Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development by Vandana Shiva

Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development by Vandana Shiva

Author:Vandana Shiva
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Published: 2015-07-17T16:00:00+00:00


IRRI finances according to source (1961-1980)

(U.S. dollars)

In 1941, the Rockefeller Foundation established a research centre near Mexico City primarily devoted to plant breeding, that in 1961 took the name CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre). By the late 1950s the Centre created HYV wheat which later provided the basis of the green revolution in India. Private capital and global aid provided the inputs for the capital intensive, resource intensive, profit oriented farming of the green revolution.

The very meaning of agriculture was transformed with the introduction of the western green revolution paradigm. It was no longer an activity that worked towards a careful maintenance of nature’s capital in fertile soils and provided society with food and nutrition. It became an activity aimed primarily at the production of agricultural commodities for profit. With the shift in the nature of the activity came a shift in the nature of the actors; nature, women, and peasants were no longer seen as primary producers of food. The shift from thinking in the context of nature’s economy and the survival economy, to thinking exclusively in the context of the market economy, created the specificity of the hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, mechanisation and large scale irrigation. These technologies were responses to the need for maximising profits from agriculture. They were aimed neither at protecting the soil and maintaining its fertility, nor at making food available to all as a basic human right or providing livelihoods in food production. The emergence of a new breed of agricultural ‘experts’ with fragmented knowledge of individual components of the farm system, and with a total integration of this fragmented knowledge with the market system, led to the displacement of the traditional agricultural experts-women and peasants.

Women were the world’s original food producers, and continue to be central to food production systems in the Third World in terms of the work they do in the food chain. In agriculture—as in other sciences and areas of economic activity, women’s scientific and economic contribution has been obscured by the male writing of history and anthropology, and by the use of the market and profits as a patriarchal base for the evaluation of the significance of technologies. Feminist scholarship has now begun to focus on the hidden contribution of women to plant and animal domestication when human societies made a transition from gathering/ hunting to agricultural and nomadic ways of life. The paradigm of man-the-hunter based on assumptions of male dominance, competition, exploitation and aggression is slowly giving way to alternative perceptions which allow a recognition of the contribution of woman-the-gatherer, and the interdependence of the sexes in making survival possible through cooperation and nurturing. As Lee and De Vore2 have pointed out, the contribution of women to food provisioning in gathering/hunting societies was 80 percent while hunting yielded only 20 percent. Because food collection required a thorough knowledge of plant and animal growth, maturation and fruition or reproduction, women have been credited with the discovery of domestication and cultivation of plants and animals.


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