5.2 Women's involvement in food production and the flow of food through the food chain
5.3 Women's control over resources, created in food chain activities; implications for nutrition
5.4 Women's workload and allocation of time to food chain activities; implications for child nutrition
5.5 Factors introducing changes in women's work in the food chain; effects on the household food and nutrition situation
5.6 Attempts to explain the different influences of women's food chain activities on household nutrition
To provide food to a household women combine time and energy inputs with other resources essential for performing the different activities in the food chain. It is important for the nutritional outcome that there is a certain balance between these inputs. Imbalances will upset the flow of food through the food chain and may lead to poor nutrition.
In all societies women are almost exclusively responsible for the later steps in the food chain, particularly food processing, preparation and distribution. The responsibility for these steps are rarely taken over by the men. Thus, anything which interferes with women's allocation of time and energy for these tasks carries the potential of disrupting the food flow.
Developmental changes may alter the conditions for the amount of time and energy that women put into the different steps in the food chain. They may bring about imbalance in these efforts, thus affecting the food flow negatively. This may happen if women get additional responsibilities in food production, for example, due to out-migration of men. On the other hand, introduction of certain types of technology or a different cropping pattern may reduce the time and energy inputs required in some parts of the food chain, thereby allowing for additional inputs in other parts. Thus, factors initiating change may have both negative and positive effects on women's activities related to family nutrition. This chapter will deal with literature describing how these factors affect women's activities in the food chain and, in turn, the food flow. Such an analysis is important to throw light on constraints and potentials to improve women's role as food providers to the family.
The current literature on how women's participation in food chain activities affects household nutrition has been approached from three points of view:
i) The relationship between women's participation in food production and household food availability.
Here, the degree of women's participation in these activities is seen as important for the amount and type of food entering the food chain.
ii) The relationship between women's control of food and cash and household food consumption and nutrition.
Women are thought to give higher priority to the nutritional needs of their families than men. Therefore, it has been postulated that when women control the food and cash, it is likely that more of these resources are used for food consumption in the household and particularly for the small children. This point is also discussed in relation to women's participation in productive activities, the argument being that the more women participate the better they control food and cash.
iii) The relationship between women's workload and allocation of time in the food chain and child nutrition. Heavy workload and time constraints are seen as possible threats to adequate child nutrition.
In the rural areas of developing countries women's daily activities are to a large extent centred around the food chain. The literature emphasizes the large contribution that women make to the total household food supply in many countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and also in some places in Asia, such as Thailand. In these areas women are the main responsibles for feeding the family (Okeyo, 1985; ECA, 1984a; FAO, 1983a; Safilios-Rotschild, 1980).
Even in countries where men are considered the main income earners, women's contribution to the food supply is often quite considerable. One of the most important strategies for securing food in poor households is diversification of sources of income, whether in cash or in kind (Safilios-Rotschild, 1980; Holmboe-Ottesen and Wandel, 1985). In fact, the relationship between the total units of production and consumption in a household may be considered a determinant of the household's viability. Women's productive role in the household is important in this respect. Women's contribution to the market income may not be large, but becomes substantial when home production is taken into consideration (Safilios-Rotschild, 1980).
Women's contribution is not only important for the total food supply to the household, but also for dietary variation. In most rural households women are responsible for growing different kinds of vegetables, roots and fruits, (Garibaldi Accati, 1983) for raising small animals, such as chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and pigs (FAO, 1983c; Safilios-Rotschild, 1983) and for milking and processing of dairy products (Chavangi and Hanssen, 1983; Galvin, 1985; Nestel, 1985).
Furthermore, women in rural households frequently provide an addition to the diet in the form of wild foods, such as green leaves, which they incorporate into relishes or soups, in close combination with the staple foods (Skjønsberg, 1981; Wandel et al., 1984).
Dietary diversity is a way to secure dietary sufficiency (Dewalt and Pelto, 1977; Fleuret and Fleuret, 1980). A diversified diet is more likely to provide a wide array of nutrients, and with many sources of food there is less risk of seasonal food scarcity.
Traditional diets reflect by and large a well-balanced adaptation to nutritional needs (Fleuret and Fleuret, 1980). The knowledge of methods for food production as well as preparation of foods passed on from mother to daughter has been crucial for the nutritional well-being of populations.
Women's work in food processing and preparation, apart from being essential for palatability and digestion of the food, may also contribute to the nutritional content. The widespread practice of steaming staples wrapped in green leaves as well as fermentation practices adds to the value of basic foods (Fleuret and Fleuret, 1980).
Women are engaged in drying and smoking of foods such as fish, vegetables, fruit and grains, which are preparations necessary for food storage. Such activities are important to minimize seasonal fluctuations in food availability.
Processing and preparation of food for sale is a way of earning cash for women. Beer brewing and sale is common among women in Africa. Preparation and sale of food and snacks, sometimes through children, is in some societies one of the few income generating activities available for women. Jackson (1985) reports from a muslim community in Nigeria how secluded women were highly successful in undertaking such an enterprise which in fact improved household food availability as well as their own economic independence.
The point of view that women's participation in food production and income generating activities will have a positive impact on the flow through the food chain is the basis for many development projects designed to improve production or income earning components for women. The question of what types of activities will most effectively contribute to increased food availability is often posed (Carr, 1979; Chaney, 1985).
It has been argued that improving women's productivity in subsistence food cultivation is often a far more rational use of women's time and labour, than many other income generating activities which have been tried. By producing food for ones's own consumption, money can be saved. Such food can also be sold to generate cash if needed. Chaney (1981) found this to be the case in two rural development programmes, where family-sized plots for vegetable cultivation were introduced.
The view that women's control over food and cash has a positive influence on household food availability and nutrition is frequently encountered in the literature. Katona-Apte (1983) argues that women's control over income is dependent on the degree to which they contribute towards earning this income. Furthermore, since women have the main responsibility for feeding their families on a day-to-day basis they are more likely to make self-sacrifices for the sake of the health of their families, especially their children. In contrast, men tend to be more interested in spending on expensive nonfood items.
Tinker (1979) has pointed out that income-generating activities for women, which give women better control in how to spend the income, will have a more immediate impact on providing basic food and health to the poor than similar activities aimed only at men.
Empirical studies showing the relationship between women's control over food and cash and the food and nutritional situation in the household are limited. In the majority of studies women's control has to be inferred from analysis of the spending patterns and by comparing the effects of women's and men's income on children's nutritional status.
Detailed studies of rural women's and men's income and spending patterns have been performed in Zambia (Skjønsberg, 1981); the Ivory Coast and Nepal (Bério, 1984b); Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Mencher, 1985).
The pattern that emerges from these studies is that even though women's cash incomes were generally lower than men's, a higher percentage of their earnings was allocated to household food. When home production was also taken into consideration, women's contribution was quite large in all these societies. Thus, in the Ivory Coast women contributed 54% of the total supply of calories. In Nepal women contributed 50% to total income, mostly in form of home-produced food. In Zambia, women spent 2-3 times as much money on food as men, which is remarkable considering they had about half the amount to spend.
A few studies have directly related children's nutritional status to the income earned by the mother or father. Tripp (1982) found in a field study in Ghana that although both men and women were active in marketing and the marketing activity of either parent makes a contribution to child nutrition, it was the income from women's marketing activities which had the most significant impact on the nutritional status of children.
In rural Kerala, it was found that in landless families increases in maternal income were significantly associated with a better nutritional status of children whereas the aggregate income was a weak indicator (Kumar, 1977, referred to in Safilios-Rotschild, 1980).
The results from these studies indicate that women's participation in food production and income generating activities will enhance household food availability to a greater extent than what could be expected from their contribution to the aggregated household income. This probably reflects a greater control by women over the money they earn themselves and that they often have a different spending pattern than men.
However, women's participation in production does not always result in increased control over the income in cash or kind, or food expenditure.
A study of the Masai in Kenya (Nestel, 1985) was designed to test the hypothesis that the participation of women in matters relating to food would have a bearing on food expenditure patterns and nutritional status. However, it was found that the men made all the decisions on factors which determined not only the amount of food available but also the access to food. Most of the income spent on food was derived from cattle trading which men controlled, even though women participated in milking and tending the cattle. Thus, in this case women had little influence in determining the nutritional status of their families, despite their active role in productive activities.
In many societies women's work is considered as "helping the men", and the men collect the income from this work. Even in societies where women have their own food crops from which they control the income, they may in addition have to work with crops over which they have little or no control (Jones, 1983; Bryson, 1979; Tommy, 1980).
Furthermore, the consequences for food availability and nutrition of the specific spending patterns between men and women may differ by societies. In southern Sri Lanka, Wandel and Holmboe-Ottesen (1984) found that both men and women gave high priority to household food, and in fact, a larger share of men's than of women's income was used for food. Men were considered the main providers of food, whereas women's income, which generally was smaller, was used for other expenses, such as clothing, school expenses, medicine and travelling. This allocation pattern was particularly evident in the more well-to-do households. While in the poor households most of the income, whether it was earned by women or men, was spent on food.
When discussing the influence of women's control over food and income on children's nutritional status a number of additional factors come into play, such as women's decisionmaking power on matters other than control of women's own income, knowledge about food and health, access to health services, women's workload and allocation of time.
Women's decision-making power is often discussed as an important determinant of nutrition. However, empirical studies of this relationship are lacking and would be difficult to carry out. Identification of methods for systematic study of household decision-making processes is a subject that has received limited attention, in part because experts have not agreed on the most relevant variables for study (Safilios-Rotschild, 1980). According to Pivoz and Viteri (1985) women's income-generating capacity is a key variable determining women's decision-making power, also in matters other than control over their own income. Thus, women's participation in income generating activities is believed to increase their status within the household. Another such key variable is education, which in addition to its influence on women's decision-making power, has also been shown to influence their knowledge about food and health although the relationship to nutrition is not completely clear (Pivoz and Viteri, 1985; Safilios-Rotschild, 1980).
The main focus of the studies on the impact of women's work on child nutrition have related women's work in income earning activities with duration of breastfeeding or children's nutritional status. Two recent review articles on the subject have attempted to summarize the main findings (Carloni, 1984; Leslie, 1985). However, only a few of the studies reviewed focus on women's activities in the food chain.
The background for the concern that women's workload in food chain activities can interfere with their work in child care and feeding, stems from studies which have indicated that efforts towards nutritional improvements have failed due to problems related to availability of time for women to devote to child care. Time-budget studies have shown the incredibly long working hours of women in many developing societies. This matter is discussed further in chapter 6.
The immediate causes of malnutrition in children are often attributed to infrequent meals consisting mainly of starchy staples. The nutritional community is now generally in agreement that traditional diets, mainly including starchy staples, with small additions of pulses, vegetables, green leaves and oils, are sufficient to support child growth provided the meals are given frequently and in adequate quantities (Cameron and Hofvander, 1971). The optimal frequency of meals depends on the type of foods and whether or not the child is still breastfed. Three meals a day with snacks in between is often recommended for children of weaning age (Cameron and Hofvander, 1971; Woolfe et al., 1977).
The concern is centred around the question of how child care and feeding, which in all societies is mainly the responsibility of women, is influenced by women's workload in the other aspects of the food chain.
As discussed in the previous chapter the tasks in food production that repeatedly have been found to contribute to excessive labour loads for women are weeding, transplanting, harvesting and transportation of produce. These tasks require variable amounts of work, according to seasons. As discussed in chapter 3 and 5 this seasonal work burden may cause a tremendous strain on the women at certain periods of the year.
Palmer (1981) describes women's work as a seasonal cycle in which child care and agricultural work compete for the mother's time and energy. An indication of how women cope with such seasonal burdens of work and the implications for food preparation and child care are given in time allocation studies.
Detailed studies of women's time allocation and energy cost of different activities in the low and peak agricultural season have been performed by Brun and his group in Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) (Brun et al., 1979; Bleiberg et al., 1980). In both these studies the total "economic work" of women was increased during the rainy season. The increased work was partly offset by less time spent on tasks in other parts in the food chain, such as preparing food and in tending children.
Bleiberg and coworkers found that not only did time and workload in the field increase during the rainy season, but women spent twice as much time washing clothes, since they became more dirty in the field. Time used for picking wild leaves and fruit was also at its peak in this season, since they were more available then. Food preparation was reduced to one hot meal per day. Breakfast was usually made from the scraps of the previous dinner. The time for child care was substantially reduced.
The reduction in the time spent in food preparation may have had negative effects on the nutritional situation in the household, particularly with regard to children. Unfortunately the question of child feeding is not discussed in these studies. Other studies, however, have shown that children's nutritional status is at its lowest when low food availability coincides with periods of peak labour (Schofield, 1979; Galvin, 1985; Nestel, 1985). In addition, the problems of increased infections during these seasons may add to the detrimental effects on children's nutritional status.
Another important area of investigation concerns the relationship between women's seasonal work, pregnancy and child nutrition.
Rajagopalan and coworkers (1981) found that in Tamil Nadu, India, the peak in birth rates came right before start of the heaviest period of agricultural work. He suggests that this may affect infant nutrition adversely, by limiting the time available for breast feeding.
When birth rates peak around harvest time, it implies that many women are pregnant during the period of heavy work of weeding and transplanting as well as the worst period of food shortage. This may affect the birth weight of the children, as discussed more extensively in chapter 6.
Data presented by Bantje (1980) from a study in Tanzania indicate that low birth weights were related to women's seasonal workload. Even when food was plentiful, but agricultural labour was demanding, low birth weight was common. However, these effects can be expected to vary in different circumstances, depending on the severity of the food shortage and the strain of the workload on the women.
Poor nutritional status and excessive workload of women may be related to different types of low birth weight: small-fordate or preterm babies. The small-for-date babies have, by definition, suffered growth retardation before birth and are said to be malnourished (Perera, 1986).
The low birth weight may have implications for children's nutritional status later on in life. Some malnourished infants gain weight rapidly after birth provided a satisfactory nutritional input is maintained. On the other hand, some of the pre-term babies, by virtue of varying degrees of immaturity of their organ systems, appear not to take advantage of generous nutritional inputs to the same degree (Perera, 1986). Thus the mother's nutritional and working conditions may have varying impacts on children's nutritional status.
In a study in Sierra Leone, Tommy (1980) found that the farm tools pregnant women used in cultivation had an impact on the survival rate of infants under one year. The survival rate of infants born to women who operated heavy farm tools while pregnant appeared to be lower than among those operating lighter tools or heavy tools used less frequently. This was a small study and should be interpreted with caution. However, if these results have wider application it has implications.
Among the most frequently cited studies showing a negative effect of mother's working on child nutritional status is that by Popkin and Solon from the Philipines (Popkin and Solon, 1976; Popkin, 1980). The mothers in the sample were engaged in different types of work, including trading and farm work. The data presented indicate that even though mother's participation in these activities was associated with increased food purchases, children's nutritional status (weight/age, height/age and indicator of vitamin A status) seemed to be negatively affected. Vitamin A deficiency seemed to be more common among children in the lower socioeconomic groups whose mothers were working. The negative effect on the vitamin A status of children of working mothers was explained by the observation that a preparation based on green leafy vegetables was less used in child feeding by working mothers, since they did not have time for this lengthy preparation. It was pointed out that the time for breastfeeding was significantly reduced. This could also have been a contributing factor to the negative effects on children's nutritional status.
In this study the important question of the quality of mother's substitutes for child care is discussed. It is suggested that the negative effect of mother's employment found in the lower income groups is related to the difficulties these mothers had in getting good child care-takers when they were away.
Child care in the study area was to a large extent provided by older siblings. However, the higher income households were more likely to be able to afford to have older persons, particularly relatives outside the nuclear family, to care for the small children. This distinction is important in view of the evidence presented by Shak (quoted in Popkin, 1980) that the incidence of severe malnutrition was highest (55%) when mother substitutes where 6-8 years old, while much lower (8.5 and 21%) when mothers or elderly mother substitutes, respectively, cared for the child. However, this study did not control for intervening social factors and should thus only be taken as an indication of the problem.
A number of additional studies indicate that women's excessive work in food production is related to early weaning and early introduction of supplementary foods (Nerlove, 1974; Nardi, 1984; Tobisson, 1980). Women's work in other parts of the food chain may also affect child nutrition. Reports from Bangladesh (Chen et al., 1979; Chowdhury et al., 1981) indicate that mother's seasonal work in processing of grains may reduce the time available for breastfeeding.
Evidence, however, is mixed. The general pattern found by Leslie (1985) who reviewed studies about mothers working in different kinds of occupations, showed no decline in the prevalence of breastfeeding as a result of mothers' working status. She stated that when mothers working had an effect on infant feeding it was a shift from exclusive breastfeeding to mixed (supplementary food and breast milk) feeding. Furthermore, reference was made to two studies from Malaysia and Thailand in which it was found that agricultural work was positively related to breastfeeding. In these studies women farmers were found to be more likely to breastfeed than either non-working women or women working in other occupations.
A number of studies have examined the relationship between mother's employment and children's nutrition using multiple regression analysis. In an attempt to come to grips with the confusing picture that emerges Carloni (1984) points to the need to look at underlying economic factors. She argues that many of the studies have looked at mother's employment as the independent variable and the food and nutrition situation as the dependent variable. She suggests that it would be more useful to suspend judgement about which is the cause and which is the effect and examine more closely the characteristics of households where women are involved in income earning activities.
A field study of women's work and child feeding patterns in Tanzania by Mascarenhas (1983) seems to support this line of thinking. Mascarenhas found that in about half of the households studied, the preschool children got only one or two meals a day. Lack of mother's time was then considered to be the main reason for such a low frequency of child feeding. In a follow-up study, Mascarenhas (1984) found that nutrition seemed to be worse in the households where women were working as casual labourers. However, this kind of work was often the last resort for women when food supplies were low. Lack of food in these households during critical preharvest seasons forced women to do casual work during peak agricultural periods. Thus, the socio-economic condition was more likely to be both the cause of mother's working as well as of their children's nutritional condition.
The evidence presented indicate that even though women's heavy workload, particularly in societies where women participate actively in food production, may have a negative influence on child care, child feeding and nutrition, there are other factors of importance which must also be considered in order to understand the processes at work. In the studies discussed in this section women's socio-economic condition was shown to be a determinant of certain types of heavy work women performed as well as the chances for getting adequate child care when women were away from work.
It is also evident from the literature that some societies have adapted practices which may function as cushions against the negative influences of women's workload on child nutrition. The practice, that women of childbearing age are less involved in field work is one example, which has been shown in a field study from Sri Lanka (Wandel and Holmboe-Ottesen, 1984). Such a practice requires cooperation between the sexes and/or between the women. In extended families, for example, women's workload and time constraints seem to be less precarious. Khare (1984) reports from a study in India that the presence of an older woman in the household, especially the mother-in-law, seemed to give younger women with children more time, and resulted in better nutritional care of the children.
a) Male out-migration
The impact of male out-migration on the rural household and particularly on the workload of women was discussed in chapter 4. Factors, important for this impact were identified as the size and regularity of the remittances from the migrant as well as women's decision-making power over household resources such as land and cattle. The effect on the household food and nutrition situation is, more specifically, related to whether or not the remittances from the migrant are large enough to buy food or if women are able to keep up food production with the help of hired labourers to replace the loss of the migrants labour on the farm.
There is evidence that the effect of male out-migration is substantially different in, for example, Southern Africa than in Asia and Middle Eastern countries, depending on sociocultural differences and the money earning capacity of the migrant (see discussion in chapter 4 and Palmer, 1985c). The earning capacity, and the remittances sent home appear to be much larger for migrants from Asia and Middle Eastern countries who migrate to or within the Middle East or to Europe. Here the remittances are used, amongst other things, to buy food, small livestock which adds to household consumption of protein, or to hire labourers for work in the fields (Palmer, 1985c).
Several reports from different countries in Africa discuss the difficulties faced by female-headed households which may affect the nutritional situation in the households. In reports from Swaziland and Lesotho (Government of Swaziland, 1978; World Bank, 1980) it is stated that the remittances from the husbands were irregular or rarely enough to maintain the household. Haswell (1981a) reported from Gambia that food availability was lower in households where the males had migrated. In a study by Bukh (1979) the shortage of male labour for food production due to cash crop production and later the out-migration of men to the urban centers affected the workload of women. Due to excessive work, women switched from cultivation of yams to cassava which is less labour intensive. Bukh argues that this switch may have had an effect on the nutritional situation of the households, since yams have a higher content of protein and other nutrients. However, the effect will depend on the intake of additional foods. Neither dietary intake, nor nutritional status was measured in this study.
In a study from Zambia, Kumar (1985) showed that female-headed households had lower food stocks than households where men were present. An interesting, finding in this study is that although children's nutritional status on the average was lower in female-headed households than in the rest, when compared to given income levels it was higher. These data may indicate that women in female-headed households give priority to food and nutrition both in work and spending pattern.
b) Changes in cropping patterns and incorporation into market economy
The introduction of cash crops may affect food production as well as women's work. The effect on the food and nutrition situation may vary depending on factors such as the degree of economical gain, the extent to which food production is still maintained as well as the effect on women's work and decision-making power in relation to the food chain.
Based on a review of field studies in Kenya, Nigeria, Upper Volta, Cameroon and Sudan, Tinker (1979) states that the recurring theme is that while cash income may have increased due to introduction of cash crops, nutritional levels tend to fall. However, nutritional status was not always measured in these studies. The term nutritional levels is therefore used loosely to also include different proxy-measures for nutritional status, such as food availability and indicators of food consumption.
Introduction of cash crops have been one of the factors influencing the division of labour between the sexes. Even though some women have taken to cash cropping, it is often considered men's work, whereas women continue to work on food crops. Thus, women's workload may be affected, since they receive less help from the men in food production while at the same time they are expected to contribute a substantial amount of work in cash crop production and processing. The amount of food produced may thus be affected negatively.
In other cases the distinction between cash crop and subsistence crop is not always clear. Often, part of a subsistence crop may be sold and thereby serving the same purpose as the cash crops. However, whenever commercial production leads to mono-cropping, whether it is exclusively cash cropping or combined cash/subsistence crop, the level of risk of food scarcity to which producer households are exposed tends to increase. The multiplot and multicrop production strategies typical of subsistence agricultural regimes are aimed at reducing levels of risk and also smooth out irregularities in the food supply (Fleuret and Fleuret, 1980).
In her work from Tanzania, Mascarenhas (1983) describes problems related to decision-making with regard to the sale of food crops. She describes the frequent conflicts between husband and wife over the food stores; these conflicts tended to increase during periods of seasonal food shortages. Traditionally, men were supposed to ask their wives before selling or exchanging foods. However, frequently, the men did not observe the women's advice, and food was sold against their will.
In another study from Tanzania, Jakobsen (1978), related children's nutritional status to cash crop production. He found that the relationship represented a U-shaped curve. The nutritional status of children from households involved in subsistence farming was on the average better than among children from poor households involved in cash crop production or wage labour on commercial farms. However, with increasing income from cash crop production the incidence of malnutrition decreased so that children's nutritional status among the well to do cash crop farmers was better than among the subsistence farmers. These studies show the importance of including socio-economic status in studies on the effects of cash crop production on nutritional status.
A few studies focus directly on women's work arising from the introduction of cash crops. The study by Bukh, referred to in section a) of this chapter involved the production of cocoa as a cash crop. In the study area, men used to clear the forest and make large mounds for the yams, while women planted and weeded the crop. When men took up cocoa cultivation, the women did not receive help in the preparation of the mounds. Therefore, male labour was no longer available, and women switched to the cultivation of cassava, which is a less nutritious food compared to yams.
Changes from one type of subsistence food production to another may also affect the nutritional situation of the household. Most development work in improving agricultural production has been on so called "major" crops. These are usually cereal crops, such as maize, rice and wheat. In many cases the intensification of these crops is at the expense of "minor" crops, also called "horticultural" crops.
The importance of these crops for nutrition have been pointed out in recent studies and have now attracted the attention of policy makers (Garibaldi, 1983; FAO, 1983; Longhurst, 1983). In addition to discussing their importance with respect to nutrition, Longhurst discusses their role in survival strategies. He points out that these crops fill important gaps at certain times of the year. The mix of production and timing of these crops are thus important for the food and nutrition situation of rural households.
c) Introduction of new technology
Much of the literature on the issue of technology has been concerned with the negative effects of new technology on women and nutrition (particularly in relation to technology introduced as a part of the "Green Revolution"). These studies show how women have been forgotten when new technology has been introduced or how a successful technology for women's tasks has been taken over by men. Some of these aspects are discussed in chapter 4. In this section we will concentrate on the potential for improvement of the nutritional situation by the introduction of technology for women's activities in the food chain.
An increased focus on new technologies for women may influence household nutrition in several ways. Successful interventions in one of women's activities in the food chain can trigger change in another. Thus, technology which can save women's labour and increase productivity may be instrumental in more food flowing through the food chain as well as in releasing some of women's time and energy for other activities within or outside the food chain.
Technologies to ease women's work in food processing, preservation and preparation in the third world are among the least developed, yet they have a great scope for improving household nutrition (Tinker, 1979; Carr, 1981; Brandtzaeg, 1982). In a paper prepared by ECA (1978) estimates of time used by different societies for processing staple foods (maize and manioc) using manual methods such as mortar and pestle showed that this operation alone can take several hours per day. Labour saving technology could release women's time for other tasks, including child care and income-earning activities. Reduction of postharvest food losses has come into focus as one of the methods to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Estimates of the percentage of food lost and scope for improvement vary a great deal between countries and regions (Carr, 1978). It has been estimated that technology applied to the storage, processing and preservation of various food stuffs should be able to reduce losses by 50 per cent, and increase food available on the world market by 10 per cent (National Academy of Sciences 1978, cited in Tinker, 1979). The objective of decreasing food losses can only be achieved if the women who store and process the food are reached with adequate training and appropriate technology.
Introduction of technology for making weaning food have been tried as a measure of increasing the nutritional levels of children. In a field study in India, Brandtzaeg (1982) introduced simple technology for making inexpensive weaning foods on a cooperative basis. The production was based on traditional ways of food preparation which was one of the reasons why it became popular among the women. It had a substantial effect on children's nutrition, which was shown by comparing the growth rates of children consuming the weaning foods with those who were not. However, the organisational part was not developed enough at the time when the author left the village, and the preparation of weaning foods came to a stop.
Action oriented nutrition programs for supplementary or improved weaning foods are now being tried out elsewhere. One example is a WHO/UNICEF initiated programme in Tanzania.
Technologies for food supporting activities, such as water and energy for cooking have obvious implications for the nutritional situation, both with regard to clean water supply, the possibility for boiling the water and the time used by women in these activities.
A number of reports and articles have focused attention on apropriate technologies for women (Carr, 1978; ECA, 1978; Tinker, 1979; Carr, 1981). These include discussions on suitability of different equipment and techniques in different settings.
The emphasis is on technology, which is simple and inexpensive enough for women's organizations to buy and run. Carr (1978) argues that most hand-operated crop processing machines used in Africa have proved more economically efficient than the more sophisticated imported diesel-operated machines.
Tinker (1979) points out that nutritional dimensions should be considered when introducing labour saving technology. She uses the example of milling. The incomplete milling through hand pounding leaves sufficient bran in the rice to provide the much needed vitamin B. She wonders if it is possible for a new technology to be devised, so that this source of nutrition is not lost.
Carr (1981) takes up, inter alia the very important issue of introducing labour saving technology to ease women's seasonal workload. Promising developments referred to in this report are the attempts to reduce seasonal postharvest labour bottlenecks by the introduction of equipment which would allow the harvest to be stored before processing. A greater focus on women's seasonal workload when introducing technology may have great implications for nutrition since, as we have shown before (see section 5.4), when the seasonal workload in food production or processing increases, the time spent on food preparation and child care is reduced.
The question of how women will allocate the time saved through introduction of technology has been discussed in a few studies. In a pre-project study in Ethiopia (Kebede 1978), the anticipated effects on women's work and nutritional status of children were discussed with the villagers. In the area where project expectations were highest, most of the men anticipated that the women would spend more time on housework, whereas a majority of the women said that they would spend it on income-generating activities as well as on housework.
Tinker (1979) refers to a number of studies where technology, utilized in women's organizations or movements gave women more time. In the "mabati" movement in Kenya women used the traditional rotating credit societies to accumulate cash to buy iron sheets, which were essential for collecting rain water. With the time saved from fetching water women increased their production of vegetables, chickens and pigs.
When women in Cameroon were released from their labour of grinding sorghum, they turned to community-based projects, such as enrolling in training programmes in cooking and improving farming techniques (Tinker 1979).
The organization, process and participation aspects are crucial both to how the technology is received and the changes it makes in the life and working situation of women. In this respect Tinker states:
Many of the "new" technologies presently being tried around the world have in fact been tried many times before. That is why the major focus today is on process and adaptation. No longer can it be assumed that a piece of equipment or a method of production can be packaged and dropped in a village where, like a genii, it will transform the quality of life (Tinker, 1979, p. 25).Carr (1981) also emphasises that technologies should be tested and worked out by the target group.
As discussed by Palmer (1981), Stoler (1977) and Tinker (1979) a contradiction may arise between farm women's need for labour saving technology and the risk of displacement of landless women labourers. This point is particularly important with regard to nutrition, since the nutritional situation is often the worst in the households of landless labourers.
Studies from Bangladesh and Indonesia indicate that millions of women have lost their jobs through the spread of rice mills. A careful assessment of the needs of women of different socio-economic groups before the introduction of new technology is therefore needed.
In their reviews both Carloni (1984) and Leslie (1985) maintain that there is a fundamental difference in the focus with which researchers of different disciplines have approached the topic of women's work and child nutrition. Whereas the focus of the women-in-development community has been on women rather than mothers, the focus of the nutritional community has been on mother's reproductive and child care roles. They have used different concepts, methods and an entirely different set of problems.
Fig. 5.1 A model of the linkages between women's education, women's work and child nutritional status.
Source: Leslie (1985).The women-in-development community has been interested in such topics as women's role in food systems; women's need for an independent income; women's control over their earnings and the nutritional implications of changes in the sexual division of labour. Nutritionists, on the other hand, have been more interested in questions such as: do working mothers spend less time caring for their children? If children are entrusted to the care of someone other than the mother while she is away for work, how does this affect their nutritional status and health.
Seen in the perspective of the three areas discussed in sections 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4, the women-in-development community has been focusing more on the first two areas which are concerned with women in provision of food and their control over the food or income. The nutritionists have been more concerned with the third area which is related to the effects on child care and nutrition. Leslie points out that recently, there has been an increased dialogue between those groups. In fact she considers her paper both a beneficiary of and a contribution to that dialogue.
However, the contradictory findings in the research to date on the relationship between women's provision of food and cash, and child nutrition, reflect not only methodological and conceptual differences, but also the complexity of the relationship.
An obvious factor is the type of work women do: if they are involved in their own production, in marketing or in casual labour. As many of the authors have pointed out, casual labour is often the last resort for women, and shortage of food may be the very reason why women take up such work. If this is the reason, one may expect the households of these women to be nutritionally worse off than other households with which they are compared.
Fig. 5.2 Women as "nutrition intermediaries".
Access to material resources:
vis-à-vis non food consumption
Time for child care and possibilites of help:
labour between sexes
charge, when women are ill or away from home
assistance in household/care functions
Food and health knowledge:
Source: Wandel and Holmboe-Ottesen (1984).Another important factor is the distance to work, and whether or not women can take their children along when they go to work. In rural areas women do several tasks simultaneously, some close to home and some further away from home. A strict division of "outside the home" and "in the home" work therefore becomes meaningless.
In a few studies, models have been suggested to clarify the factors determining the relationship between women's life and working conditions, and children's nutritional status. In fig. 5.1 which is taken from the review by Leslie, women's work outside the household is seen as having possible negative effects on child care and on the duration of breastfeeding, while it has possible positive effect on income to purchase food. Much emphasis is put on women's education, which is depicted to have a positive effect on women's working conditions as well as the knowledge of good child health and nutrition practices and use of health and nutrition services.
In fig. 5.2 which is taken from a study by Wandel and Holmboe-Ottesen (1984) women's potentialities as "nutrition intermediaries" are seen as determined by four main factors: access to material resources; decision-making power; time for child care and possibilities for help, knowledge about food/health.
In both these figures women's time, income (in food or cash) and knowledge are identified as the key factors determining the link between women's work and nutritional status.
Fig. 5.1 focusses on the linkages between mother's work outside the domestic sphere and child nutrition. Fig. 5.2 has a wider scope, showing the factors which may affect mother's effectiveness in the nutritional care of their children. Such models may help to identify important factors to include in a study of mother's work and child nutrition, as well as explain the basis for the differences found in the literature.
According to Leslie the effect of mother's employment on child care and feeding is determined by the relationship between the positive effect on income and the negative effect on time for child care and feeding. The question of whether or not the income is large enough to pay for a good substitute for the mother if she is away from home to work is not explicitly stated in this figure.
In the figure by Wandel and Holmboe-Ottesen the possibilities for help/relief in child care are explicitly stated. This will often depend on the presence of older children or other adult women in the household. Child work, particularly care-taking of small children is very common in developing countries. The effect on nutrition will depend on to what extent they are capable of taking on the responsibilities of absent mothers in food preparation and feeding.
However, this issue should not be seen only from the point of view of child nutrition. Child work may have detrimental effects in itself, such as may be caused by an excessive workload and when an older sibling, often a sister, is held back from school to take care of the small children in the household. This may lead to a vicious circle of low educational achievements and poverty. There are also many other aspects in relation to women's work in food chain activities, such as the effects on women's own quality of life.