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Renegotiating gender roles and cultivation practices in the Nepali mid-hills: unpacking the feminization of agriculture

  • Kaitlyn SpanglerEmail author
  • Maria Elisa Christie
Article

Abstract

The feminization of agriculture narrative has been reproduced in development literature as an oversimplified metric of empowerment through changes in women’s labor and managerial roles with little attention to individuals’ heterogeneous livelihoods. Grounded in feminist political ecology (FPE), we sought to critically understand how labor and managerial feminization interact with changing agricultural practices. Working with a local NGO as part of an international, donor-funded research-for-development project, we conducted semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation with over 100 farmers in Mid-Western Nepal in 2017. Household structure and headship are dynamic in the context of male out-migration, pushing women to take on new agricultural duties and increasing household labor responsibilities. In this context, decision-making processes related to agricultural management and new cultivation practices illustrate ongoing renegotiations of gender and cultivation practices within and beyond the household. We contend that the heterogeneity of household power dynamics muddies the empowering impacts of migration and emphasize the importance of community spaces as a locus of subjectivity formation and social value. We conclude that FPE can illuminate complexities of power, space, and individual responses to socio-ecological conditions that challenge the current feminization of agriculture framework.

Keywords

Feminization of agriculture Migration Collective spaces Integrated pest management Feminist political ecology 

Abbreviations

AVIPMIL

Asia Vegetable Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

CBF

Community-based facilitator

FGD

Focus group discussion

FPE

Feminist political ecology

GDF

Gender dimensions framework

iDE

International Development Enterprises

IPM

Integrated pest management

IPMIL

Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

MWR

Mid-Western Region of Nepal

NGO

Non-governmental organization

NPR

Nepalese Rupees

USAID

United States Agency for International Development

VDCs

Village Development Committees

WEAI

Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research would not be possible without the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPMIL) under Cooperative Agreement Number AID-OAA-L-15-00001. The opinions expressed herein belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. We would like to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions. We are grateful to our field team, including our translator and dear friend, Ms. Lina Jha, and the logistical personnel at iDE Nepal, including Mr. Mukti Devkota, Mr. Lalit Sah, Ms. Roshnee Thapa, Mr. Den Lopchan, Mr. Yubraj Dhakal, and Mr. Bharat Nepal, as well as the agricultural field technician, Mr. Chokra Rai. We would like to thank Dr. Ralph Hall and Dr. Luke Juran for their advice and wisdom and Dr. George Norton for his leadership in the IPMIL. Ultimately, we owe everything to the willingness of the farmers and participants involved in this research.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment and SocietyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Center for International Research, Education, and DevelopmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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