Philosophy and principles

Integrating attention to gender issues into RAS is based on the knowledge that “[C]losing the gender gap in agriculture could increase yields on farms by 20–30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4%, reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%.” (3)
(3) FAO . 2011. The state of food and agriculture: Women in agriculture, closing the gender gap for development. Rome: FAO
 Integrating gender into RAS can have benefits at multiple levels. At the household level, increasing women’s access to inputs will improve their agricultural productivity. At the organizational level, engaging more women in cooperatives and farmer associations can increase organizational effectiveness and has the potential to better address issues of concern to women farmers. Integrating gender issues at the policy level has the potential to increase the economic involvement of half the population and contribute to improving overall household food security. 

Providers of RAS are challenged to cover multiple topics in their work (e.g., developing farmer cooperatives, addressing climate smart agriculture, and integrating gender and nutrition into agricultural programming). These issues must be addressed in some capacity, but it is important to recognise that all work with farmers should be based on the principles of participatory facilitation, which include the following:

Learning from the people: Recognise the value of local knowledge and people’s ability to solve their own problems.

Discussion and sharing of experiences: ‘Outsiders’ (RAS) and ‘insiders’ (community members) share their knowledge and experiences and analyse problems from different perspectives.

Involvement of all within the community: Facilitate a learner-centred process that involves all community members, including different ages, religions, socio-economic statuses.

Outsiders are facilitators: Create a ‘learning environment’ together. Facilitators should not lecture or talk down to the community even if they are experts in their subject matter.

Practical orientation: Problems are investigated together with the community to achieve practical solutions.

Triangulation: Information is studied from various sources using different methods; findings are repeatedly checked to validate results.

Integrating gender into RAS – key considerations

When integrating attention to gender issues with a group of stakeholders (RAS clients and beneficiaries) it is important to consider the ‘five W’s’:

Who is present or who is not present? For example – when entering a meeting for the first time – are there both men and women present? Are they of different ages? Different socio-cultural backgrounds? You can’t have a successful agricultural innovation if part of the target population is missing. When studying the agricultural system, this type of question helps identify all potential stakeholders, including men and women, boys and girls, local authorities, government or non-government organizations (NGOs), etc. An example of this would be conducting a network analysis of all participants who might be affected or involved with an agricultural project and using that information to determine who to invite to a meeting so that all stakeholders are represented.

Who does what? Men and women, boys and girls have different ‘gender roles’ based on multiple factors including culture, age, religion, caste, etc. It is important to identify who is doing what in agricultural systems. Women frequently have greater time constraints given their multiple roles, and this can affect the types of technologies they select, or the times they are available for meetings. In some instances, men have access to and control over agricultural resources that women do not have, which impacts who has the ability to use, or even have access to, a technology.

What are they doing? Are men involved primarily in the agricultural production while women do all the processing? Are the men or women primarily responsible for childcare? Determining what they are doing will help in designing appropriate technologies or interventions tailored to the needs and wants of men and women. If the technology or innovation is appropriate to their needs, it will improve the chances it will be adopted and scaled up in the future. The Activity Profile is a tool designed to help solicit responses to this question.

When are they doing it? Men and women are responsible for different activities that occur at different times of the day or year. If you are planning a workshop in the morning, women might not be able to attend if they have household responsibilities that conflict with the meeting time. This is also important to consider when women and men may be engaged in an agricultural activity such as planting or harvesting and they might be unable to participate in the research. Simple tools such as the 24-hour day activity clock or seasonal calendar are available to assist with this question.

Where are they doing it? (e.g., farm, field, community or house). For example, in many communities men  are more often responsible for marketing agricultural products off the farm, and women more likely to market smaller agricultural products from the home to accommodate watching children or other domestic responsibilities. Their primary location will affect their ability to participate in research or meetings. Consider this when you are organizing meetings with stakeholders.

Why are they doing it or not doing it? When collecting the above information it is important to ask this question to understand some of the underlying reasons that men and women can or cannot participate in extension activities. To accommodate all stakeholders in a participatory manner, and have programmes that achieve sustainable impact, you need to understand the gender-based constraints and opportunities faced by male and female farmers.