Are potato markets gendered? An analysis of gender networks in the potato marketing chain in the Jatun Mayu watershed of Tiraque, Bolivia
Incomes from potato production are critical for the well-being and survival of many Andean farmers. These incomes depend on market access and ability to receive fair prices. Potato markets have existed in the area since pre-Colombian times and, while the appearance of the markets themselves is changing only slowly, access to market information has entered the digital age. Cell phones are now becoming ubiquitous even in apparently isolated rural areas, and information networks that are lubricated by cellular technologies are supplanting traditional means of gathering market information. Andean markets are characterized by heavy involvement of women. Our study begins by examining the widely held assumption that Andean societies are male-dominated and women attend to reproductive responsibilities only. If, in contrast, women are actively involved in potato marketing, efforts to improve incomes of poor highland potato producers should recognize their roles along the entire potato market chain. As access to information becomes more widely spread and the cost of obtaining information from multiple sources becomes lower, the roles of men and women could be affected; we also explore these changes. Market information networks exist side by side with social networks and it is critical to understand how the two interact and reinforce one another.