Women’s Tears or Coffee Blight? Gender Dynamics and Livelihood Strategies in Contexts of Agricultural Transformation in Tanzania
What happens to rural societies when
the economic basis of their existence is suddenly transformed for the worse?
When crops on which they had relied for income and livelihoods suddenly become
worthless, or smitten by diseases whose treatment is just too expensive to
bear? And, most particularly, how are the impacts of these misfortunes mediated
by gender relations within the societies they afflict, and how do they
themselves alter gender relations?
All of them create the uncomfortable
contradiction of rich companies in the value chain profiting from northern
drinking habits while southern farmers go hungry. Ponte (2002b, p. 1099)
neatly captured the contradictions observing that:
the global coffee chain has gone
through a ‘latte revolution’, where consumers can choose from (and pay dearly
for) hundreds of combinations of coffee variety, origin, brewing and grinding
methods, flavoring, packaging, social ‘content’, and ambience. At the same
time, international prices for the raw product … are the lowest in decades.
Coffee industries in developing countries are in disarray. Coffee farmers are
losing a source of livelihood.
We do not dispute the enormous
challenges, and injustice, that this transformation of the coffee industry has
entailed. But we need properly to understand the complexity of the dynamics
results. In particular, before we can assume that the effects of these changes
are necessarily negative for all rural families, and all members of them, we
have to understand better how such dynamics play out in different contexts.
Specifically, we contend that changes
in the external economic, political, and social environments are fought over
and contested within households. Gender relations will determine what a coffee
revolution looks like on the ground. If we are to understand well the impacts
of the changing coffee economy, then we have to understand how they intersect
with intra-household dynamics.
Exploring these changes allows us to
make contributions to debates about the different dimensions of poverty and
prosperity and the importance of considering how these are contested within
et al., 2019; Orr
et al., 2014; Ossome,