Posted February 1998
IN NAMIBIA, the "Improving information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning" project (1995-1997) focused on influencing the responsiveness of national agricultural policy making. The project's hypothesis was that information gathered using participatory research could make the gender and socio-economic relationships that structure farming systems more visible to policy makers, thereby improving the mental images upon which many policy decisions were presumed to be based. The project collaborated closely with another FAO project that was training agricultural extension staff in participatory extension training techniques in an effort to foster a client-responsive extension approach. "Client" was understood to include women farmers, women heads of households and rural youth. Trained extension workers conducted PRAs in four agro-ecological zones. University researchers incorporated the PRA generated information into region-specific case studies, and regional and national workshops brought it to the attention of agricultural policy-makers and planners.
The policy and planning context in Namibia was highly favourable: there was a good fit between the gender-sensitive, participatory orientation of the National Agricultural Policy (passed in the project's first year) and project efforts to train agricultural officers in gender-sensitive, participatory methods. Passage of the NAP facilitated the project's efforts to interest policy makers and senior agricultural staff in gender-sensitive participatory tools for agricultural planning.
The Nepal project (1996-97) focused on increasing the gender-responsiveness of district level planning. Although FAO was assisting the government in formulating district agricultural plans during the project's implementation period, it was not associated with that effort. The project was located in the Women Farmers Development Division (WFDD) of the Ministry of Agriculture. Project staff trained district officers from a wide variety of agencies (agriculture, livestock, extension, irrigation, cooperatives, and the agricultural development bank) in PRA and gender analysis. Trainees then conducted seven village-level PRAs in Nepal's three agroecological zones. District workshops had been planned to bring farmers together with district planners to discuss the community action plans resulting from the PRAs, but they were cancelled under the pressure of time. Top policy makers who attended a project-sponsored national workshop suggested that although there is a will to make planning gender and needs responsive, planners and policy makers do not yet know how to change agricultural planning procedures. The project only had time to show how information could be generated, not how planning might be changed in response.
Ethiopia's (1995-96) "Improving Client-Oriented Extension Training" project aimed at promoting gender-responsive extension planning. The country's decentralisation policy encouraged local level planning, creating a propitious environment for the project. The project was designed in a participatory manner by the national project coordinator, six national extension experts, and an international extension education adviser. It began by training trainers in PRA/GA methods using a local language training guide and video based on information gathered during staff conducted PRAs. The trainees then trained field staff in three regions (24 women and 58 men), who in turn conducted PRAs in 15 villages. This was followed by a second training of trainers (TOT) to improve the PRA/GA training materials. Concerned by the fact that previous reforms of the extension system had not succeeded in incorporating a gender focus, the project also decided to provide additional extension programme training. Extension officers and field agents were assisted in drawing out the implications of the information generated by the PRAs to plan specific extension programmes for the villages where the PRA had been conducted. The project made many efforts to involve policy makers, line department managers and local officials in project activities, including an inception workshop, regional and zonal awareness raising workshops, and invitations to attend PRA training sessions and community meetings.
The Sikkim-India (1995-97) "Development of Small Scale Livestock Activities" project also combined gender analysis with PRA, and added the rapid appraisal of tenure and participatory monitoring. When the project was initiated, Sikkim, one of India's most isolated Himalayan states, had a policy environment in which agricultural policies and programs paid no attention to gender roles and responsibilities. No information was available in the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Department (AHVS) about gender or age-specific roles in farming or livestock rearing systems. The project trained a small group of mid-level field staff as trainers, using practical, field-based tools for looking at differences in access to livestock production resources by gender and by age. These trainers trained local field staff, and together they conducted PRAs aimed at understanding farmers' constraints, priorities and training needs for goat and chicken husbandry. Policy makers in the Forestry and the Rural Development Departments as well as the AHVS all became interested in the effectiveness of participatory methods for generating gender information relevant to line agency programming and regional planning.
The on-going Tunisian "Policy and Strategy in Favour of Rural Women" project (1996-97) was mandated by government to assist in integrating rural women's issues in the 9th Five Year Plan. In the early 1990s, the government had decentralised decision-making and management to the regional level and encouraged local experimentation with participatory rural development planning. Government's request for a TCP focused on rural women reflected its growing interest in gender-sensitive participatory approaches to agricultural planning. The project developed a participatory survey methodology, using PRA-like MARP tools to generate information on women's activities in three sub-sectors: agro-forestry (the subject of the case study), irrigated agriculture, and fisheries. The tools focused primarily on women rather than on gender differences. Participatory analysis of the data was conducted with men as well as women. In the future, the project plans to formulate credit, training, technological support and group organisation programmes in the sub-sectors where women are most active.
The Costa Rica government explicitly requested the "Support for Women in Rural Areas in a Gender-focused Framework" project (1996-97) to analyse gender issues in order to reduce the gender inequalities experienced by rural women. The agricultural sector was undergoing a series of reforms aimed increasing its competitiveness in the global economy. Policies were initiated to develop participatory extension methods, to encourage negotiating with farmers, and to strengthen rural credit, all aimed at increasing economic efficiency. Government was aiming at a high level of participation, calling for "the active participation of male and female producers and their organisations in the definition of policies, and in the identification, implementation, monitoring and control of activities". The project, implemented in the Atlantic region, focused on three major areas of concern: i) training technical staff, planners and extentionist to create national capacity and ability to transform the government's concern with gender into effective policies; ii) strengthening both rural women's organizations and public institutions to increase the demand for gender sensitive policies as well as the capacity to develop them; and iii) working at the policy level to identify problems related to the differential impact of policies and programmes on men and women and to develop policies to overcome gender-based inequalities.
The Honduras case study covers a series of related "women's projects" (1983-1997) geared to increase recognition of rural women as agricultural producers and strengthen producer groups in the agrarian reform sector. The projects worked with the National Agrarian Institute (INA), which is the land reform and land registration agency, and with the Secretariat of Natural Resources (SRN), the government's main vehicle for extension and other agricultural services. In the 1980s there was little or no institutional recognition of women's productive roles in the rural sector, especially in agriculture. The projects thus began with a focus on income generating activities, gradually expanding to include literacy and management training. By the 1990s the effort began gaining institutional recognition of women's need for land and other productive resources. Ironically this change coincided with the advent of structural adjustment which stripped the INA of its powers to re-allocate land and severely reduced the capacity of the SNR to provide technical services like extension. The project reacted by developing a methodology to train rural women volunteers as para-technicians (promotoras campesinas) capable of helping women plan their own projects, including the organisation and management of savings and credit groups. This methodology was institutionalised over time. The long-term capacity building effort has been directly responsible for the increasing involvement of women in farmer's organisations and women's NGOs in the policy making process.
In Afghanistan, the Animal Health and Livestock Production Program (1994-1997) began to confront gender issues when FAO amalgamated it (in 1995) with a new project entitled "Promotion of Farmers' Participation through the Implementation of Animal Health and Production Improvement Modules" or PIHAM. PIHAM introduced participatory methods that revealed women's extensive knowledge and role in livestock and poultry rearing and convinced the veterinary staff from the animal health project that without including both women's and men's knowledge about animals, project interventions were unlikely to be effective. PIHAM trained female veterinary staff in participatory methods for livestock extension. They in turn modified the training material to make it more practical for women. The context in which this work has been carried out, however, has been extremely unfavourable. The long period of civil war has wiped out nearly all vestiges of government services in rural areas. As the Taliban forces took over, women's rights to engage in almost any productive activities outside the home have been increasingly abrogated. The project has faced tremendous obstacles in training its female staff, but the women veterinarians have persevered in involving village women in participatory training and livestock monitoring.
From its outset in 1986, the PREVINOBA project in Senegal opted for a strategy of 'popular involvement' to deal with deforestation and erosion in the Groundnut Basin. But the participatory dynamic of dialogue and exchange highlighted the fact that people's concerns went beyond the simple framework of rural forestry. As a result, the second phase of PREVINOBA had a broader mandate to draw up local land development and management plans which aim to reconcile people's interests with policy orientations in the sector, restoration and conservation of the environment, and improved production within a concept of sustainable development. The current phase (1995-1999) puts emphasis on consolidating the lessons learnt for expansion. It aims for eventual control by farmers' organisations and NGOs, in addition to government structures. PREVINOBA did not set out to focus on women's participation - but the context forced gender issues to be taken into account. The absence of rural men for the greater part of the year meant that women became indispensable actors in the design and set-up of land management plans. The project also responded to the needs identified by women, including improved ovens, millet mills, oil presses, and access to credit and literacy classes.
In Pakistan the "Inter-Regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation" (1993-1997) had separate men's and women's programmes to comply with cultural norms. The women's programme encountered significant resistance from senior management in the Forest and Wildlife Department to the incorporation of gender analysis into its participatory methods. In the end it was obliged to restrict its use of PRA tools to the assessment of women's problems and priorities. Despite severe ecological problems, conservation was a low priority for women, so the project made the organisation of a women's associations the final step in each PRA exercise. It provided training in income generating activities and helped women organise village savings and credit organisations. The project's concern with natural resource management was developed through a series of slide shows to stimulate discussion. Although the women eventually developed the discussion topics and slide shows themselves, it is unlikely that they will have a significant impact on the area's serious environmental problems, primarily because the owners of lucrative orchards are engaging in heavy-duty pump irrigation, an activity that has already severely lowered the water table and threatens, if continued, to force the population to abandon the area altogether.
Summary: the planning and policy environmentThe policy and planning environments encountered by the projects varied considerably. It ranged from those that were highly favourable to the introduction of gender-sensitive methods for participatory planning (Namibia, Ethiopia, Costa Rica) to the extreme case of Afghanistan where women's involvement in productive activities has been drastically curtailed. In the early phases of the Senegal and Honduras projects (the mid-1980s), there was relatively little interest in gender roles per se and little concern with supporting women's production or organisation at the government level. This changed in the 1990s when the policy environment in most countries became more favourable to women's issues and to the concept of people's participation. Gender analysis, however, is still not acceptable in certain policy environments, e.g. Pakistan. In some countries, information about gender roles, constraints and priorities is still very scarce. Furthermore, in many cases, planners and decision-makers do not necessarily think that participatory planning requires the participation of both men and women farmers, much less representatives from resource limited and minority population groups. This situation does not necessarily preclude an interest on the part of decision-makers and planners in PRA, gender analysis or the analysis of difference, but it does mean that projects advocating gender-sensitive participatory methods must demonstrate their relevance and applicability to planning.