How can we ensure that health, food systems, and sustainable agricultural systems mutually reinforce one another?

Commercializing Agriculture–Reorganizing Gender

Workshop Area A 301 September 7, 2017 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

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Elisabeth Prügl1, Katia Covarrubias1, Christophe Gironde1, Seng Suon2, Dzodzi Tsikata3, Fred Dzanku3, Kristina Lanz4

1Graduate Institute, Switzerland; 2CENTDOR, Cambodia; 3University of Ghana; 4University of Bern


Contemporary international development policies not only have rediscovered the role of agriculture in alleviating poverty and ensuring food security, but are also demanding an integration of women and the elimination of gender inequality. Women contribute to food availability as producers, to food accessibility as income earners, and to ensuring balanced nutrition for families through their reproductive labour. Gender inequality hinders women’s productivity and income-earning potential, and it lessens their influence in setting nutritional priorities for their families and communities. Sometimes forgotten in these recognitions of women and gender relations are macro-economic commitments to a commercialization of agriculture, including the creation of land markets. Yet these commitments have decisive effects, structuring food security outcomes and political processes in a profoundly gendered way.

The panel uses a gender perspective to examine how the contemporary acceleration of a commercialization of agriculture affects rural livelihoods and reorganizes gender relations. Papers will report first results from the Demeter project on “Land Commercialization, Gendered Agrarian Transformation, and the Right to Food,” which traces the gendered livelihood implications of multiple forms of agricultural commercialization. The papers are based on extensive interviews and surveys in case communities in Ghana and Cambodia. They map changes in rural livelihoods in two rapidly developing economies and explore changes in food security outcomes. They constitute first drafts of papers to be published either in an edited book or a special issue of a journal.

The panel contributes to the first conference theme: “How can we ensure that health, food systems, and sustainable agricultural systems mutually reinforce one another to better support people’s livelihoods and well-being?” The Demeter project starts from the premise that respecting rights is a key pathway to ensuring food security. Whether rights are secured needs to be measured among other things by outcomes, which we assess through our studies of livelihoods. By documenting the differential impact of processes of commercialization on women and men, we hope to show that agrarian systems can better support livelihoods and wellbeing if they secure basic rights.