Like other INGENAES activities, this research activity aims toward the larger goal of building gender-responsive agricultural extension and advisory services and as a result, improving women farmers’ agricultural productivity and household nutrition. This particular project expanded the overall INGENAES focus by bringing men into the picture, specifically, looking at men’s perspective on their roles in meeting household nutritional needs and their preferences for nutrition-sensitive extension approaches. In addition, this project sought out information from men and women about gender roles and particularly transformations in gender roles taking place in rural villages that might affect nutritional outcomes.
Gender relations in Bangladesh have been undergoing a process of considerable transformation over the past thirty years as part of a broader process of economic transition and societal change. Women farmers made up 40 percent of the total agricultural labor force in 2010, with a 7 percent growth in women’s participation in agriculture between 2005 and 2010 (Akter et.al., 2015). Evidence shows that the wage difference between men and women in agriculture decreased from 40% to 30% for the year 2011/12 to 2013/14, which can be taken as a positive change (FPMU, 2015; BBS Monthly Bulletin, 2015), although the gap is still very high. Despite such progress, Bangladeshi women are still primarily considered to be unpaid family labor (56.3% of women in the labor force), and their contributions to agriculture are not fully recognized, neither in the household and communities nor at the national level (SFYP, 2015).
In Bangladesh, rural households rear cattle as a component of mixed farming rather than on a truly commercial basis. Like most Asian countries, rural Bangladeshi women extensively participate in livestock management, especially in rearing dairy cows (FAO, 2003; Anderson and Eswaran, 2007; Hashemi et al., 1996; Kabeer 1998) yet society rarely recognizes them as farmers. Consequently, women still receive limited extension services or other support and therefore their contributions to dairy value chains are less than they could be.
Lessons Learned from Two Projects that Integrated Agricultural Interventions and Nutrition in Bangladesh
Food and nutrition security exists when all people are able to consume food in both sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and they are supported by an environment with adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life (FAO, 1996). Agriculture1 is fundamental to this widely held definition of food and nutrition security. Approximately half of the people of Bangladesh depend on agriculture for their livelihoods as a source of income. Two-thirds of them are women farmers. Most agricultural producers also purchase foods to supplement their home production (GoB, 2011). Despite high level of economic growth in recent years, malnutrition persists in many countries of the South Asian Region. Bangladesh has achieved significant economic growth and poverty reduction, yet continues to battle some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world (World Bank, 2011). To improve the nutritional status of affected persons in Bangladesh, nutrition specific interventions such as Vitamin A supplementation, food supplementation, and immunization programmes have been in place for many years. Unfortunately, little focus has been placed on the broader resolutions of nutrition through agriculture (including horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry) that play an important role in reducing undernutrition through food-based approaches as nutrition-sensitive interventions.
Bangladesh is a country with mainly paddy-based agriculture, which has managed to triple its rice production since independence in 1971, from 10 million metric tons to over 33.83 million metric tons (Krishi Dairy in Khatun, 2015). 76% of the country’s people live in the rural areas and 90% of them have livelihoods directly related to agriculture (Dev et al., 2014). From this perspective, rural women’s participation in post-harvest activities are one of the most important contributions in agricultural production in Bangladesh. However, in traditional Bangladeshi context, post-harvest work is simply seen as part of women’s household responsibilities; in other words, this work has little monetary value or social recognition. Though this scenario has been changing due to the new technological intervention and frequent market affiliation with rice production and processing, nowadays many women are working in mills (usually called rice mills) as cheap and conventional labour for their livelihood. In this aspect, the aim of this study is to explore the health and nutritional behaviour of rice mill women workers in Narina Union of Shahjadpur.
Promoting Female Headed Households Farmers’ Economic Empowerment for Securing Nutrition
The objective of this research is to incorporate women in extension services to enhance their economic empowerment to secure nutrition in their households. This study was carried out in Manikganj district with the help of Karmojibi Nari. The information was collected from women farmers of FHH, Government extension service officer, Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC) and Karmojibi Nari staff members, the chairman and another member of Manikganj Chamber of Commerce, and a group of community men. We used the in-depth interview method and Focus Group Discussion method as qualitative tools to collect data from the different target groups.
A Needs Assessment Report from a Communications Perspective, based on Field Work in Bangladesh
Dr. Lulu Rodriguez and Lea Peck of the University of Illinois’ Agricultural Communications Program were asked to join an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty members and staff of two other universities that visited Bangladesh on behalf of the Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Services (INGENAES) project.
INGENAES’ mandate is to assist USAID’s Feed the Future missions to strengthen gender and nutrition integration within agricultural extension and advisory services (EAS). Its stated objectives are (1) to build robust nutrition-oriented institutions, projects and programs capable of assessing and responding to the nutrition needs of farmers and farm families; (2) identify, test the efficacy, and strengthen proven mechanisms for delivering improved EAS to women farmers; (3) disseminate gender-appropriate and nutrition-enhancing technologies and access to inputs to improve women’s agricultural productivity and enhance household nutrition; and (4) apply effective extension approaches and tools to enhance the nutritional status especially of those who reside in rural areas.
Households include a number of decision-makers who hold varying beliefs about how family members should be involved with food—its purchase, preparation, distribution, consump-tion, and marketing. Households are complex and dynamic systems, involving gender and generational roles influenced by tradition, culture, circumstances, and historical changes. Taking on a household lens is compatible with a systems’ perspective on agricultural develop-ment, such as an agricultural innovation systems framework that incorporates “all the actors in the system and their interactions”, as well as institutions and policies that impact the system and its innovations.