Structural Adjustment and African Women Farmers

By Christina H. Gladwin; Center for African Studies University of Florida | Go to book overview

Introduction

Christina H. Gladwin

In the 1980s, development experts and donor agencies agreed on the importance of macroeconomic policies to the development of sub- Saharan Africa. Following the 1981 Berg report, policy reforms aimed at "getting prices right" were made preconditions for new structural adjustment loans and grants in many sub-Saharan African countries ( world Bank 1981). Recently, however, debates about the pros and cons of structural adjustment programs (SAPS) have ensued. This volume presents evidence from noted African and Africanist social scientists (anthropologists, economists, political scientists, and sociologists) who take positions on both sides of this debate.

On one side of the debate are those who argue for structural adjustments as a way to invigorate stagnating agricultural and industrial sectors ( Bates, 1981; Timmer, Falcon, and Pearson 1983; Due, 1986). They argue that distorted "macro prices" (overvalued exchange rates, artificially low food prices, high wage rates, low interest rates, subsidized input prices) may improve income distribution and the adequacy of food intake in the short run, especially by the poor, whose food consumption can least stand to be reduced. But distorted prices also send critical signals that may negatively affect the efficient allocation of resources and cause stagnation of the food supply system and economy in the long run.

Because most governments wish to affect income distribution in their societies, they are greatly tempted to use government policy in

Christina H. Gladwin is Associate Professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department, Affiliate of the Anthropology Department, and member of the Center for African Studies. She has a Ph.D. from Food Research Institute, Stanford University, and has done extensive fieldwork in Ghana, Mexico, and Guatemala, as well as short periods of fieldwork in Malawi and Cameroon. She is the author of Ethnographic Decision Tree Modeling and Food and Farm: Current Debates and Policies. She is grateful to Gwen McCann and other members of the Word Processing Unit, Food and Resource Economics, for help in editing this manuscript.

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