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Rural brewing, exclusion, and development policy-making.

  • Mccall, M
Published Article
Gender and development
Publication Date
Oct 01, 1996
PMID: 12347713


This article highlights the economic role of women in the brewing industry in rural and periurban areas of sub-Saharan African countries. Local beer drinking is a form of social exchange and a reward for time-intensive work. Modern beer brewing in rural areas is a family operation. Beer is produced for subsistence and for sale. Locally brewed beer has a lower alcohol content than commercial brews. The author refers to Pradervand's (1990) study of local brewing in five east and west African countries. Pradervand found that men spent an estimated CFAF 18 billion per year on local brews compared to the value of total national exports of CFAF 21 billion per year in 1996. The male Kitui in rural Kenya were found to spend 60% of their weekly income on beer. Women dominate brewing in eastern and southern Africa. Rural beers are grain based (maize, millet, or sorghum), but may also be made from bananas, bamboo, sugar cane, or coconut. An estimated 25% of women in a village survey in Tanzania reported that beer was brewed one to four times a month. Another survey in the 1980s found that 73% of women brewed beer at some time. Beer brewing is a very significant economic activity for rural women. It provides higher levels of income and employment. Urban brewing by women has a negative image that rural women's beer brewing does not have. Grain for brewing comes from family farms or markets. Women's clubs are used as income generation groups for loans and as support groups. Women's beer brewing is not supported by development interventions or recognized by UN agencies. There are resource implications due to an estimated 5%-30% of annual wood consumption used for beer brewing. If women's role in beer brewing is ignored, male-dominated commercial interests will further marginalize rural women.

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