Gender, household decision-making, and invasive pest management in a rural Ethiopian community

Authors: Maria Elisa Christie*, Virginia Tech, Daniel M. Sumner, Virginia Tech, Lidya Alemayhu, Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, Tesfay Amare, Ambo University (Ethiopia), Wondi Mersie, Virginia State University
Topics: Development, Gender, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Household decision-making, pest management, feminist political ecology, gender, Ethiopia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation explores the intersection of labor, gender, livelihoods, and pest management. We document how gender relations, norms, and attitudes determine how women and men make decisions about and are involved in managing invasive agricultural weeds, as well as potential gender differentiated impacts. In Boset district (Woreda), Ethiopia, the invasive plant Parthenium hysterophorus L. is adversely affecting rural livelihoods, reducing agricultural productivity, biodiversity, livestock health, and income generation. In response to these growing challenges, a research-for-development program is developing biological control methods using natural insect enemies as an ecologically viable, cost-effective, and environmentally safe approach to manage Parthenium. Through a feminist political ecology perspective, we conducted individual, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions to explore the lived daily experiences of men and women in the context of this development intervention. Our preliminary findings suggest that farmers perceive managing Parthenium as a “family affair,” whereby all household members are mobilized to control the weed; one respondent indicated that, “a husband and wife should be one person,” regarding household decision-making. However, a heterogeneity of factors influences these decision-making processes, including age, education, and experience working with NGOs, as well as the enactment of patriarchal values. Gender plays a crucial role in earning income as well as determining how this income is allocated. Therefore, in the context of new pest management practices, the gendered nuances, social influences, and heterogeneity of households are vital considerations for developing a gender-responsive outreach strategy for communicating and supporting alternative pest management.

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