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Abstract

It is widely believed that commercialization and mechanization of food crops lead to disempowering women as men take over control from women. We argue that women are not necessarily discontent in the face of the agrarian transformation. By collecting sex-disaggregated panel data and applying a ‘women’s crop tool’, we analyze and rethink the implication of agricultural commercialization for intra-household gender relation among smallholder farmers through research on groundnut producers in southern Africa, where groundnut is largely regarded as a ‘women’s crop’. In addition to examining the effect of commercialization in Zambia and Malawi, small-scale post-harvest mechanization was provided experimentally to selected farmers in Zambia. The panel regression results show that commercialization did not lead to disempowering women in either country, which is consistent with the qualitative discussions with farmers held before the baseline surveys. Furthermore, by combining PSM and DID methods, it was found that machine shelling did not disempower women farmers either. The finding provides insights into how gender relation among smallholders is affected at the initial stage of commercialization and mechanization of ‘women’s crops’.

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