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Module 5: Gender, Agriculture, and the Environment

About the Video | Key Concepts | Before Watching | After Watching | Resources and Interesting Intersections


About the Video

In this video, Carolyn Sachs, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, discusses gender aspects of agriculture that preserve biodiversity. One of her stories is from Swaziland where her team, while advising farmers on how to obtain a higher maize yield, observed that women weren't weeding the maize in a timely fashion. Several years later, the researchers discovered that two crops they had identified as "weeds" were known by the people to be healthful and provided an important source of pro-vitamin A for their family's diets.

Video: AcademIK Connections Module 5: Gender, Agriculture, and the Environment

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Key Concepts

Sociology: is the study of society. It is a social science that uses various methods of investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity. The ultimate goal is often to apply such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare.

Biodiversity: is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. It is the measure of the health of ecosystems and is in part a function of climate. Tropical regions are typically rich in biodiversity whereas Polar regions support fewer species.

Preservation: is to protect something, such as keeping endangered animals safe or preserving food to keep it safe and palatable for an extended period of time.

Irrigation: is the science of the artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in growing agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and re-vegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during period of inadequate rainfall.

Optimizing Resources: to be able to make the most out of available resources. The optimal sustainable and efficient use of resources.


Before Watching

  1. What are some nutritional needs within your community? If you wanted to meet these needs, how could you do so? What are the food crops you consume daily?
  2. Has an outsider impacted your community in a negative way without first consulting and/or learning about your community?
  3. What is your perspective on the concept of irrigation? Do you think irrigation helps an established community or hurts it? How does the local situation affect the appropriateness of irrigation as the solution to a community’s food problem?


After Watching

  1. Discussion topics related to this video
    • What characteristics of seeds do women tend to consider important compared with those characteristics considered important by men? How do you think women could use scientific knowledge of seeds in their farming?
    • How might knowing the nutritional situation and long-term needs of the community have helped when the irrigation system was put into place? How do you think these modern development systems affect the community? How might high-input agriculture promote a resurgence of indigenous knowledge in the community?
    • Why didn’t the indigenous women in Swaziland remove the "weeds" from their shambas (gardens)? What did these weeds provide for them? What lesson is to be learned from the mistake the scientists made when they identified the women’s vegetables as weeds?
  2. Related Indigenous Knowledge topics for further exploration


Resources and Interesting Intersections