Integrating gender and harnessing local knowledge

E. Lecoutere

More equal household decisions lead to more efficient smallholder farming

East Africa
Priorities and Policies for CSA

Decision making within farming households is not always equitable, leading to different outcomes for men and women. Gender programmes led by development workers can help address this, but how effective are they? Do they result in a real shift in power relations? And what is the impact on family livelihoods and the ability of these farmers to address the challenges of climate change?

Research carried out by CCAFS, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the University of Antwerp looked at the impact of a gender programme led by the Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) foundation. The study compared the behaviour of participating couples with those not involved in the HRNS programme. The research team also compared their findings with those from individual survey data.

E. Lecoutere

Researchers worked with the households of smallholder coffee farmers in western Uganda. They examined the investment and consumer behaviour of couples when both partners were involved in the household planning and decision making process – for example, in making decisions on what to grow and sell, and how to spend their profits from the farm.

The research found that joint decision making had a positive effect on investment in the couple’s farm. This type of decision making appeared to contribute to farming systems that are better able to sustainably satisfy the cash and food needs of a household, leading to increased well-being and food security. The research also found that couples who engaged in shared decision making were more likely to have joint ownership of land for both cash crops and food crops, and joint control of profits. Overall, the outcome was more sustainable, efficient and equitable household farming systems that are better able to address the challenges of climate change.

“Our household incomes and living conditions have improved. We have much more financial freedom and are now able to send our children to school.” Alex Asaba, smallholder farmer in western Uganda

The Uganda research is part of a broader look at the impact of gender programmes on smallholder farmers. Further exploration includes addressing the likelihood that couples who voluntarily attend a course like those offered by HRNS are perhaps more open to joint decision making. Introducing the HRNS programmes randomly to smallholders is one approach by which changes in household investment and consumer behaviour could be attributed more confidently to the development intervention.

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