Posted February 1998
THE NAMIBIA project experienced the power of official policy to create a more enabling environment for gender-responsive participatory approaches when the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) was published during project implementation. The NAP's emphasis on gender and participation prompted middle level and senior managers to take the project much more seriously. A workshop for policy makers and senior managers on the analysis of difference and other project methods convinced them of the usefulness of these methods to policy making and planning. The project's successful training of trainers in gender-sensitive participatory methods for agricultural planning encouraged the extension service to incorporate PRA and gender analysis training in the annual retraining programmes for extension workers, an important step toward institutionalisation of participatory methods.
The Namibia project's planned final output was to have been an Action Plan for Gender-Sensitive Agricultural Policies and Programmes. The Plan, however, was weak because the actions proposed were too broad to guide actual planning processes; some even lacked gender specificity. This stemmed in part from the fact that inputs for the Action Plan were requested from top management before they fully understood the issues the project was attempting to deal with. More importantly, there was not enough time during the regional workshops to adequately discuss the issues to be included in the Action Plan and to develop practical strategies for dealing with them. Finally, there were no funds to implement the Gender Action Plan (GAP). In response to this situation, the project's governing committee decided to incorporate the best components of the GAP directly into the National Agricultural Strategy (NAS). Since all agricultural planners must follow the guidelines of the NAS, this is a better strategy than publishing a separate Gender Action Plan.
Nepal's final output was also to have been a guide, this time for integrating gender issues in district level planning. Production of the guide, however, was apparently neither fully integrated with the learning taking place in the PRAs, nor based on a thorough understanding of the practices and constraints of district planning. Production of this guide was a top priority for the project's national coordinator (head of the Women Farmers Development Department) because Nepal's top policy makers look to district planning as the conduit to feed information about farmers' needs into the national policy and planning system. The national project coordinator's over-arching objective to influence national level decision-makers prompted her to cancel the planned district workshops to give more time to prepare the national seminar to present the guidelines to top policy makers. This decision eliminated the project's chance to test the reaction of district planners to the results of the PRAs, greatly frustrating project staff as well as the men and women farmers who had planned to present their action plans to district planners. It also eliminated an important means of generating relevant inputs for the guidelines for district planning.
It is possible that even if the district workshops had been held, the Nepal project may not have been able to produce a guide for district planning that was adequately grounded in the realities of district planning to be effective. There are two major reasons: first, with only a year for its implementation, the project had too little time to adequately train district officers and WFDD staff in gender-responsive participatory methods for district planning. Second, there were too few effective links between the project and district planning processes, and no effective link with the FAO supported district planning project. The project's placement in the WFDD rather than in the technical divisions of the MOA responsible for planning kept it too far from the planners it was trying to reach.
In Ethiopia, the case study points out that the project's location in the Extension Division of the MOA rather than in the Women's Affairs Department was important to the good prospects for the institutionalisation of its approach because it ensured that senior extension officers and field staff were the central players in the project. As in Namibia, the policy environment and institutional structure became increasingly supportive of client-oriented, gender-sensitive participatory approaches to extension during the period of the project's implementation. The National Policy on Ethiopian Women was published; women's affairs units were established in all line departments; district and local councils were established to facilitate "bottom up" planning; and a participatory demonstration and training extension system was developed. The project's emphasis on the training of trainers fit well into this new institutional context by giving the extension department the means to train its personnel in participatory client-oriented extension methods.
While these are encouraging developments, the case study emphasises that other changes are needed if institutionalisation is to be fully achieved. First, training in PRA/GA methods and client-oriented extension planning should be part of pre-service training for new extension agents. Second, more trainers need to be trained to extend the client-oriented approach to other regions. Third, better links with agricultural research are required to assist extension in responding to client identified technical problems. Fourth, budgetary and programme changes are needed to permit all line departments to better respond to "bottom-up" demands. Fifth, staff at regional, district, and zonal levels need training in various types of local planning, including extension programming, to help them adjust to the new level of autonomy and decision-making power they are expected to wield under the new decentralisation policy.
In contrast to the cases just discussed, the policy environment India's small-scale livestock project was not "enabling" in the sense that there was no formal policy mandate for gender-sensitive or participatory approaches in agriculture. On the other hand, there was also no strong opposition on the part of top or middle management at the Animal Health and Veterinary Service Department to the project's proposal to work with gender analysis and participatory tools. As a result, lessons from the field could be "filtered upward" toward policy makers, bringing gender issues to the attention of senior policy makers in AHVS, Agriculture, Forestry, Rural Development and Planning Departments. The recent appointment of a new generation of directors in AHVS and Planning have created new opportunities to institutionalise gender-sensitive programmes and policies, but the absence of funding is still a serious constraint, especially for the training of trainers who are needed to incorporate project methods in pre-service and in-service extension training.
The progress and problems of efforts to institutionalise gender-sensitive policies in Honduras is a cautionary tale, warning us of the perils, in the era of structural adjustment, of putting all institutionalisation efforts into government agencies (as most projects have done). The story begins with successes. The project's close relationship with the agrarian reform agency had helped effect institutional changes in land distribution and registration that benefited women. Project supported revisions of agricultural sub-sector policies had also begun to assure the incorporation of women in new agricultural programs and had opened up women's access to rural banks. Attitudes in government agencies, which in the mid-1980s had seen development as a masculine affair, had changed significantly, especially among technicians and field agents who had become acutely aware of gender inequalities in access to state services. All this progress was dealt a heavy blow in January 1994 when structural adjustment brought drastic institutional changes. The agrarian reform agency lost its ability to redistribute land, limiting the possibilities for women farmers to obtain new land. The major agricultural service agency was severely reduced in size. Agricultural research and extension for the commercial sector was privatised, leaving very weakened public research and extension services for the small farm sector. "Modernisation" and export stimulation policies privileged the large commercial estates with little consideration for their social and economic consequences for small farmers. In sum, the public sector institutional "space" for the promotion of gender-responsive participatory agricultural planning has been seriously reduced.
The project reacted to these changes by reorienting its activities toward the private sector, focusing on strengthening the capacity for self-management in women's associations and local farmer organisations. In place of its former training of rural women volunteers as "extension linkage agents", it began to train them as "para-technicians" equipped with organisational development and technical skills to support women's micro-enterprise and rural savings and loan association development. The project also increased its focus on women wage workers in commercial agricultural enterprises by participating in the Inter-Institutional Technical Commission that promotes gender equality among agricultural workers.
In Costa Rica the project worked to develop capacities for gender analysis and gender-responsive planning in a wide range of institutions in the Atlantic region and at national level. The task was facilitated by Costa Rica's recent decentralisation process and by the development of national policies to support gender equality. The project worked to promote the institutionalisation of gender-responsive policy making and planning by: i) training a core group of gender analysis trainers to use a similar approach and to adapt it to different institutional environments; ii) testing the ASEG available material and developing a wide variety of courses and materials for teaching gender analysis to different audiences such as extensionist, planners, educators, rural organisations, etc.; iii) providing agricultural technicians with multi-disciplinary experiences that incorporated gender analysis; and iv) involving high level decision-makers from the Agricultural Sector Planning Secretariat in a variety of project activities.
The Tunisia TCP "Policy and Strategy in Favour of Rural Women" is an on-going project that has not reached the stage of trying to institutionalise its methods, but the author of the case study has made suggestions for increasing the gender-responsiveness of agricultural planning. The Ministry of Agriculture should create gender and development (GAD) units at the central and regional levels. The central GAD unit, with representatives from the planning, finance, extension and training departments, would evaluate the impact of programmes and projects on rural women and develop training programmes in gender analysis. At the regional level, multi-disciplinary teams of district field officers should be developed to plan regional projects using an integrated, gender-responsive participatory approach. The multi-disciplinary regional GAD units would: i) elaborate gender-sensitive terms of reference for project design and implementation missions; ii) define monitoring and evaluation indicators that take account of gender differences; iii) provide information to various departments on women's roles in the agricultural sector; and iv) provide methodological support for the women's extension units.
Summary on InstitutionalisationNamibia and Honduras affected national planning and policy making, Namibia because the success of its methods were well communicated to national policy makers, and Honduras because the project became involved in many national committees and commissions formed to integrate women's needs and priorities into national policies and regulations. After structural adjustment drastically reduced the Honduran government's ability to serve the small farm sector, the project refocused its efforts to support women's organisations by training women volunteers to be independent para-technicians capable of training women's groups in organisational management and technical skills. Costa Rica's widespread gender analysis training and its creation of a core of trainers and a set of training materials for diverse audiences will facilitate the institutionalisation of gender analysis in a wide variety of public and private sector agencies. The existence of a policy environment that encouraged planners and line agency staff to take an interest in gender-sensitive participatory approaches facilitated the institutionalisation of project methods.
The Nepal project's efforts to influence district planning was frustrated by lack of adequate time and resources, but other projects that worked with local extension services, Namibia and Ethiopia, for example, expect to have their gender and difference-responsive, participatory methods incorporated in extension training. India's success in the field improved senior staff perceptions of participatory, gender-responsive approaches in the livestock, forestry, and community development departments, improving the prospects that the project's methods will be integrated into agency operating procedures in the future.
Both Namibia and Nepal attempted to produce guidelines for gender-responsive planning but neither Namibia's "gender action plan" for gender-responsive agricultural planning nor Nepal's guidelines for gender-responsive district planning were particularly successful, in large part because they remain insufficiently grounded in current planning processes. The Tunisia case analyst has provided a number of suggestions for better integrating gender issues into planning that involve restructuring planning agencies. Some projects did not have adequate time to study actual planning processes or to pursue institutionalisation by adapting their methods to planners' practical needs.