Monday, 31 August 2015

Gender equity in agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates women comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force and that productive outputs could increase by 20 – 30% if women received the same access to agricultural services and inputs.

So how do we integrate gender equity and women’s economic empowerment into agricultural programing?

This is the question we explored over a two day course at the CSIRO in Canberra. Linda Jones facilitated the workshop which was attended by around 20 participants from the CSIRO, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), ACIAR and World Vision. Each participant brought unique experiences and knowledge to address the constraints and benefits of empowering women in agriculture in developing countries.

Women-only focus group and farm practice discussion, Eastern Gangetic Plains, India. Credit: ACIAR

The first day of the workshop focused on understanding gender equity and women’s economic empowerment, the rationale for women’s economic empowerment in agricultural development programs, and the pillars of women’s economic empowerment. The five pillars used throughout the workshop were:

1. Economic advancement – increased income and return on labour;
2. Access to opportunities and life chances, such as skills development or job openings;
3. Access to assets, services and needed supports to advance economically;
4. Decision-making authority in different spheres including household finances; and
5. Manageable workloads for women.
Source: Jones (2012) – The genesis of the five domains

Toitiu Alabu checks on her sweet peppers and tomato plants in Fiji. Credit: Conor Ashleigh
The program was designed around DFAT’s ‘Empowering women’ priority as part of the Australian aid program. During the afternoon session, we used a systems lens and life cycle approach to analyse case studies on inclusive agricultural development.

On day two, the group discussed the design and implementation phases of the project and intervention life cycle. This included looking at the methods for the integration of women and for greater gender equality in agricultural market systems, including innovation systems. We then split up into groups to identify and design winning solutions for real-world problems. After lunch, we then explored implementation challenges and risks, including using a risk register. As always, we identified the importance of appropriate monitoring and evaluation – and answered those all important questions - What do we measure? When do we measure? Why should we measure?

Krishna Kumari cuts grass to feed her animals, Nepal. Credit: Conor Ashleigh

The two day workshop provided an open forum for government officials and scientists to share their insights for successful agricultural program design and delivery. As the workshop concluded, participants shared their positive feedback about the practical benefits of the workshop and how they could incorporate the new knowledge into both future program design, but also current program improvement. Laura Carew from ACIAR highlighted, “the course was an invaluable insight into the importance of a participatory approach to program design and the case studies that we explored throughout the course allowed us to apply what we had learnt to practical, real-world scenarios”.

By Elise Crabb, External Engagement and Media Presence Officer, ACIAR

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