Gender Roles in Agricultural Production among the Sidama of Southwestern Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


The study finds out that hoe-cultivation has been and continues to be the dominant system of agriculture ill Sidama. Ilowcver, at present peasants in some parts of the Sidama have adopted plough cultivation. This study reveals that irrespect ive of the farming techniques used men playa pivotal ro le in both food and coffee production. Iloeing/pioughing, ferti lizing, sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting are the major agricultural operations carried out by men. Women, on the other hand, are mainly invo lved in manuring and processing the Sidama's important staple, cnset. Thus, the study argues that Boserup's ( 1970) generalized account of women's dominance in hoc system of agriculture does not hold true for the Sidama. The study reveals that, in Sidama, the gender divi sion of labor in agricultural production persists over a century's dramatic socio-economic and political transfonnation. The Sidama undcrwent changes, among others, in the customary tenure system, cropping patterns and agricultural technology. Despite these changes long- establi shed gender roles remain unchanged. In addition, this thesis exhibits an identical gender-based division of labor in both coffee and food v producing areas on the one hand, and in hoe and plough cultivation areas on the other. Thus, the findings of this study suggest that the types of agricultural technology, land tenure system and cropping patterns do not adequately explain the pattern of gcnder roles in agricultural production. Before land became a scarce resource polygyny was the dominant form of marriage in Sidama. At present monogamy is the major type or marriage. Ilowever, some Sidama men who have large and dispersed plots of land sti ll practise polygyny. The persistence of polygyny can be attributed to the Sidama's heavy reliance on cnsct production in which women are indispensable mainly in manuring and processing it and Sidama mcn's strong desire for many chi ldrcn. This thesis argues against the proposition that claims the existence of a relationship between bridcwealth and women's dominance in agricultural production. Bridewealth is the only form of marriage payment in Sidama, but men are important actors in agricultural production. Bridegroom's parents transfer eash to the bride's parents not in exchangc for women's agrieultura llabour. The study argues that bridewealth payment in the study area mainly entails the transfer of exclusive righ ts to a husband and his kinsmen over children.



Gender Roles in Agricultural Production