Land use change and shifts in gender roles in central Sumatra, Indonesia

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While Indonesia is experiencing a rapid land use transition due to export-oriented growth in agricultural products such as palm oil and natural rubber, there is no clear understanding of how shifts in farming practices influence gender-specific roles and preferences. In a partially matrilineal society on Sumatra where rice production for subsistence purposes, in an agroforestry landscape, is traditionally considered the women's domain and responsibility, 202 households were surveyed about their perceptions of gender-specific agricultural roles. Over time, rice fields have been converted to oil palm. Lowland women have increasingly significant roles in rubber agroforestry in addition to collecting firewood, medicinal plants and wild fruit for household consumption, whereas men are typically occupied in monoculture oil palm or rubber production. As land use patterns rapidly change, particularly in the lowlands, the responsibility of rubber agroforestry systems is shifting from men to women with consequences for gender division of labour and decision making.

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