The University of Arizona

Gender and management of crop diversity in The Gambia

Edwin Nuijten


It is sometimes argued that women play a more important role in seed and diversity management than men, and that women have greater abilities in managing crop diversity. In The Gambia, men and women also have the belief that women are better in managing and identifying varieties than men. This article focuses on the role of gender in farmer management of crop diversity in two crops, rice which is cultivated by women and pearl millet which is cultivated by men. First a historical overview is given of the role of gender in farming. The management of crop diversity in rice and millet and gendered knowledge in The Gambia is described in detail. Lastly, a grouping experiment with rice panicles and millet spikes is described. The article shows that clear differences exist between the farming practices of men and women, and these are based on a complex interplay of socio-economic and agro-ecological factors. But the differences in seed selection practices of men and women are small, and those differences that exist can best be explained by a complex of agroecological factors and rice and millet characteristics. The grouping experiment showed no significant differences in the way men and women grouped rice panicles and millet spikes. Together these findings suggest that the supposedly better skills of women in crop variety management are related to their gender identity rather than to any biological differences. Instead of taking the supposedly strong skills of women in seed and variety management as a starting point for agricultural development, it is better to understand the underlying mechanism that keep women in disadvantaged positions in rural societies and to try to change these mechanisms for their benefit.

Key words: The Gambia, gender, agricultural labor, crop variety management 

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