GENDER ROLES IN ROOTCROP LIVELIHOOD SYSTEMS AND FOOD SECURITY IN THE PHILIPPINES

by Thelma Paris, IRRI

In the Philippines, majority of the farming households cultivating unfavourable rainfed lowlands and with limited cultivable lands grow crops mainly for home consumption. Rice and corn are the main crops grown in these areas, and rootcrops are often regarded as secondary crops. However, despite their secondary importance, rootcrops play a vital role in household food security and constitute an important part of the diverse livelihood systems, particularly among the poor upland farmers. Because rootcrops are considered “secondary” crops, women who work as unpaid family workers in rootcrop cultivation are also considered “secondary” farmers. Their labour contributions are often regarded as extensions of household tasks and of secondary importance to those made by men.

Briefly, earlier studies on women’s roles in sweetpotato and arrowroot production recommended processing technologies for rootcrops (Escalada, 1988; Ancheta, 1988). Alcober (1986) examined gender roles in rootcrop production as integral components of the upland farming systems. More recent studies on gender roles in rootcrop production have been initiated by CIP-IIPWARD. These studies reveal the key roles of women in rootcrop agriculture in improving household food supply, income, nutrition and genetic conservation (Velasco, 1991; Gayao and Mula, 1992; Boncodin and Gayao, 1998; Dayo et al, 1998).

In 2001, CIP-UPWARD, with funding from FAO-RAP, Bangkok, Thailand organised several case studies focusing on gender roles in a broader framework linking gender issues with sustainable livelihood, food security and genetic conservation. This paper provides a synthesis of those roles shown in those case studies. The findings should help redefine research and development strategies that would support the roles of women in rootcrop livelihood systems. Promoting the production and use of rootcrops would potentially bring women more actively into the process of socio-economic development and thus enhance gender equity (Castillo et al, 1991).

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