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close this bookGender and the Expansion of non-traditional Agricultural Exports in Uganda (UNRISD, 2000, 66 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSummary
View the documentAbbreviations and Acronyms
View the document1. Introduction1
View the document2. Gender and Macroeconomic Policy in Africa
Open this folder and view contents3. The National Context
Open this folder and view contents4. The Rural Sector
Open this folder and view contents5. Macroeconomic Policy
Open this folder and view contents6. Gender and NTAE Promotion: Findings from the Field Studies
View the document7. Conclusions
View the documentBibliography

2. Gender and Macroeconomic Policy in Africa

A focus on the macro policy level in work on gender and development uncovers the systemic nature of gender disadvantage and of gendered perceptions, as the work of Diane Elson, among others, has convincingly shown (Elson, 1992; 1995). The gender critique of macroeconomic policy making points first to the “invisibilization” of domestic work, largely done by women, upon which the rest of the economy depends. The “strategic silence” (Bakker, 1994) of economic policy analysis with regard to the unpaid sector of the economy implies that this sector is unimportant, and exists in parallel to and independent of the monetized sector. Policy makers thus tend to assume that women’s labour time is infinitely elastic. However, the two parts of the economy are in fact highly interdependent. For example, cuts in public expenditure leading to reduced government health services can have implications for women’s workload in caring for ill family members; women’s subsistence agricultural production (in “kitchen gardens”) reduces the reservation wage of household males; cuts in fuel subsidies are often offset by increased women’s time spent cooking and in transportation. In fact, women’s unpaid work effectively subsidizes the monetized sector in many ways.

A second key feature of the gender critique is that macroeconomic policy making treats markets and institutions as if they were not gendered. Units of analysis are firms and households, which are characterized as if they have no intra-unit relations, and the only significant differences between agents in markets are tastes, income and (sometimes) information. This means that conventional macroeconomic analyses have no way of dealing with situations in which women are systematically excluded from or disadvantaged in credit, labour or output markets, or of understanding the implications of these situations for women’s mobility between activities during adjustment, and for their incentives in work effort. The gender blindness of macroeconomics means that primary economic agents are male by default. Thus, in the African context, “farmer” usually means a man. This problem operates not only in analysis but also in policy implementation, with extension services and credit targeted at men.

The centrality of smallholder, household-based farming to the African economies means that much of the debate and research on gender, economics and economic policy has focused on intra-household gender relations and agriculture. Given the dominance of agriculture in Uganda’s economy - accounting for about half of GNP and over 90 per cent of export value - as well as the explicit reliance on agricultural intensification as the primary means of “growing out of poverty” (World Bank 1993; 1996), the interrelations between gender and agricultural intensification were identified as the focus of the UNRISD/UNDP project.

There are two issues or perspectives to be examined in relation to macroeconomic policy. One is concerned with the implication of gender relations for the efficiency of macroeconomic policy. Within Africa, the central plank of policy has been the restructuring of the agricultural economy toward expanded production of tradable (effectively export) crops through relative price changes and liberalization of markets. Here, gender analyses have focused on factors that prevent or constrain women from being able to take part in the opportunities offered by adjustment, or that mean that they have little or no incentive to do so. These factors include a gender-specific lack of access to markets and resources such as land and credit, a lack of information, and not being paid the marginal return to labour. These problems are seen as arising out of women’s unequal burden of domestic labour, and asymmetric power relations within the household. Thus women are generally excluded from a process of positive feedback between price incentives, increased production, increased revenue and investment in yield-enhancing measures. They cannot respond independently to policy measures because they lack independent access to resources, and, while their labour is central to the production of exports crops for their husbands or households, they have little incentive to increase this labour because it is unpaid. In addition, because women are also responsible for household labour and food production, there may also be little room for an increase in the amount of labour time which they can put into export crop production without a decrease in the amount of time spent on domestic work or food production.

Much of the work concerned with gender and efficiency problems in adjustment comes from within a neoclassical tradition (e.g. Collier, 1988; 1994; Haddad et al., 1995) and takes the underlying institutional basis of gender inequalities as given. The emphasis has been on tailoring adjustment measures to make them more efficient within the framework of existing gender relations. As Haddad et al. (1995: 881) put it:

If... adjustment measures ignore the host of non-price mechanisms that hinder the response of women relative to men, adjustment will be impaired. Likewise, if the costs to adjustment measures are expected to be borne disproportionately by women when they are less able than men to bear them, adjustment will ultimately fail.

The other main issue to be examined deals with the implications of macroeconomic policy for gender equity. The concern is that, because of existing gender inequalities in markets and institutions, policies aimed at adjustment in the economy may actually make things relatively worse for women. The incentives for expanded production of export crops (or indeed domestic food crops with liberalized food markets) may mean that more labour is expected of women in household farming. But the fact that it is seen as family farming, with the product controlled by a male head of household, may also mean that the extra work is done for no, or minimal, extra return. Expanded production of male-controlled crops may thus impinge on women’s time, on other crops they grow under their own control, and on household food security. Depending on the design and implementation of adjustment, crops that were formerly grown for own consumption can become commercialized (in Uganda this has happened with maize), and come under men’s control. Overall, these changes may lead to a reduction of women’s bargaining power within the household with adverse effects on their welfare (and that of their children). However, some changes under adjustment programmes may also be of relative benefit to women. For example, there is some evidence that the liberalization of food markets has increased women’s incomes in Tanzania (Booth, 1990), and that in some cases the balance of power in the household has shifted toward women (Pottier, 1995). In any situation in which intra-household relations are renegotiated, of course, the actual outcome will vary with individual women within individual households. As women’s and men’s productive spheres become more integrated, some women will have access to broader personal and productive opportunities than they had formerly, while others will lose their former autonomy with little compensation (Sorensen, 1996). Much will depend on the personal characteristics and resources of the individuals involved.

These concerns raise three questions. The first is whether, and how far, gender relations may hinder the further growth of agricultural export production, especially through discouraging productivity growth. The second question is what the process of growth is doing to women’s independent farming, to women’s work burdens, to food security and to social reproduction. The third question is what the government can do, in particular, how it can develop the intended policy instruments to address these issues. This research was designed to shed further light on these questions.