Gender in Agriculture Series: An Introduction

photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection 

Fifteen years ago, I observed a European expert asking some questions of a gathering of about 30 farmers in Central Nigeria. The expert had a number of questions to ask, and the answers were not coming quickly as following the translation there was a lot of discussion amongst the community members. The sun was getting hot and one man from the community answered a question in English. Gradually this more efficient method for getting responses was further utilised until he was being asked all of the questions directly. The expert got his answers but the answers were from an eloquent, English-speaking man who was just visiting family in the community rather than representatives of the community, the majority of whom were women.

Women have not benefitted to the same extent as men from agricultural development. FAO estimate that Women farmers typically achieve yields that are 20-30% lower than men#. However, the vast majority of studies suggest that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services. Addressing this gender gap would increase total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%, enough to reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100-150m. Of course addressing these issues would ensure that future investments in agriculture also have bigger returns.

But how to address them?  Specific gender initiatives and policy influence are required to address cultural, legal and political constraints, but those of us working in agriculture in developing countries, we also have a major contribution to make. To begin with, we need to be clear that gender is all about the relationships between men and women. It should be inclusive of both men and women, it is not something for women by women. I did my gender training because I felt that there are a shortage of male gender experts out there (which is a shame because men are in a stronger position to talk to other men about behavioural change).

Secondly, although it is more work and sometimes harder work, we need to make sure that we are hearing from the whole community, from the men and the women, to ensure that we are considering them and how they will be affected by any changes that we may bring about within a community. I will say a bit more about this in my next blog.

Our Gender in Agriculture Series is written by Heartland Global Partner, Dr. Andrew Ward.  


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