Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Women Rice Producers in Ndop, Cameroon and the Implications for Gender Roles

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Women Rice Producers in Ndop, Cameroon and the Implications for Gender Roles

Article excerpt

Abstract

In most communities in Cameroon, traditional norms mandate that rural women fulfill the reproductive roles of child bearing, home management and food provision for the family. Thus, these women are unable to exercise any influential economic voice-they can hardly earn income. Cash agriculture like rice production provides a possible outlet for the empowerment of these women in rice producing areas. However, this agricultural work would solve one problem for the women and create another. Any attempt to encourage these women to work outside their homes may increase their workload. This paper examines the situation of female rice farmers in Ndop, Cameroon and argues that although rice production may have been beneficial to women and the society as a whole, it has implications for gender roles that go beyond the purview of women's empowerment.

Keywords: rice production, gender division of labour, gender roles, Ndop, Cameroon

Introduction

Many authors (Moser, (1993), Mosse, (1993) and Taylor, (1999), have recognized women's triple roles in development as meeting their strategic and practical gender needs. Moser (1993, 48-49), for example, classifies women's triple roles into reproductive, productive and community management. Although Taylor (1999, 18) acknowledges this categorization of women's triple role by Moser, she argues that women perform multiple roles, which are too simplistically enveloped into Moser's framework of triple roles. Many societies, particularly in developing countries, usually emphasize only women's domestic and community roles. The economic and political spheres are considered in these communities as exclusive domains reserved for men. Even where women's economic role is obvious such as in the case of water and fuel wood collections, vegetable gardening, dairy and poultry keeping, these economic contributions are minimized and dismissed as emanating from their biology (Mosse, 1993, 30). Thus, women's productive work is often less visible and valued than men's (Williams et al. 1994).

Nonetheless, with increasing economic intensification and diversification as a result of the emergence of new challenges, there is a gradual movement away from the status quo. The forces of colonization, and globalization accelerated the circulation of new ideas and cultures around the globe. As a result women are being gradually brought into the center of development. In the economic domain for example, rural women are involved in the cultivation of crops like rice, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, wheat, and others for cash, which are considered male crops. Their expanded economic activities significantly alter their traditional gender roles with far reaching effects on their empowerment and national development.

Rice is one of the most remarkable of cultivated crops in the world. It is a staple diet of over half of the world's population, most of whom live in developing countries such as countless millions in Asia who subsist almost entirely on rice. Although irrigated rice is grown in the tropics, Jesse et al (1995) noted that 90% of the world's supply comes from the monsoonal lands of Southern and Eastern Asia.

The cost not withstanding, the taste and nutritive value of rice as food explains the shift in consumer preference from other traditional food crops to rice in West Africa (Nyantang 1983). As a consequence, the consumption of rice has increased much faster than that of other food crops in the sub region. In addition to its availability through imports and food aid programs, the demand for rice increases as income rises for the poor. According to WARDA (2003), the most important factors contributing to the shift in consumer preferences from traditional staples to rice are rapid urbanization and associated changes in family occupational structures. Rice is easy to prepare, takes relatively less cooking time, and it is also easy to handle and serve. …

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