Gender And Agricultural Development

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Gender issues receive considerable attention throughout this text, for two reasons, namely,

(a) discrimination on the basis of gender is very widespread in developing agriculture, and

(b) in addition to questions of justice and fairness, the evidence is now clear that gender biases against women hinder agricultural development and reduce the nutritional status of rural households.

Gender bias is manifested in many different ways, including diminished access to land and credit, little attention to women's needs as producers by agricultural research and extension services, exclusion from most decision-making regarding irrigation systems, and less access than men have to agricultural inputs.12 Bias sometimes is embodied in legal codes that, for example, may recognize only the head of household for many purposes, or which give women unequal inheritance or divorce rights. Equally, bias is present in traditional, unwritten codes of conduct and conflict resolution. It is frequently found in the design and implementation of agricultural services and projects. Agricultural extension services, for example, typically deal almost exclusively with male farmers, and extension agents do not schedule their visits at a time which is convenient for women in light of the many household duties that women shoulder in addition to work in the fields. Many examples of this bias are cited in succeeding chapters (especially in Chapters 5, 7 and 8). Typical illustrations, characteristic of many countries, are found in Uganda and India:

. .. civil law in Uganda provides for equal rights in divorce - but customary law prevails in the division of conjugal property, and divorced women are unable to retain access to land.13

.. . most daughters in all Indian States do not inherit land, though legally eligible. ... in Bihar, India, some Ho women remain unmarried to keep this access.14

Studies have shown that rural women's time is exceedingly scarce and therefore is valuable. As a consequence, agricultural research that is directed toward ways of reducing the time requirements of household duties results in higher agricultural growth rates because more women's time is liberated for agricultural labor (Chapter 8). Country-level studies have shown that:

by hindering the accumulation of human capital in the home and the labor market, and by systematically excluding women or men from access to resources, public services, or productive activities, gender discrimination diminishes an economy's capacity to grow and

12. See, for example, FAO, SEAGA Macro Handbook: Gender Analysis in Macroeconomic and Agricultural Sector Policies, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, draft, March 2002, pp. 39-40.

13. The World Bank, Engendering Development - Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice, Policy Research Report, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, 2002, p. 16.

14. IFAD, Rural Poverty Report 2001: The Challenge of Ending Rural Poverty, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2001, p. 86.

raise living standards In households in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Kenya more equal control of inputs and farm income by women and men could raise farm yields by as much as a fifth of current output.15

Women's education is one of the key factors in reducing undernourishment and increasing economic growth:

... a recent study by IFPRI, which examines the relationship between a variety of factors and reductions in the number of underweight children in 63 developing countries between 1970 and 1995 . .. indicates that the statistical explanation of lower numbers of underweight children centers on [among other factors] level of women's education (43 percent). . . [and] women's status in society (12 percent).16

Low investment in female education also reduces a country's overall output. One study estimates that if the countries in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa had started with the gender gap in average years of schooling that East Asia had in 1960 and had closed that gender gap at the rate achieved in East Asia from 1960 to 1992, their income per capita could have grown by 0.5-0.9 percentage points higher per year.17

In the long run, some observers feel economic development itself helps correct gender inequalities:

Rising income and falling poverty levels tend to reduce gender disparities in education, health and nutrition. Higher productivity and new job opportunities often reduce gender inequalities in employment. And investments in basic water, energy, and transportation infra structure help reduce gender disparities in workloads.18

However, to reduce gender bias in the short and medium term, and also reduce its drag on economic growth, fundamental reforms are required in institutions and legislation, in ways of designing and carrying out programs and projects in rural areas, and in monitoring and evaluation of those activities and policy reforms. Large-scale training and capacity building efforts are required in order to effect these changes, accompanied by a strong political commitment Isolated projects for gender improvement may not be useful because other barriers to women's participation remain in place. Therefore the only viable approach is gender mainstreaming, starting with comprehensive gender analyses of the sector.19

The importance of capacity building cannot be overemphasized:

Although most governments and their partners have explicit commitments to the integration of gender into agricultural strategies, there has been little capacity building in gender analysis for the agricultural sector as a whole. Many of the gender inputs are oriented to micro level issues without linkage to overall agricultural priorities and processes. There is still a need to strengthen sector-wide gender capacity in most Ministries of Agriculture and among the policy formulation and management units of donor institutions. A recent review by the World Bank20 shows that gender analysis capacity is generally weak in Ministries of Agriculture. A gender-sensitive institutional analysis of Ministries of Agriculture should assess their capacity to integrate gender into the agricultural policy process (research and

16. FAO, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2001, p. 7.

20. The World Bank, Gender, Growth and Poverty Reduction, Washington, DC, USA, 1999.

strategy setting, policy formulation and implementation).21

One of the most valuable steps that international development organizations can take in the gender area is to ensure that the design of all of their projects commences with a gender analysis of constraints and issues in the domain of operation of the project. The concluding section of Chapter 5 presents a partial list of the kinds of questions that a proper gender analysis would confront in regard to land tenure issues. Through measures such as gender analysis, a much greater awareness of the seriousness of gender constraints can be developed, and building awareness is the first step to solving the problem.

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