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Empowering Women to Power the Farm


The FAO and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held their first joint training workshop in Ethiopia from 22-25 November 2011 to increasingly mainstream gender into livestock programmes designed by FAO country offices and their partners, including government ministries for livestock and agriculture.

“This workshop created awareness about gender as an issue that must be taken into account in formulating successful livestock programmes,” said Raffaele Mattioli, the gender focal point for FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division (AGA).


“Women’s resources aren’t being fully tapped to care for animal health and to improve living standards for themselves and their families, simply because of traditional gender roles,” he continued. “It’s no different from anywhere else. In developed countries, typically women still don’t get equal pay for equal work, so we all have room for improvement,” Mattioli added.


Mattioli cited several examples where gender becomes a hindrance to protecting animal health and boosting incomes from livestock farming. In areas of Angola, for example, a woman would be primarily responsible for taking care of calves and milking cows, while the men would handle selling milk and meat in the local markets. If a woman were to sell livestock/live animals  at market, she would have to hire a middleman, at an added expense. For cultural reasons related to gender, a woman would be paid a lower price for the same exact products, Mr. Mattioli said, which could be related to the woman’s weakened position in haggling over prices with men.


In addition, women might not have access to cash resources, which has direct implications on protecting animals from diseases that could threaten a family’s food security and livelihoods, Mattioli also pointed out. “If the woman is typically taking care of poultry or small ruminants, such as sheep and goats, she might not be given the money to pay for vaccines or other inputs.”


Women also have limited access to transport, as it’s not always acceptable for them to drive.


Ms Francesca Distefano of the FAO’s Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division (ESW), which supported the organization of the workshop, underlined that it was important for participants to have exposure to this important topic.


“It helps to build awareness just to bring participants together who might come from different backgrounds and perspectives, so that they can gain an understanding of the issue,” she said.


Participants in this first workshop held in Addis Ababa came from the host country, Ethiopia, as well as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The participants comprised livestock officers and officers dealing with gender issues in FAO’s country offices, joined by representatives from partner ministries and organizations working to formulate national livestock programmes and field projects. The Poverty, Gender and Impact (PGI) team of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) provided the venue and the professional staff for the training workshop.


The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) also contributed to the workshop to share how this public-private non-profit organization is factoring gender into its core strategy. According to ILRI data, women provide the vast majority of the labor on smallholder farms. They make up two-thirds of the world’s 600 million poor livestock keepers. Yet they own .01 percent of the world’s property and earn just 10 percent of the world’s income.


So eliminating poverty will never be possible so long as women are left out of the equation.


Women outnumbered men participants in the workshop nine to six.


FAO, ILRI, and GALVmed also agreed to seek to expand their partnership to include the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), another UN agency.