Women Farmers and Commercial Ventures: Increasing Food Security in Developing Countries

By Anita Spring | Go to book overview

9
The Fields Are Full of Gold:
Women's Marketing of Wild Foods
from Rice Fields in Southeast Asia
and the Impacts of Pesticides
and Integrated Pest Management
Lisa Leimar Price

Conventional agricultural research in Southeast Asia has focused on major crops and paid scant attention to the range of useful products from fields and forests. These products can be of significant value, providing a regular intake of protein and vitamins throughout the year and helping safeguard human health during times of seasonal food stress when supplies of staples are at their lowest. Wild foods from paddy fields are commensals to rice and are dependent upon the rice growing environment. Their diversity depends upon numerous variables, including the age and cultivation status of the field. The types of cultivation technologies used in rice production coupled with the valuation and human management of the different species of wild flora and fauna (i.e., selective harvesting, protection) all contribute to the distinct plant, animal, and insect communities found in the fields. As management practices change, so do the composition of the plant communities. Thus, the composition of food items in any given field and at any given point in time varies, and the overall system is dynamic.

Equally ignored is the fact that these foods are widely marketed and managed by women. There are a number of reasons that research marginalizes these commensals to agriculture. The Green Revolution approach narrowly focused research on increasing the yield of staples. To avert famine and ensure national stability from food shortage unrest, priorities were set by the urgency of increasing the staple supply across Asia. This focus was coupled with the need to make research and technology dissemination as cost-efficient as possible. Thus, breeding rice varieties that could be used across Asia required that similar production environments be available to support the technologies (hence, homogeneous environ-

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