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Gender equality in South Asia Livestock Sector


11 July 2017. Helping countries to achieve SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls- was one of the driving forces behind the gender and livestock training workshop recently held in Colombo. Livestock production can represent an important mean to foster the achievement of the targets and indicators of SDG5, as it can serve as a vehicle for improving nutrition, food security and rural livelihoods, as well as foster gender equality and the empowerment of rural women. Empowering both the staff from the Ministry of livestock as well as the FAO livestock technical staff with a better understanding of the gender issues within the livestock sector and of the practical entry points to enhance gender equity in their work, are important and sustainable investments towards reaching SDG5.


It is to this end that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the technical collaboration of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) conducted a training workshop on gender and livestock in South Asia from 25th to 27th April in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The training was organized by the Animal Health and Production Division (AGA) and the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division (ESP). The participants included FAO livestock officers  and representatives of Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  

This training is the fourth of a series of capacity development events on gender and livestock carried out by FAO since 2011 ( Ethiopia 2011, Thailand 2013, and Zimbabwe 2014) aimed at:

  • Build participants’ knowledge and understanding of the specific gender issues emerging in livestock farming and the benefits of social inclusion in project design, implementation and monitoring to both rural women and men
  • Build capacity to integrate gender issues in livestock programs, projects and policies 

Throughout the training experiences, FAO has developed a methodology for conducting gender and livestock capacity development activities. With the aim of consolidating and disseminating the methodology elaborated by FAO, the Sri Lanka training served also as a way to carry out a final field test to improve and validate the documented methodology, which will be published between 2017 and 2018.


While delivering his opening remarks, Dharmassree Wijeratne, the FAO Assistant Program Representative in Sri Lanka highlighted the increasingly recognized role of women in agriculture, acknowledging;

‘The specific role of women in livestock farming is being recognized  worldwide and its being supported by consistent research showing that empower women livestock keepers must be seen as a key step of any effort to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty’.


He further emphasized FAO’s commitment to gender equality through its policy on Gender Equality – Attaining Food Security Goals in Agriculture and Rural Development, and the need for participants to get a better understanding of gender so as to integrate it within their work and projects.

The workshop was based on participatory adult learning techniques and was characterized by a high level of interactive sessions. Participants were able to build upon and share their own knowledge and experiences in the area of social and gender issues in livestock development.

Francesca Distefano, Gender and Development Specialist (ESP), who has been a trainer throughout all of the FAO capacity development on gender and livestock, expressed the importance of continue strengthening gender mainstreaming in livestock development:

“Inclusive livestock development can greatly advance the achievement of SDG5 and foster gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in rural areas.  Without taking into account gender issues in livestock development we risk to leave behind a big part of the agriculture labour force: rural women”.

Highlights of the workshop were the successful and interactive identification of the gender barriers and opportunities within the regional livestock value chains the participants work on, and that were selected by them (poultry, dairy and small ruminants). A special lecture given by Dr. Raffaele Mattioli, FAO technical officer, on animal disease prevention and the identification and implementation of gender issues within the project was also considered particularly interesting.

It is expected that this enhanced gender analysis capacity will benefit future planning, implementation and monitoring of livestock projects and programs, both in FAO and in national entities, and help them move forward the achievements of SDG 5 targets.

Following the training, a request from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Livestock was sent to FAO in order to invite the Organization to offer further capacity development opportunities in the area of gender and livestock. 


To follow up on the Sri Lanka government request, the Animal Health and Production Division (AGA) and the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division (ESP), with the technical collaboration of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are planning to deliver a follow-up Gender and Livestock training. The training will take place in Kandy, Sri Lanka, from the 18th to the 20th of July. Up to 30 livestock officers from the national Ministry of Livestock as well as the Ministry of National Planning will be trained during the event. The training will strengthen the capacity of national livestock officers to successfully understand and address gender issues in livestock programming.