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GENDER: A KEY DIMENSION 139


informal, permanent or temporary), compensation agreements, and the possibility of combining plantation work with other agricultural and domestic activities. While mechanized farming can limit employment opportunities for local populations, some research indicates that a system of partially mechanized production—increas- ingly prevalent in plantations in Africa—can be advantageous to women. In sugar cane production, for example, machines are used for cutting the cane, the most physically challenging job, reserved for men, but the workers gather it manually. This system can create more employment and more income for women. Working conditions can substantially affect the health and nutrition of farm-


based employees. Case studies in India find that women hired in wage labor systems often encounter lower wages and worse working conditions than men, along with difficulties in negotiating for better compensation or conditions. Women who are undercompensated and overworked are less able to fulfill their role as the household providers of health and nutrition. Provision of adequate childcare facilities is also important. Without childcare, women working as laborers are often forced to take their young children into the fields, a situation that can lead to child labor and expose young children to risks of zoonotic (animal-borne) disease, harmful pesti- cides, or work related injuries. Alternatively, mothers may leave young children in the care of older children, usually girls, with negative impacts on both the care of the children and the schooling of the older girls. Large-scale agricultural systems may in some cases be better able to provide healthcare, schooling, and childcare, benefiting women and children. The use of pesticides and other agrochemicals in large-scale farms may have


serious health effects on the men and women who work as wage laborers. Even more problematic is that laborers may track residue of pesticides back into their homes and expose children or other vulnerable family members to these agrochemicals. This is especially likely when workers do not have adequate training, safety gear, or cleaning facilities. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to agrochemical exposure. Moreover, the “gendering” of tasks can lead to greater pesticide exposure for women, as in the following examples:


• A case study of biofuels plantations in Indonesia finds women are assigned the tasks of spraying and fertilizer application, and protective gear is available only at the worker’s expense (Julia and White 2010).


• In the Latin American cut-flower industry, flower workers are exposed to a vari- ety of harmful pesticides without adequate safeguards, leading to a higher than normal rate of miscarriage (Paz-y-Mino et al. 2002); women workers, who are paid on commission, spend more time in greenhouses than male workers, who possess formal contracts.


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