Gender Conversations at Tropentag

Ndisale1 Brave Ndisale, FAO

In our earlier post, we highlighted the subject of gender and land tenure as discussed by the Tropentag keynote speaker, Brave Ndisale. A gathering of researchers and development practitioners also presented research posters addressing issues of gender and land tenure, value chains, and collective action drawing from case studies in Nigeria, Sudan, Ecuador, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. Confirming the points raised by Ndisale that women are constrained of land and economic capitals, these posters provided empirical evidence of how these two challenges affect women participation in the local and regional food systems.

Socio-cultural factors affect the rate of adoption of some agricultural practices. While women frequently participate in agricultural knowledge sharing events, such as through Farmer Field schools, this knowledge might remain trapped with them if they do not have control over land use. For example in Kenya, one of the researchers noted that women who practiced conservation agriculture, even though this technology led to increased yields, they were seen as lazy by other community members for failing to till their land. HORTNILEA researchers in African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs), found that commercialization and modernization was changing the dynamics of growing and selling AIVs. Kenyan women in the peri-urban areas had more independence to practice AIV farming and manage their farm incomes because their husbands held other waged incomes, but those in the rural areas were limited by their husbands control over the land, or the income earned from AIVs farming.


Behaviour change on land use, consumption, and gender roles, is an important factor in empowering women for food security. For instance, a study in Uganda found that men and children/youth spend their farm incomes on individual needs while women spend most of their income on the household. These behaviours  have an effect on nutrition, because the less the women earn, the less they spend on nutritious foods. This is closely linked to a study of choices and preferences among women, men and youth in Tanzania which found that choices were made based on their perceptions of their position in society and what was expected of them. Men would choose cash crops, youth would choose fast growing crops, while women would choose those crops often associated with women, such as soyabeans. In agricultural technology, women were more likely to choose tractors because that would ease their labour inputs, while youth would choose technologies accelerating their production.

Women involvement in value chains is dependent on their capabilities, especially access to capital, technologies, time, labour, as well as structural and intellectual limitations. For instance, in Nigeria, women were involved in cassava value chains apart from the transportation, while in Tanzania, women were involved throughout the value chain. Where women are involved in animal production, they might spend more time gathering forage, while that time is taken away from farming and other household chores, and the end economic returns may not necessarily go towards buying nutritious foods. In response to such disparities, a CIAT study was introducing new forage for animals which the women would grow closer to their homes and mixed with crops to reduce the time spent finding forage and enhance crop production.

Collective action for women is essential because it enhances their participation in the value chains, through capacity building, marketing, and policy advocacy. For example, in Ecuador, a local women’s organization was involved in the production, processing and marketing of cocoa in previously deforested areas.

Ndisale emphasized the significance of social protection including cash transfers, insurance schemes, input schemes, subsidies, public works programmes and assets programme in enabling women’s resilience. These must be supported by policy. However, a study in Uganda by IITA observed the limitations of demarcating women and other aspects, such as climate change, as cross-cutting issues. Although significant policy indicators, women end up being included in all other policies, but having no priority planning or budgeting, thus, eventually become orphaned issues.

As such, gender is indeed a controversial conversation that should continue beyond this conference, particularly in looking at how to ensure the resilience of women, especially the bulk of those in the rural areas involved in smallholder agriculture yet do not have access to the right technologies, market information, and social protection. To learn more about other gender perspectives presented at the conference, you can follow this link to the abstracts and contact the authors. On an interesting note, do have a look at our other Blog on women in science and parenting at Tropentag.


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