Gender and development People

Posted February 1998

Gender and Participation in Agricultural Development Planning

Annex: A brief review of the agricultural planning literature


Introduction | Key issues: 1. Overview / 2. Analysis of case studies: policy environment - entry point - tools & methods - capacity building - gender information - linkages - institutionalisation / 3. Best practices / Annex-Bibliography | Download documents

THIS ANNEX outlines major agricultural policies and planning processes and indicates some of the points at which participatory, gender and other difference-responsive methods can help planners and policy makers better achieve their objectives. It also discusses how participatory methods might contribute to the planning of major projects in the agricultural sector, decentralised planning processes, and sub-sector or line agency programming.

Current major agricultural policies and the potential contributions of GA/PA

This section considers some of the major policy areas that may have differing impacts on men and women from different socio-economic groups. The objective is to consider some of the ways that gender sensitive participatory analysis can help in predicting the effects of policy changes. We cannot, of course, generalise across countries, but we can take a brief look at the range of policies with the goal of providing a few examples of how PRA/GA and the analysis of difference can provide information of interest to policy makers as they deal with policy analysis.

Price policy is concerned with the level of prices received by farmers and paid by customers for farm outputs. Government can affect farm output prices with trade policy instruments such as import and export taxes or subsidies, with its exchange rate policy, with consumer taxes or subsidies, and with direct price controls linked to state systems for buying and selling a crop. While structural adjustment programs have been dismantling many of the institutions like marketing boards that facilitated direct price controls, price policy is still a powerful instrument for influencing decisions about production and sales in both food and export crop producing households. Since the advent of the debt crisis, price policy has often been used to stimulate export crop production, although in some cases concern with food production and household food security has resulted in the use of price policy to favour food crops.

While price policy is often considered gender-neutral, gender analysis can demonstrate its gender biases and differential gender impacts. It does so simply by identifying who produces the crops targeted by price policy, who markets them, and who retains the income. This allows policy makers to trace the impact of shifting price policies at the intra-household level. Gender analysis also identifies the barriers to entry women face in the production of certain crops. (Men may also face barriers to entry if men lose face by producing "women's crops"). This analysis might show that price policy alone may not be adequate to stimulate additional female (or male) production. It can also show how price policies that are used to stimulate crops controlled exclusively by men may harm women by inducing men to use "extra-economic" means to mobilise women's labour, thereby depriving women of time to produce crops they themselves can control.

Even though price policies are sometimes based on economic criteria that are considered important enough to override negative gender-specific effects for women, it is important to analyse all expected effects using the lens of gender analysis. This will not only allow policy makers to take account of gender differentiated effects, but it will help them consider how to deal with negative effects, perhaps by compensating for them with other policy instruments that can have a positive effect on women farmers.

Input policies affect the quantities and prices of purchased agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, improved seeds and other inputs for crop and livestock production. Here again, input policies are seldom gender targeted, but they often have gender-specific impacts. Gender analysis can help predict the probable effectiveness of input policies on increasing the output of "men's" and/or "women's" crops by identifying who within the household needs to be trained in the use of the input under consideration and by identifying the gender-specific time and purchasing power constraints that can reduce their expected impact when women's crops are being targeted.

Marketing policies that attempt to displace traders can have gender-specific effects, depending on the level and type of trading that is targeted. Policies that seek to replace retail food traders with local cooperatives, for example, tend to replace a female income-generating activity with a male dominated institution. Policies to replace wholesale traders with public agencies displace mainly men. Policies to mechanise crop processing in large-scale enterprises may also have gender-specific effects, displacing women who engage in both small-scale processing and retailing.

Credit policies. The major gender-bias in credit policies is felt in the object and size of the loans. Women's generating activities usually require relatively small amounts of working or investment capital, a characteristic that often makes them unattractive to formal credit schemes. Structural adjustment programmes have tended to encourage credit for male-controlled export crops, leaving women's crops out. The has resulted in negative impacts on women's access to land for their own-account crops and has exacerbated intra-household conflicts over the allocation of women's labour time.

Mechanisation policies tend to promote or discourage specific types of mechanisation: for specific phases of production. Mechanised land preparation, for example, tends to be promoted while mechanisation of crop husbandry activities such as transplanting or weeding (women's work) is often ignored. Mechanisation may also target food processing, either on a large or a small scale. Gender analysis, if conducted in a participatory manner with groups from different socio-economic, ecological and market access situations, can predict whose labour will be replaced if different types of mechanised processes are introduced in particular farming systems. It can also predict who will benefit from different types of mechanisation policies.

Research policy, when focused on raising output with higher-yielding varieties and improved husbandry, has tended to be insensitive to gender. It has not, however, had gender neutral effects. The historical bias toward export crops and major grains has resulted in the neglect of subsistence crops cultivated by women. Furthermore, research policies that promote new crops and cropping systems requiring increased labour without taking the gender division of labour and the constraints on women's labour time into account have often resulted in failures to adopt innovations. Gender analysis combined with participatory appraisal of production constraints can help orient research toward the problems both men and women farmers find most troublesome. It can also provide a prospective analysis of the likely gender effects of new technologies.

Medium-term planning and national level project planning

Since the focus on setting agricultural targets in Five Year Plans seems to have receded in many countries in favour of developing long term strategies and policies, I will focus here on the other major aspect of medium-term planning, i.e. the identification and preparation of large-scale projects. This is a process our case studies have not dealt with, although it is obviously one for which participatory gender and difference-sensitive planning methods are especially appropriate. The major question here is: who are the primary actors in large-scale project planning, and how can they make use of participatory tools in designing and implementing projects?

Large-scale agricultural projects have been unquestionably dominated by multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors. Project identification is often a matter of negotiations between donor representatives (who tend, especially since the debt crisis, to have quite specific agendas and funding priorities) and top decision-makers in governments. Project preparation and appraisal also tends to be heavily dominated by donor representatives, although national senior staff and technicians are being increasingly integrated into the process. At this level, however, gender analysis and participatory methods have thus far had little impact (Young, 1993).

In this situation, efforts to produce and disseminate practical materials on gender-sensitive participatory methods that are appropriate for a wide range of project design processes, like the SEAGA manuals, are highly important. We also need to find ways of working together with the developers of project design manuals, including those commissioned by FAO, to assure that more gender-sensitive tools are incorporated. At the same time, we must redouble our efforts to bring the efficacy and relevance of gender and socio-economic difference-sensitive project design methods to the attention of policy-makers and technical officers in governments and to decision-makers, senior staff and consultants in the donor organisations themselves. Seminars and workshops, like those conducted in Namibia, Nepal, Ethiopia, and India, where results of PRA/GA/analysis of difference exercises and their implications for planning were discussed, are very important. Short-term on-the-job training sessions are also relevant. Top policy makers can be invited to open or close these sessions, as was suggested in the Ethiopia case study. Finally, training of trainers is particularly important so that local trainers will be available to give short term training to project design teams and/or to assist them in their work.

Decentralised planning

The terms decentralised planning, regional/district planning, and rural area planning represent a newer trend in planning, one that is more inter-disciplinary and focused on the problems and opportunities of a specific rural area. In some, but not all, cases of area-based planning there is a strong concern with poverty alleviation and with involving the local population in the planning process. Much depends on how "decentralised planning" is administered.

There are three basic approaches to decentralised planning: 1) deconcentration, which passes decision-making and planning powers to sub-national government units, such as regional departments of agriculture; 2) delegation, which gives project or area planning tasks to parastatals or NGOs; and 3) devolution, which involves the creation of relatively independent local government units which have the power both to plan and to raise their own funds through local taxes (Maetz and Quieti, 1987; Labonne, 1988). These three approaches are not always as distinct as these definitions suggest. Elements of all three are often found in decentralised planning processes.

The following table reviews different types of agricultural planning that may be found in both centralised and decentralised systems.

In reviewing this table, we should keep in mind that the emphasis in planning has been shifting away from national agricultural target setting enshrined in a five year plan (although the Five Year Plan is still a major aspect of planning in many countries) and toward longer term policy and strategy planning at the national level and decentralised planning at regional and/or district levels (FAO, 1984: 10; FAO 1985).

Types and Levels of Agricultural Planning

Type Focus Methods/ Main Actors
Long Range (15-20 years) National Planning for the Agricultural Sector - Sets the main development goals for agriculture, e.g. growth, food security, regional equity, poverty alleviation, gender equity.
- Sets major policies, such as marketing, input, credit, land, research, and price policies.
Sector and sub-sector studies to project supply and demand, analyse production factors, analyse policy impacts, revise former policies, develop new policies. Actors: Senior policy makers and planners at national level. Heads of line agencies.
Agricultural Sector Medium term (5 Year) Planning Translates development objectives into specific policies, programmes, and projects in the various sub-sectors, e.g. crops, livestock, etc. Assesses financing needs and sources of funding. Develops an investment plan for the sector, makes project proposals and allocates resources. Actors: Senior policy makers and technical planners at national level with inputs from area planners & sub-sector chiefs.
Annual planning, or Multi-year "rolling plan" planning Updates the medium term investment plan and sub-sector programmes on the basis of progress to date. In a rolling plan, may extend the planning period by one or two years and include new programmes. Allocates resources to projects and to line agencies on the basis of annual budgetary appropriations. Monitors projects and may propose new ones. Actors: senior managers and technical planners with inputs from area planners and/or district sub-sector chiefs. Farmer reps (rarely)
Project planning and monitoring Translates national, regional, or local policies and priorities into projects at all levels. Large scale plans may have inputs from national to local levels. Regional, local projects often have more local level involvement. National, regional or (rarely) local planners propose projects and conduct. Technical, economic, and (rarely) social feasibility studies. Actors: policy-makers, planners, donor consultants, technicians NGOs, and (more rarely) line agency field staff, farmer organisations, local leaders, women, non-elite men, youth, minority group representatives.
Decentralised area planning Brings planning processes closer to local area and favours inter-sectoral planning, coordination, monitoring. Types: de-concentration gives decision-making authority to lower government levels; delegation trans-fers planning to parastatals/NGOs; devolution creates local government units with power to raise own funds. Area-based problem-analysis and inter-sectoral planning. Project development.
The extent to which grassroots groups are involved in problem analysis and planning varies, but participation by women and poor farmers is very rare.
Actors: area based planners, heads of area line agencies, NGOs, local elected officials, rural organisations, (possibly) farmer representatives.
Sub-sector planning (crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, irrigation, etc.) Sets sub-sector policies and plans programmes in accordance with national policies; allocates funds. At regional and district levels, plans programmes taking area needs and priorities into account. At national level - policy and program direction, budget allocation. Actors: senior staff and line agency planners.
At local level - programme planning and work schedules. Actors: regional or district senior line agency staff, planners. May include local officials, farmer organisations, farmer groups.

Decentralisation has long been officially encouraged in South Asia, and sub-national planning and administration units exist in many countries. Still, the actual practice of area planning continues to be hindered by the lack of staff experience in working in multi-disciplinary teams and, above all, by the lack of appropriate methodologies and techniques. Thus, as the Nepal case demonstrates, the relatively long-term existence of a district planning unit may not mean that district planning has been widely or successfully practised. In Latin America decentralisation has been carried out by semi-autonomous organisations with mixed results. It has been difficult to reconcile regional and national priorities and to build up a cadre of local planners, officials and local representatives with planning skills and adequate links to the centre to have an impact. In the Near East and North Africa the decentralisation process has also been fraught with practical difficulties, not the least being inadequate financial devolution to sub-national units. Finally, in Sub-Saharan Africa decentralisation of planning, which is currently being pursued in a large number of countries, has been hindered by a lack of coherence and pertinence in training programmes (Maetz and Quieti, 1987: 2-3). What's interesting about this inter-continental review of problems is the overall impression that in many cases the greatest need is for methods that can help planners base local plans and projects on local realities and priorities. The PRA/GA tool kit would seem to contain many of the methods and practical tools regional planners have thus far been lacking.

There are, however, other aspects to the problem of developing a strong system of regional planning. We need to be aware of them if we want to work productively with regional planners. A basic problem is how to reconcile demands that emerge from the grassroots when participatory methods are used with the directives and budgetary guidelines coming down from the centre. Even if major human and financial resources are "deconcentrated" from central to regional planning bodies and line agencies, as they often are in larger countries, grassroots involvement may be discouraged for fear that it will still create too many competing "demands", as is alleged to have occurred in Tanzania (Belshaw, 1988: 22). In such cases, decentralisation and participatory processes will not reach down to the village level, and local priorities may not even be assessed. (We return to this issue below.)

An approach that involves the creation of inter-agency district commissions charged with the responsibility of allocating both centrally provided and locally generated funds has a greater chance of responding to local priorities. Here again, however, there is a serious danger that the regional or district planning process will be captured by a local elite. This danger has been largely ignored in the literature on regional or area development planning. Indeed the list of "primary participants" suggested for inclusion in decentralised planning processes in a recent training manual on rural area development planning reads like a list of the local elite: "officials of local government; representatives of local branches of central and other higher level government agencies; representatives of local voluntary, occupational, and trade organisations; representatives of geographic or other specific population groups; local experts in certain subjects; and possibly other members of the general public" (Bendavid-Val, 1991: 49). The point is not that these people (who are likely to all be men of relatively high economic status) should not be included, but that there is little or no socio-economic and gender diversity in this list.

The way to make an area planning process more representative is not simply to add a few women or a few poor people to official planning commissions. We know from experience that they are unlikely to have an impact in such settings. The answer is rather to extend the processes of planning to the village level, making it more inclusive by involving a wide range of diverse groups in the full set of planning processes: problem analysis, opportunity analysis, propitiations, feasibility analysis, and plan or project development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At first reading this will seem an impossibly naïve idea to most planners, given the realities of top-down constraints and highly limited budgets. However, our experiences in the projects represented in this workshop would suggest that if one week PRAs are conducted in representative villages and if they involve a variety of socio-economically and gender-differentiated focus groups, a great deal of planning relevant information will be produced.

When different focus groups work through the whole PRA process right up to suggesting and analysing the projects or programmes they would like to see initiated in the area, planners are presented with a range of information on local and group specific constraints and priorities. PRAs can provide planners with many people's ideas about how policies, planning, projects, and self-help activities can reduce the constraints and provide opportunities for growth and development that will have positive impacts on a wide range of farmers and other population groups. When this information is aggregated for the area as a whole, planners will have a wealth of ideas and realistic opportunities upon which more gender and difference-responsive policy and projects can be built. In this manner, sub-national (regional or district) project planning becomes more "bottom up".

While governments cannot be expected to respond to all the demands for support emanating from the Community Action Plans (CAPs) or focus group action plans that PRA participants may produce, both the problem analysis and problem/opportunity rankings that take place during PRAs can feed into area-wide projects. This information can provide both programming direction and indicators of farmers' willingness to put their own financial, labour and organisational resources into projects designed to deal with the problem areas they are most concerned about.

At the same time, planners need to recognise that PRA,GA, and the analysis of difference are excellent tools for the design of mini-projects for a single village or a small geographical area. This, indeed, is the logical area range for a "community action plan" that lives up to its name. In such cases, attempts can be made to determine just how community priorities fit into local line agency plans (i.e. how much help can be expected from government), how local NGOs might be attracted to provide support (a far from simple proposition as the India case reminds us), and how villagers can organise themselves to implement specific aspects of their action plan. The literature on the results of actual PRA planning is fairly scant and very recent, especially in tracing actual cases of village planning. This paper, however, did not review the community development literature, where we could expect to find cases of small-scale village projects, and perhaps an review of experience to date.

Sub-sector programme planning at central and sub-national levels

This aspect of planning is rarely mentioned in the literature, perhaps because line agency programme planning is considered more administration than planning. Nonetheless, sub-sector programme planning is very important to those who would like to see a more gender and difference-responsive agricultural planning. The information produced by participatory gender-responsive methods can make a great difference in changing the way line agencies relate to villagers. We have seen examples in our case studies. In Sikkim, India for example, gender analysis of men's, women's, boy's and girl's labour, responsibilities, and ability to control resources demonstrated that if the livestock department were to promote goat rearing, increasing numbers of young girls were likely to be withdrawn from school. A focus on the promotion of poultry production would, in contrast, have far fewer labour requirements and would provide small increments of income under women's control. Here is a concrete example of how information produced by gender-sensitive PRA can inform district level sub-sector planning. The project also demonstrated that result of the strategy chose, i.e. to promote poultry rearing, was a significant positive change in women farmer's well being without negative effects on their daughters.

The Ethiopia project, in which extension agents learned a great deal about differing needs, constraints and potentials of women and men from different socio-economic strata, developed a specific training module on extension programme planning. It taught the PRA/GA trained extension agents how to develop specific extension plans for different groups in the PRA villages. The case study stressed the importance of this deliberate effort to draw out the practical implications of PRA/GA exercises for sub-sector planning in extension. This training increased the likelihood that the trained extension agents will be able to use what they learn from villagers during future PRA exercises to shape extension training to the varying needs of different groups.

It seems clear that PRA/GA can produce information that can help improve planning in many agricultural sub-sectors, including research, forestry, fisheries, as well as extension and livestock. In this case, we need to extend our concept of the "planners" with whom we work in projects intended to influence agricultural planning to sub-sector officers and field staff who do the actual planning of local sub-sector programmes and work plans whether they have the title of planner or not.


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Introduction | Key issues: 1. Overview / 2. Analysis of case studies: policy environment - entry point - tools & methods - capacity building - gender information - linkages - institutionalisation / 3. Best practices / Annex-Bibliography | Download documents

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