Growing burdens? Disease-resistant genetically modified bananas and the potential gendered implications for labor in Uganda
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How will the adoption of genetically modified (GM) staple crops reconfigure labor processes in Sub-Saharan Africa? This article focuses on Uganda, where GM varieties of matooke (cooking bananas), the country’s primary carbohydrate staple, are expected to be commercialized within the next few years. The paper draws on survey data and focus groups with a random sample of over one hundred and fifty growers to investigate the potential ways a variety engineered to be resistant to banana bacterial wilt (BBW) might impact labor dynamics. A BBW resistant GM variety will displace labor currently allocated to disease prevention and control, and increase the labor required for harvesting higher yields. How farmers can address the need for more harvesting labor varies significantly according to region. In the southwestern highlands, producers can increase their portion of hired labor. In the central and eastern regions, where farms tend to be smaller and subsistence-oriented, farmers are more likely to intensify their use of unpaid family labor, particularly that of wives. Hence, while GM technology may result in increased yields for small-scale farmers in Uganda, this is likely to come at the cost of intensifying the agricultural labor burdens of women in the central and eastern region.
KeywordsGenetically modified crops Banana Uganda Labor Gender
Agriculture development and investment strategy plan 2010/11–2014/15
Banana bacterial wilt
UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs
National Agricultural Research Organization
New rice for Africa
United states dollars
Our primary thanks go to the farmers who gave up their time to share their insights with us. This research could not have been completed without the exemplary work of our Ugandan research team, Sarah Mujabi-Mujuzi, Tonnie Mirro, and Rodgers Atwooki. Sean P. Mackinnon (savvystatistics.com) was the statistical consultant for this paper. We greatly appreciate his assistance with the data analyses. We also appreciated the comments from two anonymous reviewers.
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