Gender Approaches in Agricultural Extension

A client orientation in extension will promote greater delivery of extension services to women. However, it is often necessary to make a special effort to recognize the pro-male biases in extension systems, in order to be able to overcome them. For example, prior to the reforms in research and extension in Malawi that were mentioned earlier in this chapter:

Extension work to promote the uptake and efficient production of.. . crops was mainly carried out by male extension officers and was directed to the more commercially successful and progressive farmers who were predominantly male. . . . Extension services formed part of a package made available to [them] through male dominated 'farmers' clubs'. .. . Despite the fact that over a third of farm households were female headed many women farmers were unable to benefit. Their lack of access to farmers' clubs and credit meant they were unable to adopt the packages and benefit from the supporting extension advice.131

The FAO presents several key actions that are necessary for the successful incorporation of gender sensitivity into agricultural extension work:

• Move towards a demand-led extension system where both male and female extension workers are trained in gender issues and participatory planning and are better able to identify women's and men's needs, constraints, priorities and opportunities and adapt extension packages accordingly. .. .

• Improve the links between extension and research to ensure that local knowledge and practices are incorporated into research design.

130. Evison Moyo and Jürgen Hagmann, 'Facilitating competence development to put learning process approaches into practice in rural extension', in M. K. Qamar (Ed.), Human Resources in Agricultural and Rural Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2000, pp. 143-146.

• Broaden the range of extension activities to include local food crops, poultry and small ruminants, advice on labor saving devices for women's household chores and off-farm income earning activities.

• Schedule extension visits to ensure they do not clash with women's household responsibilities such as food preparation.

• Adapt training materials to meet women's level of literacy and numeracy.

• Adopt a group approach to extension provision to enable resource-poor farmers to pool resources. Women's accessibility appears to be greater in group extension activities compared to their participation in the contact farmer approach. . . .

• Introduction of gender-related analytic methods in the syllabus for the training of new and existing technical, extension and other field staff in rural development.

• Increase female enrolment in agricultural tertiary education and increase the number of female extension officers. . . .

• Introduce a system to monitor the extent to which extension services reach and benefit female and resource-poor farmers.132

Participatory research and extension systems have already moved in these directions. It is important that these orientations be incorporated into the supervision guidelines that apply to private, subsidized extension services as well as to public extension services themselves.

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