home."

 

This dialogue illustrates the importance of the choice of concepts and definitions used in data collection. A serious conceptual bias affecting the results of agricultural surveys has been the tendency to define the term 'work' only in reference to those activities within the monetized economy. As a result, the extent of women's agricultural contributions (which are most often unpaid) is grossly underestimated. A 1972 census found that women represented only 12% of Malawi's agricultural workforce. When wording was modified and the reference period extended in 1977, this figure was corrected to 51.6% (Doorenbos et al., 1988).

Gender bias in agricultural research

The provision of reliable gender-disaggregated data is only the first step towards the development of gender-appropriate technologies. Once there is a realization of the full significance of women's work, and a recognition of their needs, there is no guarantee that such information will automatically be translated into a research agenda. In fact, the institutional structures of the agricultural research centres are such that the chances of women's interests receiving research priority are slim.

Research priorities are strongly influenced by economic and political factors. In his work on the political economy of agricultural technological innovation, de Janvry and Dethier (1985) conclude that:

It is evident that very little information and analysis goes into the definition of research priorities. The result is that the socially more vocal and powerful sectors unduly dominate the course of technological change. (p 81)

Given rural African women's continued social subordination and political exclusion, it is unsurprising that their technological needs have failed to acquire priority research status. Neither do the existing structures of the research centres provide incentives for individuals to pursue gender-targeted research projects. Recognition and reward, professional promotion and prestige, and research funding all tend to be more forthcoming for large-scale, high-technology, export-oriented projects, than for the small-scale, low-cost, subsistence-oriented types of research which would best serve women farmers.

In conducting interviews at several of the IARCs, Jiggins found disturbing evidence of gender bias at both the individual and institutional level. Researchers interviewed by Jiggins at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in 1984 stated that:

. . . to give prominence to gender issues would undermine the legitimacy of research and destroy confidence in the results. (Jigging, 1986,p8)

The fact that both national and international research centres employ only a tiny percentage of female researchers and scientists facilitates the continued invisibility of women from all aspects of agricultural research and development. While numbers of female staff are known to be higher among the IARCs than among developing country NARCs, a recent study at the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) revealed that among research projects being carried out in nine developing countries only 4.3% of scientific staff were women. In four countries out of ten, research teams were entirely male (Bingen and Poats, 1990).

Women's access to agricultural information and technology

Issues related to the research and development of IPM technologies have been discussed above. The next stage of the process, i.e., the diffusion of new technologies, is now examined. Once new IPM technologies have been developed and made available by the agricultural research centres, how successful are women farmers in gaining access to them?

The processes whereby new technologies are diffused to farmers are referred to as agricultural extension. Extension services are normally carried out by national ministries of agriculture in conjunction with the agricultural research centres. Extension agents, aside from introducing farmers to new technologies, provide general advice about farming practices and inputs, organize training sessions, inform farmers about agricultural credit, marketing and subsidy programmes, involve local farmers in research projects, identify 'demons/ration' farmers and, ideally, feed back information about farmers' needs and priorities to the research centres.

Women's exclusion from extension services, both as extension agents and as farmers, is striking. Across Africa, where women represent a clear majority of agricultural producers, less than 3% of agricultural advisers and extension workers are women (Berger et al., 1984) and women farmers receive less than 2% of extension contacts (Lele, 1991; Steeves, 1991). In Kenya, Staudt found that male farmers were contacted by extension workers 13 times more often than female-headed farms and that: "gaps increased as the services became more valuable" (Sleeves, 1991). The absurdity of this situation is lamented by Berger et al. (1984) who state that:

On the one hand women in developing countries are actively involved in agriculture and urgently need assistance to improve farming practices . . . On the other hand they have been virtually ignored by agricultural extension units, the very organization designed to provide these services. (p 1)

At least three groups of reasons can be identified for women farmer's exclusion from extension services. Firstly, extension workers may fail to contact women farmers due to prejudice or ignorance about women's agricultural contributions. In a study of five African countries, male extension workers expressed the following stereotypical perceptions of women farmers:

• Women do not contribute significantly to agriculture

• Women are too busy with household chores to participate in extension programmes

• Women are shy and difficult to contact

• Women are difficult to organize

• Women are unprogressive in dealing with innovations

• Women are only interested in certain "feminine" activities

• Women do not respond rationally to economic incentives (Gill, 1988, p 167)

Secondly, the nature and structure of extension services may discriminate against women farmers. Many extension programmes which exist in Africa today were established under colonial governments and have maintained the focus on large-scale cash crop production, with which they were initially charged. As a result, women farmers are often ineligible as programme participants or fail to meet project criteria for minimum land-holding size etc. In her study of agricultural extension in developing countries, Berger et al. (1984) conclude that:

Women farmers are more likely to be involved in subsistence production and generally have smaller land holdings and less access to other resources and are, therefore, not typical of the clientele served by many agricultural extension programmes.

Finally, some of the specific constraints faced by women farmers serve to jeopardize their participation in extension activities. Constraints on women's time may make it impossible for them to attend extension sessions or to participate in time-consuming research projects. Inferior levels of education can hinder women's understanding and utilization of extension advice, or may entirely exclude them from training programmes where literacy is a criteria. Constraints on women's mobility are also an important factor. As a result of domestic responsibilities, shortages of time and money and socio-cultural norms which prohibit women to travel alone or to use certain means of transport such as bicycles or mopeds, women may find themselves unable to travel to the neighbouring village for extension services, or to the closest town to acquire government services or inputs. Socio-cultural and religious barriers may also prevent women from being in direct contact with a male extension worker or from speaking out or asking questions in a public context.

Unless these constraints are taken into account and special provisions are made to accommodate them, women may effectively be excluded from participation in extension activities.

Gender-specific indigenous knowledge

Indigenous technical knowledge and practices have proved a rich source of information in the development of IPM technologies. Many current IPM strategies such as crop rotations, inter-cropping and trapping have their roots in indigenous farming systems. Because they grow different crops, perform different tasks, and belong to different communication networks, the indigenous knowledge possessed by women is, in some ways, distinct from that of men, and may be relevant to the generation and implementation of IPM in a number of ways. For example, women may possess exclusive knowledge about traditional methods of pest control which could be adapted or incorporated into IPM strategies. Women's particular knowledge may also have repercussions for the adoption of IPM technologies in terms of distinct criteria in the selection of pest-resistant varieties, or an unwillingness to adopt new practices based on an alternative understanding of the consequences.

Knowledge of specific crops

In the case of many vegetable, flavouring and subsistence cereal crops, women are responsible for every stage of the production process from land preparation to ploughing, planting, weeding, harvesting, processing and storing. Women's knowledge of the characteristics and pest problems associated with these crops will obviously be superior to that of men who have little or no firsthand experience with them.

Knowledge arising from specific tasks

Even when women are not exclusively responsible for specific crops, the tasks they perform according to the gender division of labour, including weeding, food preparation, post-harvest processing and storage, may result in their developing different types of knowledge from those of men.

Women's close contact with plants and soil during weeding, allows them to develop a detailed knowledge of specific plants which is often superior to that of men. Gay (1982), for example, conducted an experiment to judge men and women farmers' knowledge of rice varieties in Liberia. While men were considered responsible for these crops, it was often women who played a central role in selecting varieties and weeding. In order to test their ability to describe and identify different varieties, Gay asked pairs of farmers to sit back-to-back and for one to identify a particular variety of rice based on a verbal description by the other. In this experiment, women, generally older women:

. . . could send and receive information about rice varieties with at most 2 or 3 errors out of 25 attempts. On the other hand, some men could hardly get 2 or 3 correct answers on the same test and no men were as good as the best women. (Jigging, 1986, p 18)

Based on his field experience with the Moru of southern Sudan, Sharland (1989) comes to the conclusion that:

Women have greater knowledge of the crops and are the ones who are involved in the key stages of the production . . . They are thus the largest source of indigenous technical knowledge and should be the key focus of extension activities. (p 15)

In almost all parts of the developing world, women are exclusively responsible for food processing and meal preparation. These tasks provide women with detailed knowledge of the processing, cooking and eating qualities of various food and cereal crops. Whereas a male farmer may choose a new pest-resistant variety because it produces a higher yield, women may judge a new variety according to how difficult it is to husk or peel, cooking time, taste and 'pot yield'. Because they are responsible for fetching water and gathering fuel, women will also judge a particular variety by the amount of water and fuel needed to cook it, the type of fire required and the length of time it will keep after cooking. Nigerian women, who were included in a Crops Improvement Programme by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 1987, provided valuable inputs towards the selection of cassava varieties, pointing out that the new varieties' large size made them difficult to peel and their high water content meant it took much longer to fry them into gari. Project organizers who were sceptical about including women at the outset, reported that:

. . . the women farmers' familiarity with many processing stages gave them production as well as utilisation perspectives that male farmers do not possess and made them excellent judges of innovations. (Lundborg 1987, p 45)

Another stage of the agricultural cycle which is dominated by women is the post-harvest processing and storage of agricultural produce. It has often been observed that post-harvest technology is an area which has been neglected in agricultural research, and that little attention has been given to the relations between seed characteristics and domestic post-harvest processing techniques. Jiggins (1986) notes that:

Incompatibility between cropping and post-harvest technical requirements is often cited by female non-adopters as the reason why they have rejected a particular cropping technology. (p 7)

Research on women's indigenous methods of postharvest processing and storage techniques has been limited. A study by Sharland (1989) of Moru women in the Sudan found their seed storage techniques simple but highly effective. Sharland claims that their practices of mixing wood ash with seeds and suspending them from the roof with half a gourd threaded through the string as a rat guard proved useful for application to larger scale grain stores.

Agricultural products may serve multiple purposes to poor farmers. Rice, for example, is not just a grain. It provides husks for fuel, fodder for livestock, bran for feeding fish stocks and straw for thatching and making items such as mats and fans. Cowpeas do not only produce edible seeds, but leaves provide a nutritional source of greens, stems may serve as forage, and green seeds can be used as relish. Certain sweet cassava varieties produce fresh green leaves which are nutritious snacks for children and can be used to make a popular low-alcohol brew. Although the economic significance of these 'side products' may be virtually invisible at the macro level, they can be crucial to the livelihood of the rural poor.

While local varieties are selected to meet these multiple uses, new pest-resistant or high-yielding varieties are usually developed without taking these additional criteria into account. Failure on the part of agricultural researchers to consider these factors may jeopardize the adoption of new varieties by local farmers.

The multiple use of agricultural products and byproducts is, again, especially significant for rural women. Because of their generally lower level of resources and limited employment opportunities, rural women figure disproportionately among those who depend on such livelihoods. The provision of fuel, fodder and nutritional supplements for children also tend to fall within women's range of responsibilities.

By consulting women and resource-poor farmers about these complementary uses of agricultural biomass, researchers could conceivably increase the value and adoption of new varieties.

The Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)/ ODA national crop protection survey in 1992 carried out in Kenya provides some interesting findings in terms of gender differences in knowledge and practices related to pest management. Table 2 shows differences in men and women's perceptions of major crop pests. Beetles, podborer, scales, mildew, leaf spot and domestic animals were identified by men only; armyworms, bruchids, webworm, sweet potato weevil, blight and monkeys were mentioned only by women and never by men.

While it is difficult to provide a clear explanation for these findings, some of the details of which seem anomalous, certain hypotheses seem possible. For example, men would appear to have a greater perception of crop disease than do women. Because disease is difficult to observe (compared to weed, insect and vertebrate pests) they are more easily identified and classified by modern agricultural science than by traditional knowledge systems. Men's higher levels of formal education and greater exposure to agricultural extension may, therefore, explain their greater perception of crop disease. Other differences between men's and women's perceptions would seem to be task-related. Women identified weeds and storage weevils more often than men, while only men mention domestic animals, over which they usually hold responsibility. Finally, some differences appear to be linked to specific crops (sweet potato weevil and maize streak virus mentioned more often by women and coffee bean virus by men).

Although an analysis of gender differences in the knowledge and understanding of various pests was not included in the KARI/ODA survey, these differences in perception could imply relative specialization in men's and women's knowledge of different pests.

Table 3 shows a breakdown of the solutions to pest problems implemented by male and female farmers. As expected, it shows men's greater use of external inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, and women's greater reliance on traditional practices such as hand weeding, the manipulation of planting dates, and the application of ash, soil, dung and manure. Women's more extensive use of traditional practices suggests that their knowledge about such practices is more extensive than that of men.

Gender and environmental understanding

An important aspect of IPM is to develop technologies and practices which are environmentally sustainable and cause minimal disruption to the local ecosystem. The development of such strategies requires an intimate and holistic understanding of the local environment and a long-term perspective of its exploitation. Due to the nature of their roles and responsibilities, it has been argued that rural women, as a group, are likely to develop such an understanding and perspective.

Daily tasks of fetching water, gathering fuelwood, collecting forest products and manually weeding agricultural crops put rural women in close and frequent contact with the natural environment. As a result, women develop both an intimate knowledge of their local environment and a strong sense of dependence upon the natural resources on which they rely. Because of the wide variety of tasks for which they are responsible, women also tend to develop an holistic perspective of their environment.


Table 2 Gender perceptions of crop pests


Table 3 Solutions to pest problems by gender

It is often women who suffer from environmental degradation in the most immediate and direct way. For example, in situations of deforestation women are directly affected by an increase in the time and energy required in the collection of fuelwood. Similarly, problems of drought and / or water contamination add to the burden of water collection.

It has been argued that due to the nature of their activities and gender differences in knowledge and perception, women tend to attach more importance to the long-term sustainability of the environment compared to men's concern with immediate gain in terms of employment and capital. Rathberger quoted in Trutmann et al. (1991) writes that:

Women tend to take a long-term view, measuring the cost of environmental destruction and loss of agricultural lands against the short-term benefits of male employment. (p 7)

Gender-specific knowledge systems and communication networks

The successful implementation of IPM strategies requires an appreciation of farmers' perceptions of the cause of crop damage. The understanding which farmers have about the cause of plant disease, and the importance they attribute (or do not attribute) to particular weeds and insects, will influence the way in which they respond to the damage and the techniques they adopt in order to cure it. Fairhead (1991) points out that farmers may provide a variety of explanations for crop losses ranging from political events to the "will of God". Plant 'sickness' may also be diagnosed according to understandings of human sickness, with the same vocabulary being applied to both types of ailments (Trutmann et al., 1991). Fairhead also suggests that these perceptions and explanations may vary among social and gender groups. Since women play a distinct and often prominent role in matters of human health, it is quite possible that their knowledge and understanding extends into areas of crop health as well. Additional research is necessary in order to confirm these hypotheses.

To date, the ways in which different indigenous groups organize their knowledge has received relatively little attention. Warren et al. (1989) provide evidence to suggest that systems of knowledge classification and typologies are not gender neutral. For example, women may classify different types of pests according to characteristics which are relevant to their specific experiences and areas of expertise. These systems of classification will subsequently be passed on through generations of women whose communication networks are often separate from those of men. Reports by researchers and extension workers of women and men providing different names for the same pest would seem to support this hypothesis (personal communications at NRI, 1991).

Norem et al. (1989) argue that Western knowledge systems and 'scientific' typologies tend to be developed from a male tradition and do not lend themselves to the incorporation of women's systems of knowledge organization. Shiva (1988) argues that rural women's intimate knowledge of the natural world has been systematically marginalized by modern science:

Modern reductionist science, like development, turns out to be a patriarchal project, which has excluded women as experts, and has simultaneously excluded ecology and holistic ways of knowing which understand and respect nature's processes and interconnectedness as science. (pp 14-15)

If modern and indigenous knowledge systems are to be cross-linked in devising IPM strategies, gender aspects of classification and organization must be taken into account. Norem et al. (1989) warn that:

. . . as researchers seek to document and identify how indigenous knowledge can be used and augmented in development, care must be taken not to exclude women's systems and to differentiate when appropriate so that the unique aspects of the knowledge systems of both genders are preserved. (p 96)

Conclusions

This section on 'The relevance of IPM to African agriculture' has found that:

1. Women farmers are probably responsible for a majority of pest management activities in African agriculture.

2. Due to various gender-related socio-economic factors, the technological needs and priorities of women in IPM differ from those of men.

3. In most cases, the specific needs of women farmers are not addressed in the research and development of agricultural technologies.

4. Women's access to new technologies is seriously undermined due to the failure of extension services to establish contact with female farmers.

5. Due to gender-specific agricultural roles and distinct communication networks, the indigenous technical knowledge of women differs from that of men and may represent a valuable source of information for the development of new IPM technologies.