Mother Earth: Women’s Role in Cacao Agroforestry Decision Process in Coastal Ecuadorwca2014-2209 Trent D. Blare 1,*Pilar Useche 1 1Food and Resource Economcis, University of Florida, Gainesville, United States
Our research examines gender relations in the Ecuadorian cacao sector. We study how the changing cultural norms and legal status in Ecuador impact women’s empowerment in rural communities. Cacao provides a particularly relevant case as it is an important cash crop in the region and has been the focus of development efforts by the Ecuadorian government, nongovernmental organizations, international donor agencies, and environmental advocacy groups. Cacao production is often the only source of cash income for many rural Ecuadorian households and traditionally the domain of men, who are often expected to manage household income and determine the economic activities of the household. Furthermore, cacao is traditionally grown in agroforests that are the last bastions of habitat for many endangered plant and animal species in the heavily deforested Ecuadorian coastal region. Thus, women’s involvement in cacao production would be an important indicator of women’s status in rural Ecuador. However, research is lacking that examines women’s roles in the agricultural decisions.
We examined gender roles through 10 focus group meetings and 400 household surveys conducted from February through July 2013. We implemented a choice experiment, which allowed us to determine the differences in women and men’s preference between agroforestry or monoculture cacao production methods. We found distinct differences between men and women in their land use preferences. Women were more likely to prefer agroforestry production methods than men were. They more concerned about food production such as raising plantains, oranges and other fruits than they were about profits. They also were more likely to prefer this production system because of the environmental benefits it provides and the ability to have diversified income sources. The opportunity to obtain bigger yields and larger profits was more important to the male participants than the other environmental and social benefits provided by the agroforestry system.