Capturing the Gender Effect

Capturing the Gender Effect
Guidance for Gender Measurement in Agriculture Programs

Anjala Kanesathasan, Krista Jacobs, Margo Young, Adithi Shetty

Over the past decade there has been growing recognition of the contribution that women make to agricultural production around the world. Despite this attention, many agricultural programs struggle to capture the difference—or the ‘gender effect’—that gender integration makes on key outputs and outcomes.

This technical brief, produced for the Tanzania Gender and Agriculture Forum (TaGAF), draws on the experiences of two projects in Mbeya, Tanzania—Faida Mali’s Integrated Soil Fertility Management and TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative—focusing on the steps they have taken to measure the ‘gender effect’.  It is a follow-on to an earlier TaGAF brief that presents some of the promising gender responsive practices these project have underway.  

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A Community of Practice on Gender and Agriculture in Tanzania

Women play a central role in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. However their contributions to agricultural productivity at the household, community and national levels are limited by a diverse range of social and economic constraints that vary by crop and local context. Overcoming gender-related barriers requires innovative and practical solutions informed by a context-specific understanding of “how to” initiate and sustain gender transformative change in agriculture.

To help foster a deeper understanding and application of gender integration, ICRW, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) implemented a pilot program to develop a community of practice among agriculture practitioners in Tanzania.  This forum provided a space for peers to share knowledge and experiences in addressing gender within their work, creating a sustainable platform for technical support, problem-solving and new ideas on gender and agriculture. 

The community of practice, named Tanzania Gender and Agriculture Forum (TaGAF) by its members, was launched in March 2012 and is comprised of interested BMGF grantees, as well as other agriculture and gender practitioners and resource persons currently working in Tanzania.  TaGAF uses workshops, technical briefs and an online platform to facilitate interactions and peer learning and sharing.   

2011 - 2013

Innovations in Gender Equality to Promote Household Food Security

Despite their central role in the sector, women farmers face a number of constraints stemming from gender inequality, including limited access to farm inputs and technology, information, credit, and training services, all of which adversely affect their productivity.  Research shows that if women farmers in Kenya had more equitable access to farm inputs, household agricultural output could increase by 10 to 20 percent. 

Agro-dealers are locally-based independent entrepreneurs who sell certified improved seeds and fertilizers, as well as other agricultural inputs, offer trainings on input use, link farmers to credit and markets, and mobilize farmers to form Farmer Input Savings and Loan (FISL) groups,. Recent ICRW research in Kenya shows that women farmers interact closely with agro-dealers, attending their trainings and demonstrations more frequently than men.  Women also constitute the majority of FISL members. However, the services agro-dealers offer are largely gender-blind and do not take into account women’s particular needs, preferences and constraints to enable women to better access inputs and services. Thus a gendered response to the needs and preferences of their customer base can potentially improve agro-dealers’ business returns while also improving the productivity and food security of Kenyan farmers. 

The goal of the project is to design, implement and evaluate an innovative, gender-responsive capacity development intervention targeting agro-dealers and men and women farmers in FISL groups. The three-arm study will test the hypothesis that a gender-responsive agro-dealer business model combined with a package of technical training, group strengthening and gender training for FISL members leads to the best outcomes for agro-dealers (profitability) and women and men farmers (productivity increases, food security).   

2012 - 2014

Cultivating Women's Participation: Strategies for Gender-Responsive Agriculture Programming

Cultivating Women's Participation: Strategies for Gender-Responsive Agriculture Programming

Anjala Kanesathasan

Programs designed to enhance smallholder productivity must go beyond a focus on technical agricultural issues to address the underlying gender-related norms, priorities and constraints that may prevent women farmers from reaching their full potential.  This technical brief highlights promising approaches in reaching women based on the experiences of two projects working with farmers in Mbeya, Tanzania: TechnoServe's Coffee Initiative and Faida Mali's Soil Health Project. The brief was developed through an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ICRW to support a community of practice on gender and agriculture called the Tanzania Gender and Agriculture Forum (TaGAF).    

Key learnings from the two projects include:

  • Set a Gender Goal
  • Communicate Gender-Related Intentions from Day 1 
  • Be a Role Model for Women's Participation and Equality
  • Incorporate Women's (and Men's) Perspectives into Project Design 
  • Use Communication and Training Approaches that Facilitate Women's Engagement

The brief is part of a larger effort of TaGAF to support peer learning, capacity building and sharing on the practical "how to" of gender integration. 

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Agrodealerships in Western Kenya: How Promising for Agricultural Development and Women Farmers?

Agrodealerships in Western Kenya: How Promising for Agricultural Development and Women Farmers?

Bell Okello, Silvia Paruzzolo, Rekha Mehra, Adithi Shetty and Ellen Weiss

Agriculture is a critical driver of economic growth in Kenya. Agrodealers link input suppliers to farmers and farmers to output markets. Unfortunately, access to and appropriate use of agricultural inputs is often cited as one of the biggest challenges facing most small-scale farmers, especially women. This paper highlights findings from an assessment of the agrodealership model in Western Kenya and the model's potential to deliver inputs and services to women farmers.

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Invisible Market

Invisible Market
Energy and Agricultural Technologies for Women's Economic Advancement

Kirrin Gill, Payal Patel, Paula Kantor, Allison McGonagle

This research explores what it takes for technology initiatives, specifically in the energy and agricultural sectors, to reach and economically benefit women in developing countries through market-based strategies that have the potential for achieving scale and financial sustainability. It builds on ICRW’s landmark paper, Bridging the Gender Divide: How Technology Can Advance Women Economically, which made the case for how technologies can create pathways for strengthening women’s economic opportunities.

Through a field-level investigation and interviews with experts, the authors examine how women’s use of technology and their involvement in the development and distribution of a technology can not only advance women economically, but also can benefit enterprise-based technology initiatives by expanding their markets and helping them generate greater financial returns.

(3.02 MB)

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G(irls) 20 Summit: Catching Up With Women Farmers

Mon, 05/21/2012
Huffington Post

Rekha Mehra writes about women farmers in the Huffington Post. Despite women being responsible for all the tasks related to producing a crop, women farmers do not get much in return. In her blog post, Mehra stresses the importance of including them in business associations and field training.

Q & A with ICRW’s Silvia Paruzzolo

ICRW expert discusses how to create agriculture programs that reach women
Tue, 03/27/2012

ICRW economist Silvia Paruzzolo discusses what it means to create “gender-responsive” agricultural programs and how ICRW approaches its workshops on the subject.

Agriculture programs risk failure when they don’t consider the social realities of gender – that is, the distinct roles and norms assigned to women and men in a society. However, organizations, foundations and governments increasingly recognize that they must address these realities if they want to help rural women progress economically – as well as help ease hunger across the globe.

For instance, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) this month launched a new gender policy – the first in 30 years – that strives to close the gap in opportunity between women and men worldwide and prioritizes women’s empowerment as a central component of any strategy to end global ills such as hunger. Meanwhile, the coalition Farming First recently produced the Female Face of Farming, an interactive visual that lays out rural women’s role in agriculture, inequities that exist between female and male farmers, such as land ownership, and the impact of such “gender gaps.” And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers up a creative infographic that illustrates how investing in women farmers can benefit entire communities.

While such new endeavors cast an important spotlight on the contributions of rural women a well as the barriers they face, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) provides strategies for how to empower women farmers to be economically successful. ICRW’s workshops on gender and agriculture are a first step in that process. In these customized trainings, ICRW experts help organizations understand how programming that responds to women farmers’ unique needs can make a difference for entire communities – as well as for implementing organizations. ICRW also provides guidance on how to design, deliver and evaluate effective programs and services related to gender and agriculture.

In the following Q & A, Silvia Paruzzolo, an ICRW economist who leads gender and monitoring and evaluation trainings for economic development programs, discusses what it means to create “gender-responsive” agricultural programs and how ICRW approaches its workshops on the subject.

Q: What are some of the common misperceptions that organizations have about gender?

Paruzzolo: We find that staff at many organizations that work on agricultural development acknowledge the role of gender in agricultural programming. Yet there is some degree of skepticism about the importance of analytically addressing gender in agricultural projects because of beliefs that gender is a “soft” issue, not a science. At ICRW, we believe that this skepticism usually is because of a lack of clarity on the rationale for addressing gender in programming. And, there are differences in understanding around what “gender” and “gender-responsive programming” mean as well as around the use and usefulness of techniques such as gender mainstreaming and analysis. There is also a diffused perception that women’s roles and responsibilities are rooted exclusively in household work. However, growing evidence illustrates how women contribute substantially to agricultural production and related income, which makes them key economic agents in the agricultural economy. They are not only home producers or “assistants” in farm households. 

Q: What are the elements needed to ensure a program is “gender-responsive”?

Paruzzolo: Gender-responsive programming requires understanding how gender operates, its centrality to good programming, and the need for appropriate funding and assessment of outcomes.Key to ensuring that a program is gender-responsive is to understand that it cannot be treated as an “add-on.” Instead a successful program addresses how gender influences and will be influenced by the program at every single phase of the project cycle. In agriculture, this requires identifying differences in the needs, roles, statuses, priorities, capacities, constraints and opportunities of women and men farmers, and realizing how these differences affect power relationships within farming households. 

Gender-blind programs risk failure. Two ways to avoid this is to recognize that gender issues affect how a program achieves its results; and that gender also plays a role in how people respond to interventions; not everyone is affected in the same way. Essentially, designing and implementing gender-responsive programs truly requires organizations to rethink traditional practice.

Q: What are some of the challenges to implementing gender-responsive programming and how can organizations begin to address some of these challenges?

Paruzzolo: Implementing gender-responsive agricultural programming requires an in-depth understanding of gender and intra-household dynamics relevant to an organization’s specific programs. Developing this understanding and the implications for programming is definitely challenging; it requires the right techniques and skills. For example, quantitative data collection methods may not be able to capture the nuances of changing dynamics in relationships within a farming household.

ICRW’s customized workshops help overcome this challenge by introducing participants to the concepts and techniques of gender analysis, which is defined as a systematic process of using research methods to identify differences in the needs, roles, statuses, priorities, capacities, constraints and opportunities of women and men. We then train participants how to apply this information to the design, implementation and evaluation of research, policy and programs. While available frameworks and tools guide gender analysis in practice, they cannot substitute for organizational commitment to gender-responsive programming.  Sound gender analysis requires skilled professionals, appropriate financial support and a commitment to use the results to shape policies, projects and actions.

Q: Explain ICRW’s approach to gender training workshops.

Paruzzolo: Most commonly, the main objectives of a gender training workshop are to illustrate the difference it makes to women, men, families and programs when an intervention is gender-responsive, to demonstrate how critical this is for achieving an organization’s goals, and to facilitate learning and capacity building. 

At ICRW, we tailor each workshop to the specific capacity and learning needs of an organization. Our workshops are designed to draw out participants’ current understanding of gender, hear their experiences and ideas, and resolve different concepts of gender in the context of an organization’s strategy. We also engage participants in hands-on activities and focused case studies on how to incorporate gender in agricultural interventions. 

To do this, ICRW usually begins with a “needs assessment” to better understand the organization’s staff work, how they currently integrate gender into their programming and their existing capacity, and what concerns they may have about weaving gender into on-going and upcoming projects. The information generated from the needs assessment then feeds directly into how we design the workshop and its materials. 

During the workshops, participants are usually guided through a fast-paced series of alternating content presentations, videos, practical, hands-on exercises and games designed to promote experiential and participatory learning. We focus on demonstrating the importance of gender integration for agricultural development by using empirical examples that, wherever possible, are drawn from the organization’s own work. Finally, we dedicate time each workshop day to reflect on and synthesize what was learned. 

For more information on how to partner with ICRW, please email

Liquid Gold

A small investment in women coffee farmers in Tanzania yields unexpected returns

When done right, small investments can make a great difference in the lives of rural women, like those ICRW's Rekha Mehra met in Tanzania. Read the first installment in ICRW's Rural Impressions blog series.

Understanding Gender's Role in Agriculture

Workshop Reveals Need for More Research

A recent trip to Nairobi to conduct a workshop for agriculture practitioners and researchers revealed to me just how much more work needs to be done to bolster women’s roles in agriculture, from the farm where food is cultivated to the homes and plants where it is packaged and processed. 

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