“When he comes home, then he can decide:” Feminization of agriculture and male out-migration in the Nepali mid-hills

Authors: Kaitlyn Spangler*, Virginia Tech, Maria Elisa Christie, Virginia Tech
Topics: Development, Cultural and Political Ecology, Gender
Keywords: Feminization of agriculture, male-out migration, integrated pest management, gender equity, feminist political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation draws on research conducted in Mid-Western Nepal to assess the implications of a USAID-funded integrated pest management (IPM) project. The goal was to better understand how IPM is learned, practiced, and disseminated across four communities. Through a feminist political ecology framework and using a mixed-methods approach, a team of gender researchers, a Nepali field translator and assistant, and a local agricultural field technician conducted semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation with local farmers and NGOs. This research responds to a growing interest within development in the empowering effects of the feminization of agriculture, whereby male out-migration affects social norms, household roles, and the workload of women left behind on the farm. Household decision-making, mobility, access to resources, ownership of assets, and group participation were discussed with households practicing IPM; farmers also mapped spaces that were important to learning and sharing IPM knowledge. The oversimplification of the feminization of agriculture ignores the contextual diversity of individuals, households, cultural practices, and community perceptions. Both men and women are taking on new roles in the community and within their households. In addition, household structure, geographic location, migration patterns, new agricultural practices, and involvement in community activities contribute to the complexity of household labor management and decision-making. We contend that the heterogeneity of household power dynamics and gendered labor responsibilities muddies the potentially empowering or disempowering effects of the feminization of agriculture.

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