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Women in Agriculture and Rural Life: An International Bibliography
Part I. Women on the Land: International

Published to coincide with the Second International Conference on Women in Agriculture, Washington D.C., USA June 28-July 2, 1998

Special Reference Briefs Series no. SRB 98-02 (Part I. International.)
ISSN: 1052-536X

Compiled by:
Anne B. Effland
Economic Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Mary Gold
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
National Agricultural Library
Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture

June 8, 1998


Over the last 25 years, the role of women in agriculture has become a familiar and well-developed subject. Whereas once small groups of women met at local and regional conferences to examine the roles of women on farms and in agricultural development and to bring attention to their importance, today the Second International Conference on Women in Agriculture, organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and held in Washington, DC, offers over 100 sessions on three separate tracks, with speakers from every continent.

Broadly speaking, the early studies legitimized the idea of women as productive partners in agriculture, discovering and documenting the various roles played by women as farmers, farm wives, and agricultural professionals and recounting the stories of successful women in these roles. Research that began to appear in the 1980's and continues in the 1990's has expanded the discovery process to more areas of the world, applying increasingly sophisticated methodologies of the social sciences to the study of women's roles and contributions to agriculture.

Many researchers have also begun to include rural and farm women as participants in determining the directions of new studies, in an effort to assure some tangible benefits come from the work. Given the level of interest evidenced by participation in the Second International Conference on Women in Agriculture, the new millennium promises continued expansion and refinement of our understanding of women in agriculture. We can also expect a growing need to apply that understanding to the increasingly complex and global challenges of food production, farm structure, and rural development.

We have learned a great deal in a short time about women's roles and experiences of agriculture and rural life. Fundamental among our discoveries has been the certainty that women farm, on their own in some cases, or as partners in the work of family farms, performing essential household production tasks, as well as tending gardens, livestock, and assisting in the fields as needed. Indeed, we have learned that in many cultures women are the farmers, on whom families and communities depend for food production. We have also learned that women often help support family farm operations or their households through paid farm work for others, or through off-farm and nonfarm businesses or paid employment.

From this knowledge has come further research and discussion of issues such as women's access to land and credit; the effects of policies, programs, and laws on farm and rural women; the consequences of changes in farm structure for the roles of women; the connections between support of the needs of farm and rural women and poverty and low-income rural households; and the implications of cultural, ethnic, and racial differences on the needs of women on farms. More recently has come discussion of rural and farm women as important players in successful approaches to food security and in the development and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.

Much research of the past two decades has focused on recognition and empowerment of women in agriculture--as farmers, workers, professionals, and within households. For women in developed countries, the focus has largely been on identifying and removing barriers to full participation in the work and rewards of agriculture and rural development, and on recognizing and developing women's leadership as scientists, teachers, program agents, and in voluntary organizations. For women in developing countries, however, the focus has often been on the shortcomings of international agricultural development programs. Many studies have analyzed the implications for successful development programs and policies of incorporating an accurate understanding of women's roles in agricultural systems, and of involving women as leaders and professionals in the transfer of new technologies and practices.

More recently, studies of women in international development have also begun to analyze the effects of programs and policies on women directly. Although perhaps a subtle change in perspective, the new approach moves beyond analyzing the ways in which understanding women's roles can make agricultural and rural development programs work more effectively, to analyzing whether some kinds of development programs should not be implemented because of their potential detrimental effects on women's roles.

The works cited in this bibliography are drawn from the National Agricultural Library's AGRICOLA database. AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) is a bibliographic database consisting of literature citations for journal articles, monographs, serials, theses, patents, proceedings, audiovisual materials, software, electronic documents, and technical reports. As well as an index, AGRICOLA is also a locator system for materials contained in the collection of the National Agricultural Library, the largest collection of agricultural literature in the world. Available since 1970, this database presently contains over 3 million records. Older materials are being added to AGRICOLA regularly with the objective of eventually including the entire collection. You will see this reflected in the many pre-1970 materials cited in this bibliography

The database search strategy for Women in Agriculture and Rural Life entailed using a variety of keywords and database-specific subject codes. Database coverage was January 1970 through March 1998. The materials cited in this bibliography are limited to those in English, or with English summaries. For details on the search, see Appendix A.

The bibliography is organized by three subject categories: "women on the land", "women as agricultural professionals", and "bibliographies and non-print media". Each of the three subject categories is further divided into seven geographical designations: North America (including Mexico), South America (including Central America and the Caribbean), Europe (including Russia/Soviet Union), Asia (including the Pacific Islands), Africa, Australia/New Zealand, and International. Users will also find author indices at the end of the bibliography.

The category "women on the land" was initially divided into three categories--women as farmers and farmworkers, women in farm families, and rural nonfarm women--but we quickly discovered, as have many who study the lives of rural and farm women, that these categories are deeply intertwined. Separating works on women as farmers from those on women in farm families or on rural nonfarm women was virtually impossible and not likely to be very useful. Most studies analyze the interactions of a range of roles played by women, especially combining women's farm work with household and family tasks and with nonfarm wage or volunteer work. Moreover, the terms "rural" and "farm" are often used interchangeably, especially in the international development literature, making it difficult to accurately separate works on farm women from works on rural nonfarm women.

As a result, the bulk of the citations in this bibliography fall into the large category "women on the land." Users will find studies on women's work as independent farmers, farm managers, and farm landlords, and as both paid and unpaid agricultural workers, within the family or for neighbors or unrelated employers. The category includes studies on women's household work on family farms and in families of farmworkers, and women's roles as farm wives and mothers.

Research on women's off-farm employment and nonfarm businesses, women's activities in farm and rural organizations, and women's education in both agricultural technologies and nonfarm employment skills is also included under "women on the land", as are studies on women's role in farm structure, sustainable agriculture, rural development programs, and food security issues. Some citations are clearly about nonfarm rural women, but most of these relate to employment and other rural development issues that could affect farm women as well. Although the category is very broad, we hope the geographical subdivisions will help users focus on items of particular interest to their own research.

The category "women as agricultural professionals" includes research on women's experiences as vocational agriculture teachers; agricultural economists and engineers; botanists and entomologists; foresters and conservationists; extension home economists; and veterinarians. It also includes studies of the educational programs that produce such professionals and the attitudes of various professions and professional societies towards their women members. The category "bibliographies and non-print media" contains citations for both general works and items that would fall in other categories except for their format. Users should check this category for coverage of the subject matter of interest to them.

The authors wish to thank their respective USDA agencies for their support in compiling this bibliography. We also thank Abiola Adeyemi, AFSIC staff, for his patient and careful database editing; and Rebecca Thompson, NAL Information Center Branch Staff, for technical advice and help. Special thanks go to Jane Potter Gates, AFSIC Coordinator, for originating and organizing this project, and for her steadfast encouragement.

Anne B.W. Effland
Mary V. Gold
June 1998

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