The gender-responsiveness of agribusiness initiatives: Findings from a survey of 16 projects

An earlier Practitioner Hub blog outlined a tool that can be used by agribusiness/value chain projects and businesses to analyse their current performance on gender-related activities at the field level and in project management. This blog reports on the findings from reviewing 16 projects[1] on their field-level initiatives to address eight principal domains of gender inequality in agribusiness. A subsequent blog reviews the gender-responsive dimensions of project management and examines the relationship between project management and field-level initiatives. The study was commissioned by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development to understand the extent to which donor-supported agribusiness initiatives engage with the gender transformative agenda. Full details are available in the main report.

What field-level initiatives were used to promote gender equality and empowerment?

Project initiatives at field level were classified according to their level of gender-responsiveness, using a four point scale: do nothing (gender blind or neutral), do a little (gender equity), do a lot (gender equality) or do something different to tackle the underlying or structural causes of gender inequality and move towards transforming power relations (gender transformative approaches).

The range of initiatives used in the 16 projects are listed below, distinguishing between those promoting gender equity, gender equality and gender transformative approaches.  The boundaries are to some extent fluid so that an activity which would be considered to be promoting gender equality in one context may be gender transformative in a different socio-cultural setting.

 

Domain of gender inequality

Initiatives to promote gender equity

Initiatives to promote gender equality

Gender transformative approaches

I. Access to and control over resources and services

Providing access to inputs for existing enterprises

Providing a range of financial services and products which meet women’s needs

Strengthening women’s access to and ownership of land, which also enables them to access a wider range of financial services

II. Skills and knowledge

Technical training for existing crops/ livestock, access to information

Training, coaching and mentoring services to develop women’s technical skills for new crops/ enterprises, farming as a business, entrepreneurship and negotiating skills

Supporting women as role models to break through barriers, demonstrate by example, change mindsets and provide inspiration to other women

III. Access to markets and employment opportunities

Creating employment opportunities for women in traditional roles, promoting access to infrastructure, storage, transport facilities

Creating employment opportunities for women in new roles, adding value to traditional and new products, establishing linkages and contracts with buyers, and developing new markets

Creating new spaces and support for women’s economic engagement by sensitising men and boys, religious and community leaders as strategy for engagement

IV. Workloads

Introducing equipment to improve existing tasks, flexible work hours and part-time work

Introducing equipment to improve the productivity and quality of production, and to reduce domestic workloads; and ensuring a safe and healthy working environment

Redistributing household tasks among household members or providing technologies which give women independence from traditional gender roles

V. Voice and representation

Strengthening grassroots organisations, producer groups and cooperatives, and promoting women’s involvement in such groups

Ensuring legal recognition for organisations, training women as leaders and women holding leadership positions in producer organisations, and strengthening women’s a voice in improved governance structures for value chains

Encouraging women to lead in non-traditional executive positions and to gain a national voice through networking forums

VI. Decision-making in household, including access to and control over benefits

Adopting a household perspective for empowerment by engaging household members in analyzing and addressing gender inequalities in roles, responsibilities, decision-making and sharing benefits; stimulating behavior change through household methodologies, engaging champions of change at the community level and sensitising men about the importance and benefits of women’s economic empowerment

VII. Well-being and quality of life

Nutritional training for women and girls

Developing women’s self-confidence and independence through adult literacy classes and discussing social issues; engaging men in household nutrition and health; developing women’s and men’s skills in conflict prevention/ reducing violence; and, for employees, creating a social fund for school fees and health services, as well as providing paid holidays and sick pay

VIII. Policy engagement

Supporting government to develop gender-sensitive sectoral policies through capacity building and dialogue

These initiatives were often provided as:

  • complementary interventions: for example, interventions building women’s skills in leadership, negotiation and business, or access to financial services underpinned by training in business skills; and
  • graduated services offering livelihood development pathways: for example, financial products progressing from informal loans through group borrowing, to micro-lending, to formal bank loans; support for organisations ranging from informal self-help groups through to legally-registered cooperatives and apex bodies; enterprise development moving from small-scale informal low value businesses to medium-sized agribusinesses with value addition; and value chain development initially building on existing gender roles to meet less resistance and then expanding women’s role, by adding value to their existing activities or developing activities in another part of value chain.

Which initiatives were used most frequently?

There was a marked difference in project engagement with initiatives to address gender inequalities which focus on the technical/operational aspects of agribusiness and value chain development (domains I to V) and those tackling the more fundamental gender transformative aspects (domains VI to VIII).The most common field-level activities were: developing women’s technical and business skills and knowledge, strengthening women’s voice and representation in groups and organisations, promoting access to resources and services, and strengthening access to markets and employment. Initiatives to reduce workloads and introduce technologies received moderate usage. In contrast, the majority did nothing specifically to address women’s voice in household decision-making and their well-being; often gains here were as outcomes of other initiatives. 

What were the indications of impact?

Most projects are ongoing and, whilst undergo regular monitoring, have not yet been subject to rigorous impact assessments on women’s economic empowerment. Hence the impacts noted here are based on qualitative evidence.As a result of women’s group membership and networking, their access to financial services and engagement in economic activities outside the home, and their ability to generate their own income – underpinned by a greater understanding in households and the community about the importance and benefits of addressing gender inequalities – women experienced:

  • improvements in their status in the home, receiving greater recognition, and gaining more voice and self-confidence;
  • more control over how household income is spent, especially regarding education, health and nutrition and investing in their own business; and
  • changed mindsets and behaviour among men (for example, donating land to women, reallocating unpaid care and domestic tasks among household members, and reducing domestic violence).

What was the overall performance of projects at the field level?

Project performance at the field level was analysed using the gender rating to indicate the extent to which a business/project has introduced activities to address gender inequalities. To facilitate this analysis, project activities in each domain were scored from 0 = gender blind, 1 = gender equity, 2 = gender equality, to 3 = gender transformative. The results were plotted on an octagon; the larger the area, the more transformative were the field level activities. This information was used for inter-project comparisons (see box) and could be used to improve project design and implementation.

 

Comparison of gender-related activities at the field level in two projects This example demonstrates the results from the study for two projects (Kenya/Rwanda and Moldova). The project in Moldova addressed gender issues largely from an efficiency perspective in two operational domains (access to resources and services, and skills and knowledge) but little attempt was made to empower women beyond their economic roles. In contrast, the project in Kenya/Rwanda was more gender transformative and introduced several activities to broaden the livelihood opportunities for women to access markets, to strengthen their voice both outside and inside the home, to redistribute responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work among household members, and to engage in policy dialogue. Comparison of gender-related activities at the field level in two projects

This example demonstrates the results from the study for two projects (Kenya/Rwanda and Moldova). The project in Moldova addressed gender issues largely from an efficiency perspective in two operational domains (access to resources and services, and skills and knowledge) but little attempt was made to empower women beyond their economic roles. In contrast, the project in Kenya/Rwanda was more gender transformative and introduced several activities to broaden the livelihood opportunities for women to access markets, to strengthen their voice both outside and inside the home, to redistribute responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work among household members, and to engage in policy dialogue.

Does project management influence the gender-responsiveness of field-level activities?

The final blog  explores some of the possible reasons for differences in project performance from a gender perspective, including project management and context.

[1] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia), Department for International Development (UK), European Union, Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammen-arbeit (Germany), International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Trade Centre and World Bank

By Clare Bishop, Independent consultant working on gender, agricultural development and rural livelihoods

This blog originally appeared on IBAN and is a part of the September 2017 series on Empowering women, in partnership with SPRING.

Read the full series for insights on business models that empower girls and women, a new analysis of gender impacts of value chain interventions, tips on gender-lens investing and many inspiring personal stories from women.

Photo: Aurelie Marrier d’Unienville / Oxfam. Francoise Mukeshimana, cooperative member, Northern Rwanda.

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