Structural Adjustment and African Women Farmers

By Christina H. Gladwin; Center for African Studies University of Florida | Go to book overview

16 Women Farmers, Structural Adjustment, and FAO's Plan of Action for Integration of Women in Development

Anita Spring and Vicki Wilde

Many of the same problems, barriers, and needs of rural women that have been documented over the past twenty years are receiving new attention with the focus on structural adjustment and the larger macroeconomic influences. These include women's lack of land rights, inadequate access to credit, productive inputs and extension training, as well as the heavy burdens placed on them to meet the productive and reproductive needs of their households.

What is new is the recognition of a slowdown or even reversal in women's economic and social progress that was made during the 1950s to the 1970s, in which the economies of many developing countries grew at an annual rate of almost 2 percent per capita. Social progress was even greater than economic progress--life expectancy increased, infant mortality rates fell, and school enrollment rates increased at every level. Women participated in this progress, despite inequality in employment, income, education, and basic services. However, economic growth began to slow down in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A number of developing countries experienced a rapid accumulation of debts and slid into recession. With the economic crisis that followed, women's incremental steps for-

Anita Spring is chief of the Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development Service of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), where she oversees programmatic efforts on women. She formerly directed the Women in Agricultural Development Program at the University of Florida and has a Ph.D. from Cornell University. She is the coeditor of Women Creating Wealth: Transforming Economic Development.

Vicki Wilde is a consultant for the Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development Service at FAO, where she coordinates the WID training program for FAO staff She is completing a Ph.D. at City University of New York.

Valuable comments on this chapter were provided by the heads of various technical units of FAO, including E. Morris-Hughes, H. Hjort, T. Aldington, and C. Morojele. The views expressed by the authors are theirs alone and do not reflect those of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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