The role of women in activities in the Sechura desert.

In the previous blog we touched on the subject of agriculture, fishing,livestock and other activities that are carried out in the desert, but we did not delve into its main actors. Agriculture is one of the activities with greater participation in the inhabitants of the desert, its permanence is due to the fact that it is characterized by being of the family type. That is, husband, wife and children participate in the necessary tasks of irrigation, sowing, maintenance and subsequent harvesting. But it is interesting to be able to highlight the importance of the role played by women (wives and daughters) who work the land and ensure the food security of their home.

Usually women in Sechura have multiple responsibilities, so they play an important role in family farming, performing productive activities of processing, marketing of these products without neglecting their domestic activities of home care and children who have implicitly been delegated to them. Many times all these activities are seen as “support” and not as a job itself which is unfair.

In the town of Chutuque con we met many families led by women who went to the field on the farmland and take care of the livestock. Some also produce honey, carob (sweet substance derived from carob) and the typical “chicha de Jora” (traditional drink of the area based on fermented corn).

At the beginning of our work in the field, when we knocked on their doors for the interviews we asked about the husband or head of the family,who we assumed worked the land and knew much more information about their crops, but we were pleasant and pleasantly surprised that it was the women who not only knew 100% how the economic activities were carried out but also remembered more accurately the data obtained in previous harvests of all crops such as corn, zarandaja, sweet potato, legumes, cotton, sweet potato, etc. And there were also some of them who were engaged in the marketing of agricultural products.

In other population centers with “Santa Clara” we found groups of organized women whose work was giving favourable results with the cultivation of papaya and some fruit trees more like bananas,just at the time we arrived they were doing harvesting and harvesting of the fruits for later sale that many times they themselves perform from their homes and also take them to the market to sell them wholesale.

In the case of fishing, thisis an activity that is still mostly carried outby men. When the La Niñalagoon isformed, the husbands go out for several days of fishing and camp on the shores of the lagoon, often taking with them their wives who cook them and take care of other secondary activities of fishing. Even so,in some interviews women also play an important role in this activity, such as catching fish and marketing in the company of their husbands.

With regard to the production of bee honey, most of them are the wives who are in charge of the care of the hives and with the support of the husband they realizan the honey harvest. On the other hand, in the production of “carob” there is a mutual support (husband and wife) since they need firewood for the cooking of the carob pods which is collected by the husbands and the women are responsible for all the preparation and boiling of the pods. In both cases, marketing often falls on women, as they sell the products from their own homes or move them to local markets.

We see that the roles assigned to the different genders in activities such as agriculture are being transformed by strengthening the presence and empowerment of women, promoting their autonomy, but this is not only achieving co-responsibility with men in household tasks but also recognising them as economic actors.

This blog was written by: Evelyn Inguil (1) and Maya Gomez-Coultas (2)

(1) La Molina National Agrarian University – Perú, Lima / (2) St. Andrews University- -UK, Scotland

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