Scientific Publication

Towards a feminization of agricultural labour in Northwest Syria


Smallholdings in the rural areas of northwest Syria are a result of land fragmentation that is due to inheritance. Because of rapid population growth combined with land fragmentation, these smallholdings are increasing and cannot sustain the rural households whose sizes and needs are also increasing rapidly This situation has led to increasing numbers of males migrating to urban areas in Syria and to neighbouring countries looking for work opportunities. In addition, recent agricultural intensification trends seem to have led to the emergence of a waged labour force which, in the absence of male workers owing to significant rates of migration, is now predominantly female. Agricultural labour use depends upon household characteristics and resources (type of labour used, gender of labour waged/exchanged/familial). The article attempts to present a comprehensive analysis of household labour use in distinctive farming systems in one region of Syria that has undergone great change in recent decades, and examines the changes in the composition of the agricultural labour force. Secondary information, rapid ural appraisals and formal farm surveys were used to gather information on the households in a study area where different farming systems coexist. The results show that the decrease in landholding size, the resulting male migration, and land intensification have resulted in the expansion of female labour in agricultural production, which has been termed in this research a 'feminization of agricultural labour'. This suggests that agricultural research and extension services will have to work more with women farmers and farm workers, seek their wisdom and involve them in technology and transfer. This is not easy in conservative societies but requires research and extension institutions to take this reality into consideration in their programmes.