Gender Issues

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 339–350 | Cite as

A Study on the Impact of Commodity Changes to the Role and Strategy of Women’s Livelihood

  • PurbowoEmail author
  • Slamet Widodo
Original Article


Changes in economic structure and employment opportunity are seen in the agricultural sector that was originally Labor Intensive to Capital Intensive. The objective of this study is to know the women’s role in the farming of food commodities and sugar cane commodities as well as the impact of commodity changes on the role and strategy of women’s livelihood. This study is qualitative descriptive using Gender Framework Analyze. The results of the study show that the productive activity of women labor of food crops is involved in all farming activities including land cultivation, nursery, maintenance, and harvesting. Unlike sugar cane farming, women labor is only involved in maintenance. Reproductive activity is fully borne by the women. It is likewise social activities that always involve the role of women in every activity. The impacts of commodity changes on the role aspect include the subordination of women’s work, the marginalization of women and stereotyping of women’s work. In addition, the impacts on the livelihood strategy aspect include the loss of traditional activities i.e. golek mbes, golek entong, golek godong jati, ngasak, mbangkong and golek laron which are currently replaced with the emergence of new livelihoods of the paper industry.


Women Social change Agriculture Livelihood 


The projection of Indonesian people per June 2014 is 252,164.8 thousand people in the growth rate of 1.40%. Looking the composition by sex, there are men 126,715.2 and women 125,449.6 thousand people [5]. Meanwhile, the labor participation rate of men is 85% and women 53%. This difference rate reflects a gender disparity about 31.6%. Consequently, many women shift to productive work because access to their education and training too easy and legally by local tradition than the previous generation as the impact of structural-social change, so it is estimated by 2019 the gender gap will be reduced [9].

Agriculture sector became the largest employer absorption up to 38.69 million people in 2010. But, each year experienced a decrease in the number of absorbed labor that only reaches 35.76% in 2014. Nevertheless, the productivity of food crops each year increased as rice in an average of 0.60%, corn 2.87%, and soybean 3.25% per year. Besides, the sugar cane increased up to 7.24% per year. However, it is possible to decline in agricultural sector productivity in future. This based on the availability of land for agriculture which annually decreases by 100,000 hectares per year likewise young workers are also very difficult to find. In fact, rural youths prefer to work in the industrial sector than agricultural sector that caused the migration of the youth villagers [18].

Changes in economic structure and employment are seen in the agricultural sector that was a labor-intensive shift to capital intensive. The population of the farmers will decrease due to the increasing price of agricultural input. The shift of the labor of agricultural sector to non-agricultural industries leads to immature transformation as a consequence of industrialization [4].

The sociological perspective raises a gender study in answering the basic questions of feminism “what about women?; why is this all the way?; how can it be changed to produce a more just society?; and what about the differences among women?”. While the major periods of feminist mobilization are often referred to as “waves” consisting of the first, second and third waves in which each wave has certain streams. The first wave began in the era of 1830, which began the movement of anti-slavery and dotted the struggle of women in the right to vote (political). The second wave took place in 1960–1990 talking about economic and social equality and reconceptualizing between men and women called “Gender”. The third wave describes the invisibility, inequality and role differences in relation to men that generally characterize women’s lives by her class, race, age, affectional preference, marital status, religion, ethnicity, and global location [12, 13].

Farm women need to be fostered and empowered as receiving systems to accelerate the technology transfer process. It is necessary to review the action and revitalization of extension work mechanisms to better involve women farmers in accelerating technology adoption [24]. To improve women’s presence in leadership roles, including considerations for methodological approaches, leadership approaches and roles research, types of leadership, cultural change, and education [21]. The country will not achieve sustainable development with the recognition of only men’s participation in all these areas [3].

Female-headed farm households have lower irrigation costs but women are less efficient in farming but are more likely to adopt improved seed varieties [19]. Household’s age, household size, the structure of land ownership and gender were positive drivers of poverty among rural farming households [1]. Besides, the participation of females was influenced by the adult number of females in the household, daily non-farm wage, time spent on housework and frequency of contact with extension agency with challenges of high operational costs, and poor packaging on the enterprise in the area [6].

The objectives of this study describe the difference between the role of women in food crop farming and sugar cane farming and its impact on rural social and economic life. Women’s roles in farming include productive activities, reproductive activities, and social activities. But, her roles are shifting were originally food crops to shift to sugar cane. Therefore, it has the impacts on the activity of female laborers in both commodities.

Research Method and Framework Used

This study has been conducted in Ngampel village, sub-district of Ngusikan, Jombang Regency, east java. Timing and location are chosen purposively. Samples were taken as many as 30 people consisting of 1 key informant and 29 respondents. This study used data primary obtained through questionnaires and in-depth interviews. The analysis used qualitative descriptive with Gender Framework Analysis (GFA) to see determine the different impact development interventions have on women and men, by providing a community-based technique for identifying and analyzing gender differences [16] (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

A framework used. Change of commodity caused by three factors such as economic aspect, environmental aspect and technical aspect [2]. Besides, there are two differences characteristics between food crops and sugar cane that make impacts of women’s role.

Source: primary data processed

Result and Discussion

Women’s Role in Food Crops and Sugar Cane Farming

Productive activities in food crops and sugar cane experience differences seen from the workload. The role of women labor in food crops is equivalent to 50% of male labor, but gender inequality occurs in sugar cane farming which dominated by men’s role of 65.2% and women only 34.8%. Besides, [7] argue that females account for 56% and 45% of the increase in the gender wage gap over the life cycle. In addition, [15] said that the significant reductions in gender wage gaps observed among young workers can be attributed to a policy of increasing minimum wage levels.

Land Cultivation

The food crop has an average land area of only 0.6 hectares while the sugar cane is up to 10 hectares. Differences in the average land area cause the difference labor workload on the cultivation of food crop land of 66.7% men and 33.3% women. Because the lack of capital and access to finance, the women also bear the dual role as a house women (reproductive) and as a labor of land cultivation (productive). The role of women in the land cultivation of food crops is by hoeing.

In addition [17] said that women’s economic empowerment contributed to their strengthened capacity for adaptive governance in the household due to decision-making power about land use. According to [14] there are three retained principal components and provide an information-rich tool that the government can use in decision making, policy formulation and the integrated planning of land use, thereby enabling the identification of both hotspots and which issues should be prioritized.

In contrast to sugarcane farmers who did not involve the women to cultivate the land because it is too large and takes a long time if only done by the human, therefore they should use mechanization. In addition, land cultivation is only conducted once in three periods because of the seeds of the previous year. It is described that wages and working conditions of jobs in sugar cane farming are found to be poorer compared to rice farming. Sugarcane farming may experience a lack of laborers in the future which may lead to more mechanization [11].


The food crops have a difference in the nursery of either rice, corn or peanut. The rice farmers use two nursery techniques that are beds and wooden aids. The beds are wet soil while the wooden aids is done on dry land. The beds involve the role of men and women in a balanced 50% each other. The men perforate the ground by spiked wood while the women are to fill the hole with 2–5 seeds of rice then flatten it with soil.

Instead, the sugar cane is also divided into two techniques namely newly/replanting (tanjan) and grow back (keprasan) for 3 years or more without replanting, so the role of women is useless here. According to [22] sugarcane plant can last up to 2–3 times without harvesting risk.


The food crops maintenance consist of weeding and fertilization that begins when the rice is 3 days old. Then, to overcome the weeds, the farmers pull the grass manually that local called dadak. Next, fertilization is divided into 2 schedules, first when the rice is 1–2 weeks old and second when a month old. This activity is dominated by women as much as 66.7% and men only 33.3%.

In comparison, maintenance of sugar cane is also dominated by the role of women as much as 66,7% in the activities of fertilization and stripping of dried leaves while the men are only in the second at least 33.3%. The first step is to fertilize the sugar cane after the bud grows 1 month old in a height of 60 cm. Next, to increase the production of sugar cane, stripping of dried leaves are required for two times a month until harvesting has come. Finally, the step is stripping, dried leaves use the long sickle that local name called bantol, may be held along weeding.


The harvesting of food crops has the distinction between rice, corn, and peanut. Harvesting of the rice is called Ani-ani by the local villagers as part of social activities. The meaningful tradition in an expression of gratitude to the God of blessing in an abundance of rice crops that it is ready to be harvested. The composition laborers who are recruited to harvest are those who have worked since nursery until maintenance by men and women in 50% each other. Wages also are given in barter or local name called bawon when the harvest has done. Everyone will get 20 kg of grain by every a quintal of the crop.

Conversely, the harvesting of sugar cane is fully done by the men because it requires a lot of power and uses heavy equipment. The field is broader than food crops, so it requires strong power and stamina. It’s also mean that the women are uninvolved at all here. Wages are given in cash money as much as IDR 50.000 per day. In addition, the laborers also received coffee, cigarette, and lunch by the landowner.

Reproductive Activity

The reproductive activities consist of cooking, cleaning house, parenting, looking for firewood, washing the clothes and shopping. There is no difference in reproductive activity of women in food crop and sugar cane farming. In fact, differences in the duration of reproductive activity in each household.

Cooking activity is fully done by the women to meet daily needs in the household. It makes her wake up early to prepare the breakfast for her children and men. The women’s routine begins at 03.30 a.m to 05.00 a.m local time. Next, cleaning the house that is also fully done by the women. It will be done twice a day in the morning and afternoon. Then, the parenting, the 3rd women’s reproductive activity, bathe the child, preparing clothes and lunch. So the women begin their productive activity at 06.00 to 10.00 a.m in the field, take a rest time at 10.01–12.00 a.m. During the rest time, the women also washing the clothes that have been soaked since the morning before going to the field. They continue to work at 13.00–16.00 p.m. Last, the women also prefer shopping in peddler than go to the market because of limited time and expense. They only shop daily need consist of vegetables, meats, herb, and spices. However, they haven’t freezer to make it more durable.

Social Activity

The villagers of Ngampel village are entirely Muslim, so the social culture is highlighted by Islamic values. In this activity, people not only raise religious rituals, but also have the opportunity to exchange information on agriculture, labor, and education.

The social activities undertaken by the men will certainly involve the women in preparation such as tahlilan, kundangan, kenduren, gerak-an, which is men as the main participant while the women involved to prepare the dish. It is in contrast to social activities conducted by the women who do not involve the men such as yasinan in which the preparation of the full implementation is done by her without the involvement of the men (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2

Daily activity of women during 24 h. It was taken by daily log activities of women farmers.

Source: primary data processed

So it can be said that the role of women to work more than household activities. This scene by the average percentage in a day for productive activity 45% (407 min), reproductive activity 26% (253 min), and social activity 1% (13.71 min). The social activity does not perform every day, but only once a week. The percentage of women laborers to take a rest is 28% (270 min) that is the free time outside the sleeping time at night, reproductive and social activities (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3

Mapping social impacts of commodity change that has make triangle of gender inequality.

Source: primary data processed

The Impact of Commodity Changes of Foods Crops into Sugar Cane

The first industrialization happened in the 1970s where the wetland availability for food crops was reduced due to the expansion of the sugar industry in need of sugar cane as a raw material. The sugar factory of Gempolkerep of Mojokerto regency establishes a partnership with the farmers who have a land of ≥ 1 hectares. When the food crops shift to sugar cane farming, there is a shift in social values and social roles as the impact of an expansion of the sugar industry. So, there was a social gap in gender between sugarcane farmers and food crops farmers.

Food crops farming requires the role of women in land cultivation, nursery, maintenance, and harvesting. While on sugar cane farming, the role of women is only needed in the nursery. The shifting of seasonal crops to annual crops causes the women choose another livelihood in order to increase their lives such as working in the paper industry. Unfortunately, if the woman loses a job because of commodity change that makes her as unemployment.

The second industrialization began in 2012 when the entry of the paper industry from PT. Tjiwi Kimia which need bulk labor. It is freelance work that anyone is free to join without any requirements. The wages are given by each product neither the paper bag nor the spiral book with a wage of IDR 25; hence, this work is done entirely by women in accordance with their characters that tend to be tenacious.

Consequently, working in the agricultural sector is more profitable than in the paper industry which is uncertain depending on target and time. Working in agricultural sector may earn wage until IDR 40.000 a day but the paper industry is only IDR 25.000 with target result of 800–1000 book products.

The Impact of Women’s Role

Social changes to women’s role in rural communities have an impact that described by a triangle of gender inequality including subordination, marginalization, and stereotype. Subordination to decision making in Sugarcane farming is different with food crops. The role of women tends to be subordinated by not being involved at all with either access or control on decision making of Sugarcane farming. In addition, [25] argues that subordinate acts lead to an increase in feelings of disappointment, triggering an inferiority attitude and feeling concerned about his own circumstances. The limited access to information on sugar cane farming has caused the women to surrender and completely hand over the decision in the management of sugarcane farming to her men. This is seen differently in food crop farmers who still involve wives to negotiate. The main problem in the food crops is limited access to economic capital. These make them discuss to get the effective and efficient crops by utilizing the resources patch up.

Marginalization is gender inequality causes impoverishment women as an impact of commodity change. The main factors that cause it are industrialization I and II where the mindset of the villagers shifted from subsistence into business oriented. Most political economists would say that “marginalization” is a political consequence of a lack of “development”. Because it has a political cast, the understanding of “development” has a social and psychological one [20].

Basically, in food crops women involved in all activities such as land cultivation, nursery, maintenance, until harvesting whereas in sugarcane that is done by the men. Thus, the role of women is only involved in the maintenance. This marginalization of women affects productive and reproductive activities. Women who have skills in maintenance for sugar cane will survive to work in there. On the contrary, those who feel they have skills in the paper industry sector and comfortable with the work atmosphere will prefer to work in the paper industry sector. Unfortunately, those who do not have any skills in both sectors will choose reproductive activities or unemployment.

Stereotypes are the labeling of women in certain occupations causing less actualization in themselves. Women are labeled as beautiful, graceful and sacrificial who is reflected in the women’s behavior of sugar cane landowners. Moreover, [23] argued that women are still labeled as weak creatures in the management of agricultural resources based on physical outlook. Though the labels actually bind freedom of expression and self-actualization as a woman. So the result is the women not involved in land cultivation, nursery, and harvesting that tends to look masculine because of social construction. Women are more suitable to do in-home activities e.g. work in the paper industry with a high degree of tenacity and accuracy but relax than working in the agriculture sector that heats under the sun and will make skin dull (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4

Mobilization of economic livelihood strategy.

Source: primary data, processed

The Impact of Women’s Livelihood’s Strategy

A livelihood strategy is one’s effort to fulfill his or her daily needs. The women also to cater for the needs of her household constituted. The major reasons for women to engage in petty economic activities even though returns from such activities were not so much rewarding in monetary terms [8]. Besides, the stability of poor households is Economic strategies include multiple employment living, household labor utilization, and migration [26].

The villagers of Ngampel also have an economic strategy (traditional) in fulfilling their daily needs through several activities i.e. (1) Mbangkong is the activity of hunting/looking for tubers in parcel land i.e. cassava, sweet potato, gembili, and gadung. The role of women here is considered equivalent to men to meet the livelihood in the farmer’s household. (2) The small soft-shelled crab, damage the rice crops by its pincers, is hunted by villagers locally called golek mbes to decrease its population and to meet of daily need in the household. It can also be consumed as the main ingredient in porridge. (3) Looking for teak leaves that locally called golek godong for sale to the market is carried out at the end of the rainy season every morning and evening which has been done by the women. (4) Along with that, hunting cocoon that locally named golek entong has done by mothers and girls during holidays. Every 1 kg of cocoon could be redeemed by 1 kg of rice to the market. (5) In another time, golek laron is hunting the flying termites to be processed into side and dishes. The roles both men and women have equal opportunities to earn a living in the form of food. Ironically, now flying termites is not available because of commodity changes that make it difficult to find in the sugar cane field. (6) Ngasak is an activity to find the remnants of grain when harvesting rice crops has come. The grain usually reaches up to 5 kg collected by women to sell to the market.

But the activity is shifting due to the industrialization I and II. The emergence of a new economic (modern) livelihood strategy in rural communities is the establishment of household-scale paper industry collected by CV Basuni Jaya Mojokerto that involving the women. Yet society does not completely abandon agriculture as their primary livelihood. Wages are less than wages in the agricultural sector. In addition, [10] said that over 70% of households change livelihood strategies over time in response to evolving pressures, incentives and opportunities.


The productive activities of female laborers on food crops are involved in the processing of land, nurseries, care, and harvesting. Whereas in sugar cane plant only involved in maintenance because the Sugarcane can grow back for 3 years without replanting seedlings. So, the role of women is not required in this activity. Reproductive activity is entirely a burden on women. Social activities conducted by the women does not necessarily involve the men.

The impacts of commodity changes on women’s roles called the triangle of gender inequality include subordination of women’s work, marginalization of women and stereotyping of women’s work. While the impact on the livelihood strategy is the loss of traditional strategies such as golek mbes, golek entong, godong teak, ngasak, mbangkong and golek laron in the period of sugar cane plantation and the emergence of new livelihood (modern strategy) in the form of paper industry.


To Indonesian government may optimization of the best 4th program of Ministry of Village Development of Disadvantaged Region and Transmigration of Indonesia number 04 on 2017, two of them are village superior products and village-owned Enterprise. Women an important role in the rural development program to increase their livelihood strategy, so the government should prioritize the role of women in entrepreneurship of village superior product. Besides in the management of a village-owned enterprise, all of the organizational structure entirely by women who have leadership skill and good teamwork. Hopefully, there should be collaborating with unemployed women and women farmers in the villages to make their sustainable livelihood.



The authors also thank to my beloved lecturers, and examiners. We are also thankful for late Benazier Kusuma W and Astri Elok Nastiti who helped us in conducting the field work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kadiri Islamic UniversityKediriIndonesia
  2. 2.University of Trunojoyo MaduraBangkalanIndonesia

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