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This content is taken from the Stockholm Environment Institute's online course, Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds As a result of the growing deregulation of agriculture and the decreasing profitability of smallholder farming, more men and younger women sought employment elsewhere beyond their farmlands. And as a result, older women stayed behind to become the farm managers. Many women who stayed behind were older. And in places– for instance, like India– preference for female agricultural labour was linked to lower wages. This means that landless women, who stayed behind when their husbands and daughters were working elsewhere outside the rural areas, they stayed where they were. But since they were landless, they had to rely on their labour to generate wages. And this, in terms of status, was a lower status for them because agricultural labour was considered an undervalued employment opportunity.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds In China, on the other hand, you had women who owned farms. But because their family members also increasingly moved away from their farms, they had to manage their farms on their own.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 seconds Unfortunately, the government does not support strongly smallholder farming. And so many of these older women are actually on their own to find resources to maintain their farms.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 seconds In Cambodia, the story is the same– men are increasingly on the move as well as younger women. And you have, like the case of China, women being farm managers with very little resources. And again, therefore, their households suffer levels of food insecurity. In Vietnam, it’s a little bit different, especially in the northern part of Vietnam in the Red River Delta area. You find, for instance, a lot of women leaving the countryside and actually engaging in petty trade as itinerant vendors in urban in areas like Hanoi. And the men are left behind. So you find a situation different from the feminisation of agriculture, in Vietnam. So there are divergent results from processes of deregulation of agriculture.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds On one hand, you have dependents and disempowerment in places like China, India, Cambodia. But you have signs of greater mobility and livelihood diversification in the case of Vietnam.

Gendered impacts of agricultural deregulation

In Week 2, we introduced the Green Revolution and the subsequent period of fiscal reform, agricultural deregulation and the removal of subsidies. Here, Dr. Bernadette Resurrección, of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre, explains how those agricultural deregulation policies have affected gender roles in different contexts across Asia.

The impacts on gender have varied. In some countries, the deregulation of agriculture has led to the “feminization” of the sector and placed additional burdens on women. In other countries, women have become increasingly mobile due to deregulation and have gained access to alternative income-earning opportunities. As Bernadette explains, it is important to consider how a specific food system-related policy can lead to divergent outcomes and unintended consequences, which we will discuss more in Week 5 of this course.

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This video is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute