Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Sustainab le Agriculture ; Sociology

First Advisor

Carmen Bain


Indigenous women are crucial agricultural contributors in rural Ecuador, yet they face vulnerabilities as Indigenous people and as women, which limits their quality of life and opportunities for empowerment. This dissertation includes three primary chapters that collectively explore how vulnerability and empowerment relate to Indigenous women who are members of a quinoa cooperative. The data collection took place during a continuous five-month period across 2018 and 2019. Empowerment is often analyzed in agriculture through people’s access to productive resources and decision-making opportunities. This research contributes to the literature on Indigenous women’s empowerment by focusing on how Indigeneity and gender influence their access to resources and agricultural decision-making processes in rural Ecuador, respectively. This research was guided by components from the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), including the domains of production and resources as well as concepts of empowerment, access, and decision-making. The research focuses first on colonial and postcolonial legacies that pushed Indigenous people into isolated rural areas with poor land quality, harsh weather, and scarce resources that often inhibit agricultural productivity. Quinoa is an important source of income and it is facilitated through their membership in an Indigenous cooperative. Their membership to the coop diminishes Indigenous vulnerabilities through promoting access to resources for quinoa production, which improves their income opportunities, quality of life, and thus are empowering. Indigenous women are also restricted in their decision-making opportunities due to their gender. The research participants have experienced a feminization of agriculture in which women have become principal producers. The participants described engaging in joint decision-making, yet in practice men often made final farm decisions. Thus, while Indigenous women’s empowerment was enhanced from their membership in the cooperative that addressed their own Indigenous and rural vulnerabilities, their empowerment is still restricted by their gender and limited decision-making power in agriculture. Overall, this research provides evidence for future policies and programs on the importance of analyzing and considering Indigeneity and gender as contexts influencing Indigenous women’s empowerment.


Copyright Owner

Sumac Elisa Cárdenas Oleas



File Format


File Size

149 pages

Available for download on Friday, January 07, 2022