Supermarkets and agri-food companies are transforming agricultural production, distribution and consumption across the global North and South. Women are playing a critical role in the process of change. As consumers, rising female labour force participation is increasing women’s purchasing power. As producers women constitute a rising share of smallholder farmers. Women often constitute the majority of wage labourers in larger commercial farming and processing. Many developing countries are seeing a ‘feminisation’ of agriculture, as the sector becomes increasingly dependent on women as consumers, farmers and workers.
At a wider level, food processing and supermarket retailing are encroaching into activities of food production and preparation traditionally undertaken by women within the household. Whilst this process has long been underway in the global North, the expansion of supermarkets within Africa, Asia and Latin America reflects similar trends in the global South. The commercialisation of food production and consumption is transgressing traditional divides between women’s (paid) productive and (unpaid) reproductive activity. This has implications for the upgrading or downgrading of workers and smallholders within global agri-food value chains. It potentially opens new opportunities for strategies to promote women’s empowerment, through private sector, government, civil society and multi-lateral organisations.
This presentation draws on research undertaken as part of the Capturing the Gains programme, and examines the issues drawing on comparative case studies from UK retail, cocoa and horticulture in Africa.
Professor Stephanie Barrientos lectures in the Institute of Development Policy and Management and is Associate Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at The University of Manchester. She was previously a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex (2000-7). She gained her BA and PhD in Political Economy at the University of Kent. She has researched and published widely on gender, global production, employment, decent work, trade and labour standards, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, and ethical trade. She has undertaken research in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the UK.
She coordinated the Capturing the Gains Research Programme (with Prof Gary Gereffi) examining economic and social upgrading in global production networks. She leads the Working Out of Poverty research theme in BWPI. Stephanie has advised and provided training for a number of companies, NGOs and international organisations on issues concerning gender, agribusiness, ethical trade, decent work, and impact assessment, including: ActionAid, Body Shop, Cadbury/Mondelez, CAFOD, Christian Aid, DEFRA, DFID, Gates Foundation, Green & Blacks, ILO, Oxfam, UNCTAD, UNIDO, World Bank, WIEGO, Women Working Worldwide and Unite. She is on the Advisory Groups of the ILO/IFC Better Work Programme, Traidcraft Board and NIKE EM initiative. Stephanie has a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2013-15) examining gender transformation in global value chains.
Stephanie also joined the FRC for a Food Bites to give us a snapshot snapshot of what the current issues in the food system are and what civil society organisations and academics could be doing to work towards solutions.