A development strategy based on the Basic Human Needs approach, which also includes considerations for women, has been suggested by the ILO. The strategy takes into account two aspects of women's life and work:
There are thus two facets to a basic-needs strategy for women in developing countries. One is to enable them to contribute more effectively to the satisfaction of their families' basic needs, within the framework of their traditional responsibilities. The other, which is a fundamental need of the women themselves, is to ease their work burden while furthering their economic independence and their more equitable integration into the community, beyond the narrow circle of the family. ILO (1976, p. 61).These two facets, as they relate to women's food-related contribution to basic human needs: their family nutritional needs and their own needs, have been discussed separately in chapter 5 and 6. In this chapter we will attempt to point out possible areas of conflict or contradiction of relevance from a policy point of view, when both these facets are taken into account.
The previous chapters have pointed out the complex relationship between women's food chain activities and nutrition. A finding that has important policy implications, is that women's food-related work can have both positive and negative consequences for family nutrition and for the fulfillment of their own basic needs.
On the positive side, a greater participation of women in food production and income generation may: 1) increase total household food availability, including improved access to a more varied diet, 2) give women more control of food and cash in the household and 3) increase women's status and decision-making power.
As pointed out in chapter 5 and 6, women's participation in productive activities tend to improve their economic value and this may improve their rights to household resources, including food and cash. There is evidence that the cash and food that women generate themselves are more likely to remain in their own control. In addition, many studies have shown that women put higher priority on their families' basic needs, than men. Therefore, the more control women have over household food and cash, the more potential there is for satisfying the basic needs of their children and themselves.
On the negative side, greater participation in food production and income generation may increase women's workload to the extent that time and energy available for other necessary activities, both within and outside the food-related field, will not be sufficient to secure the basic needs of their families or themselves. In addition, the physical labour involved may in itself be so heavy that it is detrimental to the health of women as well as for the unborn they may be carrying.
Results from studies referred to in chapter 5 indicate that in societies where women have a very heavy workload, which is often the case when they are involved in field work, there may be time constraints on women's opportunities to prepare and feed adequate food to their children. In chapter 6 it was pointed out that this lack of time also could affect the diet of women themselves. Studies reporting higher incidence of premature deliveries, miscarriages and weight loss in peak agricultural seasons indicate the detrimental effects of heavy physical work on women.
Whether the positive effects of women's participation in food production will offset the negative effects, depend on a variety of factors, of which the organizational arrangements around the food chain activities, both at household and community level, are the most important (see figure 2.2 and its explanation). Such arrangements are culturally founded and vary with the local context. However, research has shown that such arrangements may change as a result of developmental processes, including those generated by aid projects or programmes.
The extent to which arrangements exist that allow women to draw on family labour for their productive and reproductive tasks will determine on the one hand, their effectiveness in generating food and cash, and on the other hand, the size of their workload. In this respect, the participation of men in household subsistence activities, such as production and processing of food for home consumption, collection of firewood and child care, may be of utmost importance for the satisfaction of all family members' nutritional needs.
The contribution of men to household food availability should not be underestimated. In female-headed households women have more obligations to fulfil and a higher workload, because of functions they have to take over due to the absence of men. While the presence of men in the household makes women less free to make their own decisions, men will on the other hand contribute with their labour and cash income. The lack of male contribution is the main reason why women-headed households in general are nutritionally worse off. This fact implies that men's contribution to family subsistence is substantial, even in places where women traditionally have most of the responsibility for providing food to the family. In a policy perspective, this implies that more emphasis should be put on how to maintain or increase men's contribution to the household food availability without decreasing women's control over the food supply. Organizational arrangements at community level may also enforce the positive nutritional effects of women's participation in food production and minimize the negative ones. For example, community child care facilities and cooperative arrangements for production and processing of food may render women more effective in their food chain activities. The importance of such arrangements is discussed in chapter 8.
Another important factor in determining the nutritional impact of women's food-related work is the technology available for each sequence of activity in the food chain. Labour saving equipment or methods may render women more efficient, and at the same time minimize the negative consequences of an otherwise heavy workload. Labour-saving technology for women's food-related work is therefore an important measure which includes both the above-mentioned facets of women's lives.
Women's various tasks and obligations related to the food chain, may be the basis for conflicts in terms of different priorities and needs. This is especially true when women's time is constrained due to a heavy burden of work. Such conflicts may be limited to alternative allocations of time and resources within the food chain, such as when women prioritize work in the field over food preparation and child feeding. Conflicts may also arise between activities related to the food chain and other spheres of women's lives and activities.
A crucial conflict is tied, on the one hand, to women's moral obligation to fulfilling their role as housewives and mothers to the utmost of their capacity; and on the other, to safeguarding their health and nutritional needs and allocating time for activities that can strengthen their position in society and improve their decision-making power. In many instances, women's role as food providers can be seen as a main hinderance to the integration of women into the mainstream of development, and thus to their possibilities of achieving equal status with men.
It has been pointed out, however, that much of women's work in the food chain is considered a moral obligation and thus tied to their identity as women. Such work therefore contributes to affirming women's position as good housewives and mothers. For example, it has been argued that, in the African context, women's participation in food production is an integral part of the African notion of "motherhood" (Bryson, 1979).
To conclude, areas of conflicts can be discussed at two levels. Firstly, at the subjective level, which concerns women's own assessments of their situation: the different responsibilities and obligations they perceive to be tied to their roles as housewives, mothers and members of society, and their stated priorities based on these perceptions.
Secondly, at the objective level, which on the basis of development concepts, such as Basic Human Needs and Equal Status, may lead to a different assessment of women's opportunities and needs, and of the possible conflicts that may arise as a result of efforts to improve the women's situation.
Development planners may thus face a dilemma when planning for efforts that will render women more productive or effective in the food chain, as well as improve women's quality of life. They may have to identify possible areas of conflict even beyond women's own assessments, because the women are inclined to put less value on their own needs. Women will usually not question their traditional role of subordination without being made conscious of the problem. Therefore, if women are asked about their priorities concerning their activities in the food chain, they usually tend to request assistance that can help them in catering to the nutritional needs of their family members, and put less priority on their own needs.