Are potato markets gendered? An analysis of gender networks in the potato marketing chain in the Jatun Mayu watershed of Tiraque, Bolivia
N. Amaya; J. Alwang; M.E. Christie
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SANREM CRSP, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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Powerpoint Presentation: Incomes from potato production are critical for the well-being and survival of many Andean farmers. These incomes depend on market access and ability to receive fair prices. Potato markets have existed in the area since pre-Colombian times and, while the appearance of the markets themselves is changing only slowly, access to market information has entered the digital age. Cell phones are now becoming ubiquitous even in apparently isolated rural areas, and information networks that are lubricated by cellular technologies are supplanting traditional means of gathering market information. Andean markets are characterized by heavy involvement of women. Our study begins by examining the widely held assumption that Andean societies are male-dominated and women attend to reproductive responsibilities only. If, in contrast, women are actively involved in potato marketing, efforts to improve incomes of poor highland potato producers should recognize their roles along the entire potato market chain. As access to information becomes more widely spread and the cost of obtaining information from multiple sources becomes lower, the roles of men and women could be affected; we also explore these changes. Market information networks exist side by side with social networks and it is critical to understand how the two interact and reinforce one another.
This study explores the effects of gender relations and access to information within the potato market chain in the Tiraque watershed outside Cochabamba, Bolivia. It diagnoses the roles of men and women in potato production and marketing. It investigates how marketing decisions are made and how access to information and gender roles affect these decisions. As access to information changes, these gender roles may be affected and ultimately, changes in market access affect individual and household well-being. If the impact of new information technologies on marketing decisions is mediated through existing social networks (so that the former reinforces the latter), information access is likely to be gender neutral. Lower costs of information will simply reduce risk and lead to higher incomes. On the other hand, if new information technologies supplant existing networks, gender biases may result.