Scientific Publication

Can a cash crop be a women’s crop?: Examining gender norms, relations and equity around lentil commercialization in Ethiopia


The potential benefits that women and men may experience with the commercialization of
subsistence-crops depend on gender norms and relations. In sub-Saharan Africa, crop
commercialization has been shown to often have unequal outcomes for women and men due
to pre-existing social hierarchies and norms around farm roles, asset ownership, control over
crops and income, and local farming practices. This article shows that this is the case in
Ethiopia where women are consistently marginalized as farmers, despite contributing
significantly to agriculture in the country. Using qualitative methods, the article examines
gender norms and relations around lentil commercialization in the Amhara and Oromia
regions of Ethiopia, to understand whether the benefits of market-oriented lentil production
accrue to women and men farmers equitably. The findings reveal that despite naming lentils a
women’s crop, women remain invisible as farmers and thus tend to have few or no rights
over lentils, with consequent marginalization from the sale and use of lentil, and income from
the crop. The study also found that lentil commercialization is often accompanied by labour
commercialization, which has exclusionary effects on farmers of low socioeconomic status
and unmarried women. Some policy recommendations are suggested based on these findings