One of the research papers I read this weekend was by agriculture economists, Marnus Gouse, Debdatta Sengupta, Patricia Zambrano, and José Falck Zepeda published in World Development, a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal, in July 2016. It assesses whether men and women farmers derive different benefits from using genetically modified (GM) maize in South Africa.

While GM crops were introduced in 1996 in the United States, with several countries following through in the years after, in South Africa, the first commercial GM maize was planted in 200/01. Since then, the maize area plantings in the country is over 85%.

There have been several writings about the contributions of GM maize in improving yields and also other non-yields benefits, as well as cost-savings from herbicides and pesticides which I highlighted in a Business Day today (see here). But there hasn’t been much research on the gender question that Gouse et al. (2016) focuses on. The study draws from data collected from smallholder farmers in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa. It trenches over a period of eight seasons.

In brief, the study found that men preferred GM maize because of yield benefit (higher yields). Meanwhile, women farmers had a different motivation. They planted GM maize because of the quality and taste of maize (this surprised me), as well as because of it being labour-saving (women farmers save in weeding time).

Overall, what this research reveals is that men and women farmers in South Africa derive differentiated benefits from the cultivation of GM maize, at least from a perception point of view. This can be summed up by; growing GM maize means less work for her and more maize for him.

Download Gouse et al. (2016) paper here.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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