Women, Structural Adjustment, and Transformation: Some Lessons and Questions From the African Experience
The issues of structural adjustment, transformation, and the impact on women farmers are intricately related to each other. Some specific aspects of their interactions are beginning to be explored rigorously ( Collier 1989). However, given the diversity of the problems and the many competing demands on public resources, the numerous macroeconomic, intersectoral, and microeconomic interlinkages which affect women must be explored on a country-specific basis, especially their implications for priority interventions.
Women contribute an estimated three-quarters of the labor required to produce the food consumed in Africa, mostly under conditions of a primitive, hand-hoe technology and low-labor productivity. Data are limited, but suggest that 80 to 90 percent of the poor live in rural areas and that women-headed households comprise well over one-half the rural poor households ( FAO 1985). Their children constitute by far the largest majority of the poor. The number of such poor households is growing rapidly in Africa, as evidenced by the accelerated growth in population and simultaneous decline in per capita incomes for nearly a decade. The number living in poverty is projected to double again by 2000 to 265 million, giving Africa the claim to one of the highest concentrations of the poor, along with South Asia ( World Bank forthcoming). Although not yet
Uma Lele, Indian, is Manager of the Agriculture Policy Office of the Technical Department in the World Bank's Africa Region. She has a Ph.D. from Cornell University and has held positions in both research and operational complex of the Bank including Senior Economist and Deputy Division Chief of Agriculture in the Agriculture Division in East Africa, Senior Economist in Indonesia Country Programs, and Chief of the Development Strategy Division (then Special Studies Division) of the Economic Research Staff. She is grateful to Beth Porter for research assistance and to Robert Christiansen and Barbara Herz for their comments on the draft. The views expressed in this paper are her own and are not necessarily those of the World Bank or its affiliated organizations.