Entrepreneurs and Family
Well-Being: Women's Agricultural
and Trading Strategies in Cameroon
In this chapter I concentrate on choice of economic strategy and control of money as keys to understanding the relationship among women's commercial and income-generating activities, household food resources, and child growth in a Cameroonian near urban location. Women primarily engaged in commercial production of food and firewood are compared with entrepreneurs who primarily deal in foodstuffs and prepared food, with regard to the two groups' household food stocks and the growth characteristics of their children. A group of women whose husbands provide their primary income is compared to both. The research shows that the children of women commercial entrepreneurs are significantly taller and heavier for their age than the children of primary producers who also sell food crops and that there is a greater variety of food in their mothers' kitchens. These results have implications for development policy and programs.
For the women of a village on the outskirts of Bamenda, capital of Cameroon's North West Province, the city means economic opportunity; a ready market for the firewood, crops, and foodstuffs they produce; and a source of food and commodities for home use and trade. Most village women are subsistence farmers responsible for their family food supply. They also earn their own money through sales of firewood, food crops, and foodstuffs. There is no question about subsistence food production, which is constructed as a woman's responsibility, as is the operation of the farms that produce it. But women have financial responsibilities as well and are expected to develop independent income sources. Production of food and firewood for the cash market is the major income source for many women, but others primarily engage in business and trading. Although research shows that women's income is often linked to family wel