Case study 3
Another example is a group in a village in Mali that has established a guaranteed market for farmer’s products at above market rates, which reduces farmer’s need to sell immediately after harvest, when prices are low to pay debts for fertilizers and other tools bought on credit. In order to help support women farmers in particular, the program prioritizes women’s traditional crops, such as black-eyed peas, to increase their participation. However, their monitoring data indicates that women are not getting as much out of the program as men. Let’s work together to figure out why.
The first step was to talk to men and women about the resources they use regularly, in other words who has access to it. It is important to find out who has the right to sell or profit from these resources, in other words, who has control of it.
Land: In the village, people mainly live in compounds (du), where the eldest male household head, the dutigi, makes decisions for the entire compound and younger male household heads make domestic decisions. The dutigi assigns some of the du's fields as communal fields to be shared by everyone, and others as individual plots and allocates the fields to men and women in the du. These allocations can change between years, which makes any long-term planning difficult. The dutigi has the deciding voice about field labor, as well as the income for the du. Income from individual plots is pooled to buy food in the off season. Therefore, while the women have individual access to land, they did not have control over the plots, particularly when it comes to long term planning, even though technically the land is communal to the compound.
Equipment/Tools: Both men and women can use equipment such as plows and oxcarts, but men always get first use of them. This means the women have to wait to harvest their fields, and therefore lose some of their crop. The program had donated an oxcart to some of the women’s farmer’s organizations, but in one of the villages the village chief, whose wife was in the organization, had taken both the cart and the ox and was renting them to other farmers for a profit! Once again, women had access to a resource, but the norms around who had final control of the resource functionally reduced women’s ability to benefit from the resource.
Fertilizer: The Compagnie Malienne pour le Développement du Textile also supports cotton farmers by providing them with fertilizer. Since most cotton farmers are men, this has provided men with easy access to fertilizer, while the women had to buy extra fertilizer on credit. This means that women have to sell off some of their harvest before gaining access to the guaranteed market through this program. While women have access and control of this resource, it is harder for them to get the resource than for men to get it.
Cash: Both men and women have control of cash earned through the sale of personal items, though not to the products of their land. However, women own far fewer things outright, often only their dowry, so they do not have as much cash available to them.
Storage: In some towns participating in the program, the women farmers' organization has lost control of their storage space to other groups in town, and so have had to share space with men’s farmers’ organizations. This led to arguments over whose product was whose, with the men’s organizations taking more of the crop. Again, even though this is a communal space that women have access to, they have not been able to use it to its full potential as norms against women’s ownership means they don’t have decision-making power regarding the resource.
Cattle/Oxen: Just like with other equipment, while both men and women could access cattle and/or oxen, the men had the right to work with them first, so that women often lost some of their harvest while waiting.
Other animals: In theory, women do own other animals, like goats and chickens. However, even if they had bought the animals with their own money, husbands were responsible for vaccinating and feeding the animals, which meant that many people see these animals as the husbands’ or as joint property. This means, women often could not actually sell the animals without their husbands’ permission and support, and people often either would not buy from them, or would offer a lower price, if their husband wasn’t there for the sale.
After this analysis of resources, women and men discussed their time burdens outside of regular farming and other income generating activities, as well as what those other income generating activities are.
While both women and men have other responsibilities outside of their income generating activities, the women’s other activities were a lot more time consuming, as they have most of the domestic responsibilities, such as cleaning the house, cooking, fetching water and fuelwood, caring for children and others. Additionally, during peak labor periods they have to help with the families’ communal plots before tending to their own, which can cause loss of their own crop. For the most part, men don’t have to worry about losing crops on their plots, as theirs have priorities.