10.1 Women's workload
10.2 Seasonal variations
10.3 Low productivity in the food chain
10.4 The low status of women
10.5 Lack of infrastructure and services for women
In this chapter we will discuss the practical implications of the research findings which have been brought out in reviewing the literature (chapters 3 - 9). As a start, there is a need to identify the main problems that Third World Women are facing in their efforts of providing food and securing the nutritional needs of their families and themselves. Five main problem areas seem to emerge from reviewing the literature. These are: 1) women's high workload; 2) seasonal variations in women's work and household food availability; 3) women's low productivity/effectivity in the food chain; 4) women's low status; 5) lack of infrastructure and services relevant to women.
In the following paragraphs we will define each of these problems more concretely and discuss possible measures that would be relevant in practical work. It should be noted that the stated problem areas are inter-related and overlapping. Consequently many of the practical measures proposed for solving one particular problem, may also be relevant for the solution of another. In practical situations where one is faced with many of these problems simultaneously, special emphasis should be put on measures which may have the potential of solving more than one problem. Since this chapter is based on the preceding literature review, references to the source of particular facts and assumptions stated here, will not be given. As a guide for further reading, some key references will however be listed at the end of each discussion of suggested measures.
Women's workload is so heavy that it may be
a constraint to higher productivity in the food chainPossible Measures:
a constraint to adequate child care and nutrition
a health risk to women themselves and a constraint for fulfilling their other basic needs.
a) Labour-saving technology
Many authors have emphasized the importance of introducing labour saving technology for women. Such technology would include labour-saving tools or devices as well as alternative methods for production and processing of food throughout the food chain. Special attention should be drawn to labour saving devices and techniques in postharvest food processing and conservation as well as food preparation for meals. Many studies have shown that such tasks may be very heavy and take up a large proportion of women's day. As pointed out earlier, processing and preparation (such as pounding) of cassava and grains, especially maize, sorghum and millet can be very laborious. Hand-operated grinders have been suggested and successfully tried out for this purpose. However, it is important that the introduction of such technologies be based on a thorough investigation of women's needs and their possibilities for utilizing the technologies successfully. Local conditions and traditional methods should be taken into account when redesigning women's tools and methods. It is important for the success of such efforts that women are involved in the process of improving or identifying new techniques. There are several handbooks available from various international organizations that give examples of appropriate labour-saving devices and methods for food processing, conservation and preparation.
Literature: Tinker (1979), Carr (1978), Carr (1981), ECA (1978), Aklilu (1983), Date-Bah and Stevens (1981).
b) Improved provisions of water and fuel
The scope for saving women's time and energy through improvements with regard to the so-called "food supporting activities" such as fetching of water and firewood, may be very large. However, unless provision of water is carefully planned, taking into account all the purposes for which water is used (cultivation, animal husbandry, food processing and preparation, drinking and washing) it may not be viewed as an improvement by the rural women. In some instances women have refused to use water provisions that do not have this multipurpose function, such as when fetching of drinking water cannot be combined with washing of clothes. Furthermore, the technology involved in drawing water may be important for women's potential for benefitting from a new water source. Hand-operated pumps have sometimes been too heavy for women to operate. In addition the design of the pumps should be such that they would be simple to maintain and repair by women themselves.
Several possibilities have been tried concerning efforts to reduce women's energy and time use in fetching fuel for heating and cooking. Of special interest are alternative sources of energy, such as solar ovens, biogas and plant residues from agricultural production which are not utilized for animal feed. Methods for saving energy have also been tried out, such as more efficient stoves for cooking and ways of heating more than one thing at a time. Means of relieving women from carrying heavy loads of wood should also be investigated. For instance, the potential for employing hand carts or draft animals should be looked into. The latter suggestion may imply a transfer of responsibility for fuelwood to men, since women usually do not have access to draft animals (see section c).
Literature: Carr (1978), Carr (1981), Kebede (1978), DateBah and Stevens (1981).
c) Reorganizing women's work
It is well known that women try to rationalize their work by combining different work tasks. As illustrated earlier, women may bring firewood when they return home from the field; water may be fetched in combination with washing of clothes and bathing of children and themselves. Childcare is almost always combined with other tasks. Possibilities for combining women's work tasks should always be considered in development projects, especially if the efforts planned may imply more work for women. Attempts to give women the opportunities to combine their activities may need great care in planning concerning where physical structures (such as buildings, agricultural land, sources for firewood and water) should be located and how and when they should be utilized.
Efforts that can bring about changes in the organization of work between household members should also be considered. It is well known that the introduction of new technology may change the sexual division of labour, often leading to an increase in the workload of women while reducing that of men. However, the fact that men tend to take over certain tasks when new techniques are applied, may also represent a potential for relieving women of some of their work burdens. If the switch of tasks from women to men does not represent a threat to women's control of resources and decision-making power, this process can be seen as a way in which men can assist women. For instance, if the introduction of draught animals for fetching wood, should mean that men will take over the operation, it could be regarded as a positive development.
Over the long term it may be feasible to work for a change in people's stereotyped attitudes about sexual division of labour. Educational measures may be a necessary ingredient in efforts to change the division of labour between men and women. It should be emphasised, however, that such efforts are not equally relevant all over the world. In societies where women do very little or no work in the field (such as in many Muslim societies and in many parts of Asia) nutritional problems are often not related to women's excessive workload. Usually the labour burden is more equally distributed between men and women in these cases, and from this point of view, the need for changing the sexual division of labour would be less.
Literature: N'diaye (1985).
d) Cooperative activities
One way of reducing women's workload is to assist in the establishment of cooperative efforts among women to perform certain tasks in the food chain. There are many examples of cooperation among women in different food-related tasks. Organization of work parties for soil preparation and harvesting is well known in Africa. As discussed in chapter 8, introduction of labour saving technology has been particularly successful in cases where women have been well organized. Machinery for postharvest processing on a cooperative basis has a special potential of being useful to women. Examples are quoted in the literature of mills being run on a cooperative basis and thereby relieving many women of the hard labour of pounding or using other labour requiring techniques for making flour.
Literature: Caughman (1980), N'diaye (1985), Staudt (1979), Ramakrishnayya (1985).
e) Child care facilities
As earlier mentioned, certain tasks women do are difficult to combine with proper care of small children. Hard work in the field, is one activity where either children may suffer because of lack of proper care, or women's workload may increase if they are to bring their children into the field. When women have to leave their small children at home, they will not always have access to adequate substitutes to take over the child care. In many instances relatively small children are put in charge of the care of their younger brothers or sisters. This problem is especially great for women who are involved in casual work or in other income-generating activities which take them away from home for longer periods of the day. Informal arrangements between women on a cooperative basis or more formal arrangements for child care should be investigated when planning efforts where obligations vis-a-vis children may be a constraint to women's participation.
Literature: WHO (1985).
In lean seasons women may experience
that not enough food is available to adequately feed themselves and their familiesPossible Measures:
periods of extremely stressful work that leave them little time for adequate fulfillment of all their obligations in the food chain, especially for cooking and feeding.
a) Alternative cropping patterns and methods of cultivation
Proper timing of cultivation and choice of crops so that some food will be available during the lean season has always been part of people's own strategies. Development efforts should build on such strategies, and examine potentials for introducing crops that mature quickly and encourage inter- and serial cropping which could fill the gap before the main harvest. Women are particularly central in these strategies, since they generally are responsible for the so-called "minor crops", such as vegetables, pulses, fruits and tubers. Such foods can fill important food deficit gaps at certain times of the year and become important sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. For instance, cassava (or manioc) is a drought resistant crop that women resort to at times when other foods are scarce. The advantage of cassava is that it can be harvested whenever there is a need. Minor crops may also be an important source of income for women. Many authors have emphasized the importance of crops that can serve as subsistence as well as cash crops. This gives a greater potential for alternative survival strategies.
Little emphasis has been put on minor crops in agricultural development assistance, where cereal crops have been in focus since aid was first initiated. Agricultural modernization has often lead to the disappearance of many of the minor crops and therefore created a situation of higher vulnerability to seasonal variations as well nutritionally less adequate diets. Furthermore, the utilization of wild plant resources (such as green leaves) have a tendency to decrease as a consequence of agricultural development. In the last few years the importance of promoting the consumption of such under-exploited plant foods has been stressed (especially by FAO), because of their relevance to women as well as their nutritional significance in traditional diets. To sum up, the following points should be considered when selecting crops to be promoted.
Stability of yield: drought and disease resistant qualities are even more important than the potential for high yields.Literature: Fleuret and Fleuret (1980), Longhurst (1983), Dey (1984a), Garribaldi Accati (1983), Ferguson and Horn (1985), Redhead (1985).
Income-generating potential: priority should be put on crops that can be used for direct consumption as well as be converted to cash.
Low labour requirement: crops that need minimum land preparation, weeding and irrigation should be preferred.
Ease of storage, processing and cooking: varieties that store well and that do not require much energy for processing and cooking are important for women.
Nutritional considerations: cultural acceptability and nutritional contribution to the local diet should be considered, especially in light of the requirements of women and children.
Multi-purpose crops: varieties that can serve many purposes simultaneously should be included whenever possible. For instance: trees that yield both fruit and wood, plants that have many edible parts: roots, leaves and seeds etc., plants, from which unedible parts can be used for fuel or animal feed.
b) Introduction of small livestock or other sources of animal protein
Small livestock may be an important source of food and cash, especially during lean seasons. The care of small livestock such as chickens, sheep and goats tend to be women's work throughout the world. Attempts to introduce small livestock for women have however often failed, the major reason being high labour and capital input compared to returns, especially because livestock raising is a risky business. Women may therefore give low priority to proper care of the animals. Furthermore, the lack of veterinary services and extension may add to the difficulty of raising animals. Adequate training and extension services for women are stressed as important components of efforts to involve women in animal husbandry.
Fish farming in fresh water ponds, usually in connection with paddy cultivation has been tried as one way of increasing food availability. One constraint to fish farming as a possibility for poor women, is the lack of access to land where fish ponds could be established.
Literature: FAO (1983c), Safilios-Rotschild (1983), Chavangi and Hanssen (1983).
c) Better preservation and storage techniques
Building up food stocks is essential for a household's ability to counteract seasonal variations in food availability. Food stocks represent not only a surplus which can be consumed during lean periods, but also a potential for cash earnings during times of need.
Postharvest food losses may be enormous in tropical climates. For example, infestations of bacteria, fungi, insects and rodents may reduce food stocks in the household substantially. Some observers argue that food availability is more easily increased by reducing postharvest losses than by stepping up food production. Improved methods for preservation and storage of food are thus important strategies both for increasing food availability in general and for counteracting seasonal variations.
Preservation techniques, e.g. drying, salting, smoking, fermenting and canning, are part of the traditional knowledge in most areas of the world. Such techniques can always be improved and made more efficient in terms of time and resources required. Many aid organizations have produced manuals that give instructions about appropriate tools and techniques for various types of food preservation. The tools and techniques suggested are often based on locally available resources and skills.
Improved preservation techniques for perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables and fish can also build up a potential for increasing cash income. For example, smoking and drying of fish and fruits and home canning of fruits and vegetables are typical income-generating activities for women. These techniques have lately received attention by aid agencies.
Improved storage techniques for grains is an area which is receiving attention by aid agencies. Better storage possibilities may prevent farmers from selling off grains just because of the risk of losses during storage. In some African countries women and men have separate storage bins. In such cases, it is important that the women's storage problems receive particular attention, since they are responsible for providing food to themselves and their children.
Temporary storage devices for unprocessed crops may relieve women from excessive workload in the postharvest season, as well as prevent food losses. Carr (1981) mentions a maize project in Zaire where maize cribs were to be promoted for storage of maize on the cobs during the peak season allowing shelling to take place during less busy times.
Appropriate storage devices may be beyond the cash limits of women and their households. It is therefore important to reduce the cost by teaching women or other members of their families to build such devices themselves.
Literature: Carr (1978), Carr (1981), ECA (1978), Tinker (1979), Brandtzaeg (1982b).
d) Establishment of community cash funds or food stocks
When faced with food shortage in the household, women have traditionally relied on informal social networks for support. Such networks may be based on kinship or neighbour relations. However, as family structures are changing, as part of the modernization process, women are loosing their traditional means of support. Usually, women will utilize the possibility for requesting support among relatives and neighbours as a last resort, since they often regard such requests as an undignified means of alleviating a crisis of food shortage. This is especially true if the support networks are not based on reciprocity, but have the image of charity.
Formal or informal support institutions at community level that can function as buffers against food shortages are needed. Poor people often have to resort to private money lenders for loans at very high interest rates in order to buy food before the next harvest. The food providers of the household may thus need credit with low interest rates which may cover purchase of food for consumption during lean seasons. The establishment of women farmer cooperatives that include revolving funds where credit can be taken both for investment in food production as well as for purchase of food is one possible solution. Women's saving clubs - where extra money is saved during seasons of plenty for use during times of need - have also been tried with some success.
The creation of "cereal banks" which buy cereals from farmers after harvest and sell back to them at reasonable prices during the off season may be another means of ensuring food security. This system of building up food stocks has been tried with success in an IFAD project for Gambian women (N'diaye 1985).
Literature: N'diaye (1985), Eide et al. (1986).
e) Better knowledge about how to combine cheap and nutritionally adequate food
The dietary pattern of people in the Third World is under constant change, also in the rural areas. This is partly due to changes in production patterns but also to the integration of subsistence farmers into the cash economy. For the rural poor these changes have generally meant a less varied diet and a heavier reliance on market food for own consumption.
Women's traditional knowledge about ways and means to combine foods to compose nutritionally adequate diets may be less and less relevant as different and new foods are introduced. For instance, the switch from traditional staples to new ones (such as the switch from sorghum or millet to maize, or from rice to wheat) may in turn imply that also other changes in the diet have to be made if the nutritional requirements are to be met and the food to be palatable. Greater reliability on purchased foods, makes people more vulnerable to advertisements and signals of high-status. This may lead to an emphasis on relatively expensive foods, sometimes with low nutritional value.
Nutritional education, relevant to the situation as described above may be needed. Such education should take as a point of departure women's traditional knowledge about food and ways of preparing food, and stress the positive elements of this. Foods that can be acquired and prepared with minimal resources and at the same time are culturally acceptable should be emphasized. Foods which can substitute more expensive alternatives should be included in a possible strategy of dealing with food shortages.
It should be pointed out that nutrition education does not seem to be effective when launched alone. There are considerably more chances for success when nutrition education is part of a larger "package", which may, for example, include schemes for improving food production, processing or preparation patterns. Furthermore nutrition education has most often been geared towards women. However, since men, more or less explicitly, are involved in deciding what foods to buy and cook, nutrition education must address both men and women.
Literature: Piwoz and Viteri (1985), N'diaye (1985), Chaney (1985).
Women may be less productive in the food chain than men because they have less access to productive assets, including knowledge, and because of their time constraints.
Women's traditional food-related tasks may be laborious and time-consuming and give low returns to labour.
a) Improved access to land
A secure access to land for women, is important for being able to make long-term production strategies. In areas where women do not hold land ownership, the choice of crops and the strategies are limited. For example, under such circumstances they are rarely cultivating perennials, such as tree crops. In societies where women work on fields for subsistence production, whereas men are involved in the production of cash crops, it is particularly important that projects are planned so that women do not loose their land to the men. In resettlement schemes women must be allocated land in their own right, so that subsistence food can be secured.
In societies where women's involvement in food production is more seen as "helping the men", there may still be a need for women to have their own piece of land. Even in such societies there may be certain crops that only women grow. This is often the case with horticultural crops, cultivated for home consumption. The provision of land for home or kitchen gardens may be important for securing family nutrition and some cash income for women.
A large problem for women throughout the world is the loss of land-use rights when they become widowed or divorced. It is of course difficult within a programme/project framework to change inheritance laws of a country. However, in instances where new land is allocated to families, attempts should be made to allocate land to both men and women.
Literature: Palmer (1985b), Dey (1984a).
b) Improved access to extension service
There is ample documentation that women have less access than men to production inputs such as seeds, agrochemicals or other inputs e.g. animal husbandry as well as the type of know-how and skills needed for increasing their productivity. Extension services that can help women in providing such inputs and give them the necessary know-how are badly needed. Today most extension services are run by men for men.
Training of female extension workers will be necessary, especially in areas where women usually do not talk to men outside their own households. In addition, male extension workers will have to be sensitized to the problems of women and include women as possible clients for their services. Experience has proved that women farmers, given the opportunities, can be just as innovative and productive as men.
Literature: Staudt (1979), Schumacher et al. (1980), Palmer (1985b), Dey (1984a), FAO (1985), Ramakrishnayya (1985), AFRACA (1983), FAO (1983d).
c) Improved tools
Many studies have shown that women have less access to modern and labour saving tools in the field than men. Women are mostly involved in hoe-agriculture, and seldom have access to plow or tractors for land preparation. Besides cultural restrictions on women's use of ox-ploughs or tractors, low command of cash makes it impossible for women to hire men with ox-ploughs or tractors to prepare the fields for them, such as male farmers often do. The establishment of separate cooperatives for women, or the acceptance of women in male farmers cooperatives, may give women farmers access to cooperatively owned farming equipment such as tractors or animal-drawn equipment, chemical sprayers etc.
Transplanting, weeding and harvesting are often done by women, even in areas where men are considered the main food producers. When new technologies have led to increased productivity, the result has often been more work for women in performing these tasks. This may be the case when more acreage is put under the plough, or increased use of fertilizer results in more weeds. Ways and means to reduce women's work burden related to these tasks should be found. More research will be needed in this area before concrete suggestions can be made.
Literature: Carr (1978), Schumacher et al. (1980), Dey (1984a), Dey (1984b).
d) Alternative cropping patterns and combinations of food sources
A better and more efficient use of agricultural land, in terms of output relative to labour input and in terms of nutritional impact, may sometimes require a shift in food production pattern. For example, certain crops may give higher yields, higher nutritional value or higher income with relatively less labour than other crops. In highland areas of Tanzania, where maize takes 9 months to mature, it has been suggested by some researchers to put a higher emphasis on potatoes rather than maize. The argument has been that potatoes require less labour and can be harvested two or three times a year in contrast to maize. The prerequisites for such change in cropping pattern is however that the crop introduced is culturally acceptable.
As pointed out earlier, introduction of livestock or fish ponds in addition to agriculture may under certain circumstances represent a more efficient use of land and labour. It can contribute to raising women's productivity as a whole and thereby give women the means to improve the food availability of the household.
Recent research on household gardens has shown that this type of cultivation system may have the potential of producing relatively large amounts of food with marginal labour. Such gardens may also provide firewood, fodder for small livestock or raw material for handicrafts and may thus contribute to raising both the income and nutritional level of the household. In rural areas, people who for practical purposes are considered landless, may in reality often own or have access to a small piece of land, usually around their dwellings. This land may not always be fully utilized, although most people, particularly women, may try to grow some fruits and vegetables or keep small livestock in the backyard. A more intensified use of household gardens can be achieved through ecologically appropriate combinations of plants (tree crops, roots, vegetable and legumes) and animals suited for local conditions. Since gardening is usually the work of women, more effort should be made to examine the opportunities for increasing the production of food crops and animal products from household gardens, especially for the so called landless, but also for the rural poor in general.
Literature: Dey (1984a), Food and Nutrition Bulletin (1985), Chaney (1985), Martin (1983).
e) Alternative sources of income
Poor women are always looking for ways and means to earn more cash. Their possibilities for earning cash from their own farming activities may be small, especially if access to land is limited. Sometimes the promotion of income-generating activities may prove to be a better investment from a nutritional point of view than an increase in women's productive capacities within farming. Income-generating projects for women have, however, tended to have low success, because they have been launched on a small scale to individuals, without a proper analysis of market conditions and women's potentialities and constraints for participating in such projects. Experience has shown that women's participation and cooperation are necessary ingredients for a successful outcome of such projects. So are the provision of support services, such as credit, marketing and training facilities.
Women who are involved in food production through casual labour will need special considerations in agricultural programmes. This is because they tend to be the first ones to be excluded when agricultural modernisation is taking place. This may imply a choice of agricultural technologies that does not exclude job opportunities for these women who often are landless. There seem to be a tendency for these to be the first ones to be excluded when agricultural modernization is taking place. Another possibility is to provide alternative sources of income for women that are no longer needed in the agricultural labour force.
Literature: Schumacher et al. (1980), Garribaldi Accati (1983), FAO (1979), American Home Economic Assn. (1981), Wazir (1985).
f) Reducing women's total workload
In some instances the responsibilities in regard to household work may prevent women from spending more time in production. Many studies have shown that when women are relieved of domestic work burdens, they tend to spend the extra time gained on income-generating activities. Therefore, measures which can reduce women's workload have the potential to positively influence women's productivity (see point 10.1 in this chapter).
g) Improved techniques and equipment for processing storage, preservation and food preparation
Labour saving techtology (as discussed in point 10.1 in this chapter) does not only have the potential of reducing women's workload but also of rendering women more productive in their food chain activities. A higher productivity is also dependent on women's access to the resources necessary to increase the flow of food and cash through the food chain. The acquisition of appropriate knowledge and skills will be necessary to successfully utilize a new technology in the food chain.
Literature: Carr (1978), Carr (1981), Tinker (1979), Brandtzaeg (1982b).
h) Improved water and fuel provisions
Such provisions may give women more time to spend on food chain work and give the necessary resources for increasing the quantity and quality of the food available to the household (see point 10.1 b).
i) Cooperative activities
See point 10.1 d.
j) Child care facilities
See point 10.1 e.
k) Reorganization of women's work
See point 10.1 c.
l) Improved marketing opportunities
An important bottleneck to women's productivity in the food chain will often be the lack of opportunities for marketing their produce, whether it is unprocessed or processed food. This may be due to a variety of factors such as cultural norms against women's involvement in marketing, a saturated market, time constraints, long distance to market, low market prices, non-access to market, lack of credit for more large scale marketing activities, etc. Many of these problems can be solved, given proper attention and priority. Cooperative marketing activities among women seem to have greater chance of success than when women are doing this individually. Such arrangements have the advantage of pooling women's small resources, increasing their negotiating power and reducing the time and labour each individual has to spend on marketing her products.
Literature: ECA (1981), FAO (1983d).
Cultural norms and practices affect women's command over resources in the food chain and their priorities in allocation of cash and food.Possible Measures:
a) Legal changes in land ownership, inheritance and land use rights
Most often, men are the legal owners of land, while women may have use rights to land or only work with the permission of their husbands. As already mentioned, women may thus loose their use rights and access to land at divorce or widowhood. When the husband dies inheritance rules may be such that the land will be transferred to the male members of the family. Legal changes in ownership and inheritance rules are important steps towards securing women's continued access to land regardless of marital status.
It should be mentioned that legal changes may not be sufficient to secure women's access to land. Often traditional practices and norms lag behind changes in the law. Experience has shown that women still do not inherit land, even if it legally is their right. Usually attitudinal changes are needed to change such traditional practices.
As pointed out earlier, land settlement schemes should secure women's access to land by issuing deeds in the names of both husband and wife.
Literature: Palmer (1985a), Dey (1984), Onger-Hosgor (1983).
b) Find ways and means to bring about attitudinal changes among men and women
Better nutrition for women and their children cannot be achieved by only providing women with the material necessities for procuring food. Attitudinal changes are also needed if women are going to get more control of food and cash generated through the food chain activities. A change in women's priorities concerning the use of this food and cash may also be needed. In societies where women are the main providers of family basic necessities a more equitable division of labour between women and men may be needed in order to relieve women of some of the tasks that are now considered to be only their responsibility.
Upgrading of women's status through attitudinal change is a lengthy process, where one cannot hope for quick results. However, knowledge about existing sex stereotypes and to what extent these represent constraints to women's opportunities to procure food for the family and cater to their own needs, may provide a useful basis for designing development efforts that can also bring about attitudinal change. For example, training to increase women's knowledge and skills concerning the different steps in the food chain may automatically bring about attitudinal changes and increase women's authority and bargaining power vis-a-vis their men. Cooperative activities among women may have the same effect, since women may together be able to break sex stereotype barriers, that they would not be able to do individually.
A participatory approach to planning and implementation of women-oriented projects where both women and men are drawn into the process, may increase the potential for attitudinal change. When men are involved, they may show a greater understanding and willingness to support their wives activities. Women may often need their men's approval to start new activities.
Literature: Piwoz and Viteri (1985), Date-Bah and Stevens (1981).
c) Nutrition and health education to change current practices which are detrimental to women
In many societies the special nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women are not recognized. Dietary prescriptions during these physiological states may take the form of food taboos, which tend to render the diet less nutritious, rather than improving its nutritional value. Many women also continue with hard physical work during their pregnancies until the onset of labour. This may increase the chances of abortion or premature delivery, thus being detrimental both to women and the children they bear. Another problem tied to women's low status, is the practice in some countries of giving lowest priority to female children with regard to distribution of food in the household and the use of health services. The effect of such a practice is particularly detrimental in low-income families where food and cash is scarce.
Nutrition and health education aimed at tackling these problems must take into account both the cultural and the material constraints for changing such practices. For example, low food availability in the household may be a constraint to follow nutritional advice which would have contributed to a better diet for women and female children. Likewise, women may have to work hard until the onset of labour, unless they are provided with realistic opportunities for reducing their workload. Educational measures must therefore be introduced as one component in a larger "package", which also contains provisions that make change of practices a realistic alternative.
This type of education implies changing attitudes towards women. As earlier argued such change is a long process and the chance for substantial success relatively small. However, this should not be an argument against embarking on this type of development measure. The process of change must be started if more equal status between the sexes is ever going to be achieved.
Literature: Piwoz and Viteri (1985), WHO (1985).
Women's activities in the food chain may be hampered by insufficient local infrastructure and social services.Possible Measures:
a) Provision of market facilities
The lack of market facilities may deprive women of needed cash income. In section 10.3 in this chapter different measures to improve women's marketing opportunities are discussed. In addition, the existence of a local market may give women the opportunity to purchase foods that usually are not available locally but are necessary ingredients in a healthy diet.
Literature: ECA (1981).
b) Provision of roads and transport services
Roads and transport opportunities for marketing activities are essential. Women's access to vehicles for transport of their market goods are often lacking. The purchase or renting of a vehicle for transport may be accomplished on a collective basis, thus saving transport costs for individuals.
c) Provision of extension services
See point 10.3 b.
Literature: FAO (1983b), Ramakrishayya (1985).
d) Provision of communal storage facilities
See point 10.2 d.
e) Forestation programme
The lack of firewood is a critical problem in many areas. Women in such places may have to walk increasingly longer distances in order to collect firewood. Community forestation programmes could be an important measure to increase the availability of firewood for women. The possibilities for using trees that also can be harvested for food crops should be investigated. For instance, coconut trees have many uses, in that dry branches, husks and shells can be used for fuel, while the nut can be used for food, and eventually the tree itself can be used for building material.
f) Provision of water
Water is needed for almost all the tasks in the food chain. In addition to water for domestic tasks as discussed under point 10.1 b, water is needed for women's productive tasks as well. Water for cultivation and animal husbandry may be a serious constraint to higher productivity in the food chain. The possibilities for developing a communal irrigation system based on simple technology should be investigated. Such an irrigation system combined with proper water management will significantly increase women's productivity at the same time as lowering their work burden.
Literature: N'diaye (1985), Dey (1984b).
g) Provision of health care facilities and environmental sanitation
The nutritional impact of increasing women's "effectiveness" in the food chain may be marginal if the risk of infection is high and the possibility for treatment is marginal. Development efforts that aim at improving nutrition through giving women the opportunities to provide more food for themselves and their families, must also include measures that can reduce the rate of infectious diseases, otherwise one may risk wasting their efforts to improve nutrition. The vicious circle between malnutrition and infection can most effectively be broken by attacking simultaneously both the food supply side and the sanitation and health side.
Literature: Millwood and Gezelius (1985), WHO (1985).