Monday, 20 June 2011

Book - Women's role in economic development - Chapter 1

Boserup, E. (1970). Womenʼs Role in Economic Development (1989 ed., p. 283). Earthscan Publications Limited.

This book was recommended by Christine Okali at our meeting with her on 13th June. The first section of four chapters looks at rural village life, and is therefore most relevant for our game in the immediate future. The book covers the role of women across Africa, Asia, India and occasionally South America, so I have tried to pick out the relevant bits for us!

Chapter 1: Male and Female Farming Systems
Although preparation of food is nearly universally a female task, there are a few different versions of food production systems:

  • Food production is exclusively done by women. (Female farming)
  • Food production is predominantly done by women, with some help from men. (Female farming)
  • Food production is predominantly done by men, with some help from women. (Male farming)

Available info from 1970 suggests that in sub-Saharan Africa the middle option is most common. The pattern of farming is predominantly a shifting cultivation (John does keep saying this is in the process of changing due to businesses buying large chunks of land, but I think this is probably the model we'll start with). So every year some fields get cleared and used from scratch, and some where the fertility is dropping will be abandoned and left.

Clearing the fields, cutting down trees etc is men's work. Traditionally, all of the weeding, harvesting etc is women's work. Particularly light tasks - such as guarding domestic animals or scaring wild birds/animals away from the crops - is left to children and old people of either gender.

The system of farming (mostly male, mostly female) can shift over time. This mostly seems to be caused by changes in population density and in farming techniques. If the population increases more land needs to be taken into cultivation, so there are fewer trees to fell each year and less cover for hunting (which are men's work). However, the fields are more intensively cultivated (less fallow time) so the men may be needed to help prepare them more thoroughly than in low-population shifting cultivation. The flip side of increasing population is that men leave the villages looking for work, which actually results in the percentage of agricultural work done by the women increasing.

Older men can stop working because they can leave it to their younger wives and children, while older women tend to be widows who have to fend for themselves so keep working. More boys go to school than girls, so girls spend more time in the fields. More men leave the village looking for work.

Very few cultivator families in Africa use hired labour apparently.

A note for later in our game - introducing ploughing massively reduces weeding and women's work until harvest, but ploughing is men's work and requires much more effort to clear the field of obstacles before ploughing can occur. Irrigation massively increases weeding, plus men have to dig irrigation ditches, lift water from wells/canals, and repair the terraces and bunds.

Shifting cultivation generally means no draught animals, little milk, and meat is supplied by either hunting or animals kept on natural pasture away from the crops.

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