Commercialization and Women Farmers:
Old Paradigms and New Themes
Women farmers are often described as subsistence food producers, and in relation to the production of surplus or to commercial ventures, as helpmates or assistants at best. Yet women's involvement in commercial production has consequences for their own increased social power and decisionmaking within the household, for household food supply, and for national food security. This volume provides a paradigmatic expansion and case studies on women's participation in commercial agricultural production and the consequences to them, their families/households, and their societies. The ways in which women use strategies to succeed in spite of the institutional processes and gender ideologies that have been developed to exclude them are studied in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The “myth of the masculine market” versus the effects of the actual, modernized market are explored.
In the past several decades, case studies have analyzed agricultural intensification in which households, groups, and production areas have changed on their own or because of development programs, from foodbased subsistence and household production systems to food and export production for local, national, and international markets. In these transitions, the effects on women usually have been negative; women have been (and are still) left out, marginalized, or overburdened; their access, control, and benefits from production and distribution have not been commensurate with their labor (Feldstein and Poats 1989). Ester Boserup (1970) wrote that colonial governments and development efforts focused on men as the recipients of new technologies and inputs. Women, she noted, were thought to do the drudgery of subsistence food production, whereas men were targeted for the intensified commercial cash crops. Much of the literature on