Woman's Work, in developing countries - resolving inefficiencies
The plan below, is specific to my situation in rural Philippines. But many of the same steps could help out, anywhere where rural women are involved in needless unpaid drudgery.
Many women, particularly those in rural areas will happily fritter away several hours each day, washing laundry by hand, gathering firewood and tending smokey fires, made from wet wood. This eats up a lot of time that could be used more productively. It's also a cause of soil erosion and deforestation. Not so much cutting down large trees, but preventing cleared areas from growing back.
When we hire women, part of the employment package will be that they are allowed to use our washing machine and clothesline and that they are each given a small allotment of dry wood each day.
My cost will be less than 25 pesos, and it will free up enough time that they can easily earn an extra 100 pesos in a day, without neglecting their family duties.
They can come to work as early as they like, and get their clothes on the line. Even if they only work a half day, that's plenty of time for things to dry. We will probably include meals as well. We will definitely include morning coffee and a light breakfast, in order to get things going in the morning, before it gets hot.
Everyone will be given a clay charcoal burner, to take home, so that they don't waste so much wood.
Some work, like picking beans or peas is easy to quantify, so piece workers will be allowed to bring babies and pre-school children. This will give us an advantage over the big producers that force them to find childcare. Realistically, we won't have a whole bunch of kids running around the fields. Extended families often live together. So I will tell workers that it's okay to bring their mother or grandmother, who can stay in a sort of daycare area, with the kids. Or the mothers could take turns watching them.
They like to socialize constantly, so we won't try to make anyone work alone. Socializing, gossiping and singing seem to be part of getting things done, so I won't stand in the way of it. My wife often breaks into song, while preparing meals.
Typical rural families often have a man earning 200 pesos per day ($4 US) and a woman home with children making nothing, but sometimes looking after a garden and some chickens. So,100 pesos more per day, is going to make a big difference. And it's not just the extra money.
When we are processing fruits and vegetables, there will inevitably be many that are unsuited for sale for some reason. Everyone will be sent home with their share. Nobody minds cutting bad spots off of free food. Poor families typically spend more than half of their income on food.
The majority of men have some experience in butchering. Many butchers work for organ meat. Hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys can be eaten by the family or sold. I expect to hire the husbands of women who work at the farm. That will leave me with a clean lechon pig carcass, for spit roasting and provide employees with food and supplemental income.
Another hugely inefficient thing, is that people buy their store-bought items in very small packages, and they get screwed on price. They also spend too much on transportation, to pick up small quantities. We will stock many necessities that are bought in bulk. It will be like a store that is only for workers. There are dozens of products that are sold in little plastic packs. Laundry soap, fabric softener, Milo drink, shity coffee with fake milk already in it and the list goes on. All of these things will be bought in bulk, and made available for them to put into their own containers. Death to plastic !!!
Whenever a vehicle leaves the farm, going to town, those not working will be given a ride, so they only have to pay their transportation one way.
Widows with children are usually the poorest of the poor. I expect to build a couple little houses with allotment gardens, specifically for workers who can't afford other accommodation, or have no family in the immediate area.
Many of these people rely on loan sharks, when they run out of staples like rice or sweet potatoes. By paying wages daily, along with the food and firewood allotment, we will help put an end to that. I don't expect to extend much credit, unless they are buying things growing on the farm... Loan sharks will not be allowed on the property.
I don't want to be in the credit business, but there is one way that I will invest in any family that has land. There are certain dried leaves and spices that we will sell abroad. It's difficult to sell these things in small quantity. Anyone who has their own family land, will be offered the opportunity to grow moringa leaf, Ceylon cinnamon, cocoa, turmeric and whatever other items we find most profitable.
Since we're going for the Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Australian markets, there's no danger of flooding it. They will pay some small fee for me to administrate, or preferably form their own little co-op. It's supposedly a third world country, but with excellent government support for initiatives that help the poorest citizens help themselves.
It would be great if people can get enough going on their own plot, that they no longer need to work for me. Everyone benefits if there's enough quantity to reduce the transportation cost. And the whole community benefits, whenever new jobs are created.
There won't be any trouble finding workers. It's more likely that we will be constantly turning people away. That's what I saw happen at every new construction site in Cebu. Lots of people, willing to work.
Thank you Carol. My wife was involved in some very inefficient drudgery as a child worker. She worked at a roadside restaurant that didn't have running water, so a large amount of time was spent hauling it. The food was cooked with wood that was not always dry. She more recently worked for some people who had plenty of money to go out drinking, but not enough to pay their water bill, so not only was she doing laundry in a bucket, but recycling the water too many times.
I have spent a total of 5 months in the Philippines and it's still surprising to watch someone put hours of work into futile endeavours. I bought a washing machine and made it available to the 20 or so people that lived in and around our building. Half of them wouldn't use it, because the landlady became convinced it would drive the electricity bill through the roof. It uses about $0.01 worth of electricity per load. Laundry soap is sold in individual packets and it's far too much soap for the standard size wash bucket. Most people use a whole packet and then they spend 10 minutes trying to wash the soap out of their clothing after the wash cycle. Then they start with the fabric softener. People who don't have a nickel to spare, take this extra futile step, that leaves their clothing with an awful chemical smell.
Just about every step from the moment people wake up, until the moment they go to sleep is spent doing things inefficiently, mostly because they don't have the right tools. Smokey open fires with the pot radiating as much as it absorbs.
When cutting large timber bamboo, a man may swing his machete 25 times and come out of it quite exhausted with one foot of the material wasted. When we harvest my bamboo, it will be done with a cordless reciprocating saw and a carbide tooth blade. So it's not just women's work that is done inefficiently, it's a general thing but more pronounced with the things that women most often do.
Floor washing and sweeping is often handled by utensils that don't make sense to me. This is just a matter of being able to afford a decent broom and mop. When I see a super deal, I'll make him more super deal with the vendor and buy 25 of them and they will be added to the little company store. We may manufacture corn brooms.
Some traditional skills, like basket weaving, are fading out and plastic bags are the culprit. It's likely that these bags will be banned, as they have been in other places.
In Kenya, I met a lady who was doing a brisk business in very durable shopping baskets made from elephant grass. She was fairly new at the business and attributed her success to the banning of plastic bags one year earlier. If we're doing field work and the rain hits, I hope to bring everybody inside, where they can pursue things like this.
We will also have a covered potting and propagation area, where pots are made from banana fibre. I don't consider a farm organic if there is plastic laying everywhere.
I hope to get a sewing machine, that will be used sometimes for my own family's purposes, but also available to anyone who wants to repair or remake clothing. Rejects from Value Village and other places arrive in big bales. Sometimes a lady will find a big dress with nice fabric and make clothing for several children out of it. I'm not going to try to be in the clothing business. The machine will just be there for anyone who wants to use it on their days off or when we have weather stoppages. There will be a spot where leftover fabric and buttons can be scrounged. Just about everyone makes use of the second hand stores that carry this stuff, but some are not very good at repairing. That's why we will invite some of the grandmas, who haven't forgotten how to do these things.
We will introduce a variety of foods, when meals are offered. Food there is usually flavoured with sugar, too much salt or vinegar. Wealthier people have started using Indian spices and using cooking methods that don't cook it to death. Poor people often have a limited variety to their diet and to make matters worse, it is covered in sugar and often overcooked.
Protein malnutrition is common. It's easy to identify in children who develop a reddish hue to their hair. Iron and zinc deficiency is very common. We will make sure that all of our animals and plants have that in abundance. The organ meat from slaughtered pigs, is a very rich source of these and that's part of why I will make sure it goes to workers. They have many traditional dishes made from this, so it won't be seen as leftovers.
Diabetes is rampant and related to people choosing the cheapest sugars and starches for too much of their diets.
A mixture of bitter gourd, moringa and turmeric has been found in a Philippine government study, to work better than any of the available Pharmaceuticals for those with diabetes. Bitter gourd is often mixed with scrambled eggs and moringa leaves in an omelette, so I expect to make that a regular breakfast item.
Schools in poor areas have government-sponsored breakfast and lunch programs, as a way to encourage everyone to show up. Our farm will operate similarly. I expect to see people arrive before dawn, so they can get first crack at the washing machine and breakfast.
A few years ago one of my sons spent a summer in Africa doing relief work and came home utterly frustrated. You articulated much of what he felt. Seeing the inefficiencies was hard for him as well as seeing the massive amounts of donated goods sent from abroad. He could sense the bitterness of small business owners who were simply trying to sell a few necessities from their slapped together cardboard shacks. They couldn't sell their items because people could get foreign cast-offs for free. But his main frustration was seeing the mindset of 'if my ancestors walked a mile to fetch water then who am I to think I'm better than they were. I can walk a mile to get water too.' So they would resist new wells or other 'new' ideas or technologies. There is a thread here on permies of a guy in either Zambia or Zimbabwe who has expressed some of these same frustrations regarding mindset of his neighbors.
My other son has spent a lot of time in SE Asia, NZ and AU as a backpacker and has a real passion for the whole ocean plastics thing. The problem is so huge because plastics don't ever really go away. They just break down into microscopic particles and filter down to the oceans.
I hope the government sponsored food programs in the Philippines are better than the ones here in the US. I guarantee you that the egg scramble you make is far more nutritious than anything that is being served in the schools I'm in. This year my district started offering free breakfast for every child no matter their income level. It's pretty much plastic wrapped diabetes on a tray. Just like lunch. At least this year the trays are cardboard instead of styrofoam.
Yes, the plastic thing is bad. Luckily everyone including their president realizes that. I will build a kiln for firing clay and use plastic as my feedstock. It burns surprisingly cleanly at high temperature. It is currently raked into piles with chicken feathers and leaves, and burned on the side of the road.
Reluctance to try new things is definitely not universal. Almost every young person wants a whole lot of things that they can't afford to have. I showed photos of my cordless equipment to those doing everything with hand tools. Many of these people are employed. When a man is cutting wood for me, he will have the latest in modern technology in his hand. There's no better way to improve efficiency, than to put modern tools in third-world hands. Because of this I will never give anyone a chainsaw. My wife's uncle's are keen to log a very steep slope, if only I could help them out.
There are no more "hours", it's centi-days. They say it's better, but this tiny ad says it's stupid:
Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while