5

Gendered fields

Introduction

This chapter examines how differential access to resources by gender influences food production and distribution and, consequently, patterns of hunger and malnutrition.

Governments and international agencies also continue to blithely ignore the mounting evidence that women, as the main providers of basic needs, are crucial to understanding and resolving the crisis of rural reproduction in the Third World.

(Sen and Grown, 1987, 58)

Numerous categories may be employed to analyse malnutrition and food insecurity, from the very general, ‘the poor’, to the more refined ‘landless’ or ‘refugees’. What is the rationale for devoting a chapter to the category ‘gender’? There are three justifications: the relative invisibility and neglect of women as bread-winners in the literature about food security and hunger; their prominence in statistics on malnourishment; and their crucial role in influencing the nutritional status of children. It may be justified therefore with reference to production and consumption factors.

Until Boserup’s classic study (1970), the economic role of women in agriculture was ignored; in more recent analyses the significance of their labour in this sector is still frequently minimised. Among the most important specific issues beginning to receive attention are the vital role of female farmers in the South; the gender division of labour in agricultural production, especially the crucial role of female labour in subsistence and cash crop production; and differential access to agricultural resources and extension services.

-88-

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