Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Challenges and Coping Strategies of Women Food Crops Entrepreneurs in Fako Division, Cameroon

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Challenges and Coping Strategies of Women Food Crops Entrepreneurs in Fako Division, Cameroon

Article excerpt

Abstract

Ensuring food security today in Cameroon is a key but not an easy task for government. This is because the country is experiencing high rural exodus and urban growth rates. The result is a continual reduction of the agricultural labour force in the face of an increasing demand for food. Women food crop entrepreneurs can play an important role in filling the gap created by this phenomenon. The activities of these female entrepreneurs have given rise to a booming food crop enterprise within the informal sector of the Fako Division, Cameroon. The informal sector is accommodating lots of women whose gender profile disqualified them from formal sector activities. Unfortunately, these female entrepreneurs cannot operate effectively because of problems inherent to the informal sector, especially following the implementation of the structural adjustment program in Cameroon, and the absence of an enabling socio-economic environment, particularly in Fako. This study however, observes that because female food entrepreneurs have very few employment alternatives, they are forced to implement coping strategies, which although vital in maintaining them in the sector, do not usually measure up to the challenges. But since the activities of these women have impacts beyond micro levels, government and other agents of development cannot afford to abandon these women

Key Words: female food crop entrepreneurs, food security, informal sector, coping strategies, Cameroon

Introduction

It is estimated that by 2020, more than 90% of the projected 6.8 billion people living in developing countries will reside towns and cities. This means that the task of providing food for this growing population is going to be more demanding and exacting. Not only will the demand for food from the cities increase, but in addition, most of the rural food crop-producing population will have been displaced. The rapid rate of urbanisation in developing countries is increasingly shifting the issues of poverty, food security, and malnutrition from the rural to urban areas (Garret 2001). One may argue that improvements in agricultural technology and production techniques today are capable of compensating for this displaced labour. However, this is only partly true, because technology is not gender neutral. A critical assessment of the working conditions of farmers in most developing countries provides a lamentable situation.

Historically, women in developing societies have been principally concerned with food crop production. As far back as 1986, Berg et al., estimated that women accounted for about 70% to 80% of food production in Sub-Saharan Africa. McGuire and Popkin (1990) affirm that woman's triple roles as food producers, income earners, and home managers make them indispensable in the drive toward food security. Regrettably, most of these women lack an enabling environment in which to operate. They very frequently run into conflicts of all sorts in their attempt to carry out their triple roles. These women experience conflicts of time, energy, resources, (McGuire and Popkin, 1990) and even cultural and institutional barriers. They are further hindered by the poor state of infrastructures in their various localities and by the lack of access to helpful technology. Under these conditions, they are forced to devise means to sustain production and survival which have far reaching implications on their health, output and by extension, national food security.

Agriculture remains the bedrock of the Cameroonian economy. It accounted for 27% of the GDP in 1991 and employed 59.3% of the labour force in 1992 according to Food and Agriculture Organization. Women bring most of the input to this sector. Past and current literatures about Cameroon have consistently point out the all-important role of women in food crop production. Endeley (1985) holds that women constituted 88.6% of the active labour force in the food crop sector, producing 90% of total production. …

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