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Does Gender Matter?

The Impact of the Dream Project on Communities, Women, and the Environment in Ecuador 


Trent Blare and Pilar Useche, University of Florida

Background of the Dream Project

Ecuador like many other Latina American countries dismantled its public extension programs in the early 1990s (Buck and Alwang 2010). Now, local governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), input providers, traders, and processors have stepped in to fill this gap in the need for agricultural training. One of the companies that has been working to fill this void is the cacao processing and exporting company, Transmar Group, Inc. Transmar is a multinational corporation based in the United States that exports Ecuadorian cacao to gourmet chocolate makers in Europe, the United States, Japan, and other developed countries. The company has discovered that unless it helps smallholder farmers improve their production skills Transmar will not be able to obtain the best quality of cacao it needs for this exclusive market.

To meet this need, Transmar established the Dream Project in Ecuador. This project is unique in that it realizes that improved cacao production or enhanced quality is not sustainable unless the economic and social development of the farm families and the environmental impact of cacao production are not priorities. To meet these objectives, Transmar has worked with about 500 farmers to help them establish farmers’ organizations throughout the country where they can collectively sell their cacao to Transmar for a premium and receive training to improve their production. It has coordinated efforts with and provided financial support to the Ecuadorian Agricultural Ministry and national agricultural research centers, INIAP, to teach its farmers to use better production methods and develop more resilient and productive strains of the traditional cacao variety. In addition, it has provided the resources so that the farmers that participate in its program can be organically certified through UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance so that the farmers receive an additional organic premium and so that they can guarantee the upmost standards of environmental protection (Transmar 2011).

Research Questions

We propose to examine the impact of the Dream project on the environment and status of women within Ecuador. Understanding these effects of alternative extension delivery systems, which are becoming more prominent throughout the world, are critical to the success of the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) project in an effort to improve the current methods to share agricultural information and provide training. Are there differences in the type of support received by men and women and the number of men and women assisted? Do certification programs and access to specialty markets not only increase household income but lead to improved environmental impacts? Does increased income lead to greater household wellbeing? Do men and women value the environmental impact of their production decisions differently? If the valuation of environmental benefits differs by gender, will this have an effect on production decisions? Do women and men have equal authority in making this production decision? We propose to answer these questions by conducting a detailed household survey of the households that participate in the project that will include a choice experiment to determine the monetary value of these ecological benefits to smallholder farmers. These results will allow us to compare the gender difference in valuation of these benefits and the production decisions of the household to examine the role of women in making production decisions in the household. We will able to examine if and how the Dream project empowers women, enhances wellbeing, and influence households to adopt more sustainable production practices.

The Cacao Industry in Ecuador

Cacao production is very important to the Ecuadorian economy and especially to the livelihood of smallholder farmers. In fact, 12% of the country’s workforce is involved in cacao production with 90% of cacao farmers owning less than 50 hectares of land (Coporación de Promoción de Exportaciones e Inversiones 2009). The traditional variety of cacao, cacao nacional, is the only variety that provides the aroma demanded in high quality chocolates. This variety requires shade and must be raised in an agroforetry system that provides many environmental benefits (Beer et al. 1998). The other variety, cacao CCN-51, is grown in a monoculture system as it does not need shade, so it does not provide the environmental benefits as those in the agroforestry system. This variety is also more productive and more profitable even though it does not receive a price premium (Bentley et al. 2004). Yet, many farmers prefer to raise cacao nacional because of the environmental and social benefits provided by this crop (Blare 2010).

Women’s Role in Ecuadorian Agriculture

The legal framework in Ecuador has been evolving to confront traditional discriminatory attitudes so that women are protected in the work place and provided equal property rights (U.S. State Department 2011). In fact, Deere and Diaz found that Ecuadorian now own 52 percent of household assets (2011). Yet, ownership of assets and increased legal rights does not necessarily mean that women have decision power over the use of these assets (Grown 2012). Furthermore, violence, criminality, and immigration have driven men away from their homes and left women as the head of many households (Lawson 1998). These factors have changed women’s role in society and their ability to influence production decisions such as the adoption of sustainable practices. By including women, the Dream Project would impact the attitudes toward women in the communities where this effort implemented.

Research Methodology and Time Line

From June through August 2012, Trent will be working with twelve focus groups from the communities where the Transmar Group sources its cacao to conduct preliminary research. He will obtain data on cacao production and profits, farmers’ environmental perceptions, farmers’ participation in the Dream project by gender, women’s participation in the production decision, and the range of values that each gender place upon the environmental and other nonmarket benefits of their cacao agroforests. Four of the groups will be all female, four all male, and the reaming four will be of mixed sex.

We are seeking funding from the MEAS project in order to conduct household surveys based on analysis from the focus group for three months starting December 2012. The survey will include a choice experiment that will consist of the farmers choosing between two parcels. One parcel will be similar to a cacao nacional field and the other would be similar to a cacao CCN-51 field. The latter parcel will be more profitable than the former parcel. The farmer will initially be told that a small profit difference exits between the two parcels. Then, she will choose the parcel she prefers. She will then be asked if she would make the same choice if profit difference where a large amount. The profit margin would continue to widen until she chooses to switch from using the parcel similar to cacao nacional to one similar to cacao CCN-51. This switching point will determine the amount the farmer would have to receive in order to be sufficiently compensated for the nonmarket goods in the cacao nacional parcel (Caussade et al.2005; Birol et al. 2006). When possible, the values will be elicited from both a man and a woman in the same household. We will work with college students from the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) to assist in conducting the surveys. A field work report will be provided to the MEAS program by June of 2013 with a final report delivered by December 2013.

Works Cited

Beer, J., Muschler, R., Kass, D., and Somarriba, E. 1998. Shade Management in Coffee and Cacao Plantations. Agroforestry Systems 38: 139-164.

Bentley, J., E. Boa, and J. Stonehouse. 2004. Neighbor Trees: Shade, Intercropping, and Cacao in Ecuador. Human Ecology 32: 241-258.

Birol, E, Karousakis, K. and Koundouri, P. 2006. Using a Choice Experiment to Account for Preference Heterogeneity in Wetland Attributes: The Case of Cheimaditida Wetland in Greece. Ecological Economics 60: 145-156.

Blare, T. 2010. Seeds of Gold: The Impact of Biodiversity on Cacao Production Decisions of Small Landholder Households in Northwestern Ecuador. Master’s Thesis, University of Florida.

Buck, S. and Alwang, J. 2010. Agricutlural Extension, Trust and Learning: Results from Economic Experiments in Ecuador. Working Paper.

Caussade, S., de Dios Ortúzar, J., Rizzi, L. I.and Henshar, D. 2005. Assessing the Influence of Design Dimensions on Stated Choice Experiment Estimates. Transportation Research Part B 39: 621-640.

Coporación de Promoción de Exportaciones e Inversiones. 2009. Cacao. Ecuador Calidad de Origen. Quito, Ecuador

Deere, C. D. and J. Contreras Diaz. 2011. Acumulación de Activos: Una Apuesta por la Equidad. FLASCO: Quito.

Grown, Caren. Informal Lecture. United States Agency for International Development Office of Gender and Women’s Empowerment. Washington, DC 6 March 2012.

Lawsone, V. A. 1998. Hierarchical Households and Gendered Migration in Latin America: Feminist Extensions to Migration Research. Progress in Human Geography 22: 39-53.

Transmar Group, Inc. 2011. Transmar Ecuador-Proyecto Dream. 2011 Ministry of Agriculture Presentation. Provided by Personal Communication with R. Granja.

U.S. Department of State. 2011. 2010 Human Rights Report: Ecuador. Website. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/wha/154504.htm Accessed 24 November 2011.
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