The participation of farm women in the milpa system of the Yucatán, Mexico
In this article, the author studies the degree of female participation in solar (homegarden) and milpa (intercropped) production fields and associates the participation with biodiversity of varieties of maize, beans, squash, and chile cultivated on farms in rural Yucatan, Mexico. Also represented in the study is the socioeconomic qualities of female agricultural workers. Lope-Alzina chose the study area, Yaxcaba ejido, primarily because of its central location within the "maize belt," because the milpa agricultural system is still of considerable economic interest and because a large amount of research information on social and botanical issues already exists. The empirical work was based on a Spanish questionnaire and Maya interviews administered to 60 randomly selected households, or 10 percent of the population. Also included was information from two prior surveys. The research indicates that women predominantly participate in solar field production, but have little to no participation in the milpa field production. Since food stuffs such as squash, maize, and, to a lesser extent, beans are grown mainly in milpa fields, women manage and barter those seeds less than chile seeds, which are mostly cultivated in solar fields. These results suggest that the influence of women over diversity in varieties is mostly over chile and that solar fields are the principle means for women to help support their families. Chile would be an essential crop to improve the ability of women to invest in the production system.