The Differential Effects of Capitalism and
Patriarchy on Women Farmers' Access
to Markets in Cameroon
Deborah L. Roos and Christina H. Gladwin
In light of recent attempts by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and bilateral donors to institute reforms aimed at promoting market liberalization in sub-Saharan Africa, women in development (WID) scholars have presented compelling evidence that women farmers, as the primary food producers in Africa, have been adversely affected (Gladwin 1991a). The structural adjustment policies (SAPs) called for by these donors—currency devaluation, increases in food prices and interest rates, decreases in wages and hiring rates, trade liberalization, removal of input subsidies, and decreases in budget deficits—were designed to stimulate long-term development in economically depressed developing countries. The assumption that SAPs were gender-neutral, when in fact they were gender-blind, led to their failure to improve agricultural production in many cases, despite incentives to agricultural producers (Gladwin 1991a). For example, fertilizer subsidy removal programs called for under SAPs had a deleterious effect on many women farmers in Malawi and Cameroon because rising food prices and lack of access to credit in some regions left women unable to purchase fertilizer, resulting in low crop yields and food deficits (Gladwin 1992). Most studies have focused on the adverse effects of SAPs. The question in the debate over market liberalization is whether it actually benefits women farmers: do women with access to productive markets for cash crops also gain access to productive resources like land and capital via input markets?
Women's access to the market depends on the particular interaction of capitalism and patriarchy in society. Patriarchy has been defined as “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women” (Walby 1990:20). In areas where women are denied ac