The Impact of Technologies on Women in Asian Rice Farming

by Paris, T.  Book chapter from Impact of Rice Research

Pingali P, Hossain M, editors. 1998. Impact of rice research. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Impact of Rice Research, 3-5 Jun 1996, Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand Development Research Institute, Bangkok, Thailand, and International Rice Research Institute, P.O. Box 933, Manila, Philippines. 428 p.

With the introduction of the new agricultural technologies, particularly fertilizer responsive, high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, unprecedented increments in the production of food grains were seen in most rice- and wheat-producing regions. However, despite this initial success in ameliorating food problems for Asia’s fast-growing population, some researchers (Cleaver 1972, Rao 1975, Griffin and Ghose 1979) claimed that the green revolution had widened the income disparity between large and small-scale farmers, landlords and tenants, farmer-cultivators and landless families. Still other researchers pointed out the ways in which women suffered negatively from technological and socio economic changes brought on by the development process (Palmer 1975, Cain 1981, Begum1985, Sajogyo 1985).  Studies have shown that poor rural women in Asia work longer hours than men and that they are overworked (Agarwal 1985, Sajogyo 1985). However, statements in the literature on “women in development” regarding how technological change affects womenare often contradictory. Some analysts charge that poor and landless women have lost jobs and income-earning opportunities because of the adoption of direct seeding, introduction of threshers, commercial mills, and other kinds of technology, whereas other analysts clamor for technologies to eliminate drudgery or reduce women’s work burden. If technologies have reduced work opportunities, agricultural development policies will have to focus on ways of providing more rather than less work. On the other hand, the availability of too much work for too little income points to the need for labor-saving technologies to reduce the burden of working hours and/or to achieve greater productivity per working hour (White 1985).  Despite this often emotional debate on the negative impact of labor-saving rice technologies on rural women and the need for technologies to reduce women’s work burden, little research has explicitly reviewed the conditions under which specific rice technologies can help or hurt poor farm women. This paper will discuss women’s role in rice farming and specific technologies that directly affect them; the effects of technologies on different categories of women; the conditions under which women can reap the benefits of technological change; and the future roles of rural women in rice farming systems.

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About taongtanglaw

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