Women in agricultural research and production
Keywords:  Gender, Governmental organization, Participatory approaches, Philippines, Human resources.
Correct citation: nn. (1999), "Editorial: Women in agricultural research and production." Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 37, p. 2-3.

The sub-theme of this issue deals with an underrepresented topic at the Monitor: women in agriculture. The lack of coverage has much to do with the lack of gender perspective in most agricultural research, as Howard points out. Yet reality reflects a great contradiction where there is a growing ‘feminization of agriculture’ as exemplified in China (see Song). This phenomenon is reflected by the dramatic increase in the number of female farmers, and the significant shift of agricultural workload to women, as can be seen in Asia. The near absence of participation by female farmers’ in formal agricultural research has striking similarities with the lack of decision making power of female scientists in agricultural research. An interesting study has been conducted by the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), authored by Brush, Merill-Sands et al. in 1995 on "Women Scientists and Managers in Agricultural Research in the Philippines". In the Philippines, 54 per cent of scientists in the public sector agricultural research are women. Apparently, this figure constitutes one of the highest in the world. As a case study, the issues raised in the Philippines could be of relevance to other countries where there is an increase in women’s participation in agricultural science.
Despite the high proportion of women scientists in the Philippines, they remain severely underrepresented in the senior scientific and management positions, which remain the men’s domain. This has a critical effect, since agricultural research in the Philippines, and throughout the world for that matter, has a very top-down hierarchy. Hence, despite their number, Filipino women scientists have limited influence on the research agenda. Similarly, in the feminization of agriculture in China, female farmers, despite their number, have no influence over the agricultural technology developed by the formal research sector. The material and cultural conditions for this notable parallelism of female farmers and female scientists are indicated by the following: Firstly, the economic necessities, particularly in developing countries, dictate that both men and women work in order to support their households. This is true for farmers in China and for agricultural researchers in the Philippines. Secondly, the perception of women’s inferior status in relation to men limits women’s income opportunities. In China, rural women do not have the mobility to take advantage of better employment opportunities in the urban areas. In Filipino agricultural research, while men generally accept women as their colleagues, they still have difficulty in accepting women as their superior or line managers. Hence, women have to negotiate major obstacles if they are to be promoted as senior scientists or managers. Thirdly, the perceived inferior status of agriculture reflects largely on women. In China, agriculture is considered inferior compared with employment in industry. In the Philippines, public sector agricultural research is viewed as inferior in terms of prestige and income compared to other fields of employment in the private sector. Hence, for both countries, agricultural production and public agricultural research are only either fall-back positions or supplementary income support. Fourthly, the double burden of women remains unaddressed and hinders their positions. Chinese female farmers and Filipino female scientists both have to take care of household and farming and household and career, respectively.
Despite all these similarities, the question remains: would the participation of female farmers in agricultural research and development be greatly improved by increasing the number of women scientists in senior and management positions? The answer is no, as long as institutional barriers still exist. If the top-down, male dominated research paradigm is not addressed, then women in senior scientist or management positions will still have the same restrictions and will tend merely to mimic their male counterparts. Changing the conventional research paradigm would mean changing the decision making structure and the power positions that go with it. Consequently, research must also be decentralized to extend decision making to farmers, and especially to women farmers, since they are even less empowered than their male counterparts, but are equally, if not even more, involved in agriculture. Moreover, gender perspective in agricultural research needs to be institutionalized.

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