The Livingstone Food Security Project provides an extremely good example of reflective practice. This project was developed following the southern African droughts of the early 1990s, and had as an early principal aim the improvement of food security through the introduction of drought-tolerant, early-maturing varieties. Local village management committees were established that allowed the project to spread rapidly, reaching some 9 600 farmers in two years. The capacity-building of these committees and their eventual federation into area management committees allowed the project to diversify the scope of its activities. Monitoring after the second season showed the project to have been extraordinarily successful in increasing household-level food stocks in many villages by an average of up to five months.
The project had ensured that the crops women wanted would be included in the programme, and that women would be represented on the village committees. One field officer was given the specific remit to look more closely at gender issues. As part of this, she held a series of village-level meetings with men and women to discuss the subject. At one of these meetings, remarks by men that women were "stealing" crops in the field opened up a much more in-depth discussion on how different household members were benefiting from the seed provisioning and multiplication programme. It was found that since men controlled the food granaries, proceeds from the sale of increased crop production were being reinvested in cattle that had been lost earlier through disease and emergency sales during droughts. This made the women more rather than less vulnerable, since with increased assets it was easier for a husband to return to her parents a wife that disagreed with him. As a result, some women were selling some of the crop before it reached the granary in order to gain more direct benefit from the income. In general, this issue acted as a disincentive to women to continue to contribute to increasing of crop production, a factor men acknowledged.
As one response to this, the same field worker was eventually appointed a marketing and business development coordinator, and began to develop a "personal empowerment" training methodology for the improvement of specific income-generating activities in a given area. The first workshop, covering traditional beer brewing, was held in one village with women and the village management committee representatives. The latter group included men supportive of a process that would assist women in improving their income-generating activities. When the value of the grain and labour used for the beer brewing was calculated, it became apparent that women were suffering de facto losses. The group's analysis of the revenue being lost showed that this was because large amounts of beer were being given away - for tasting, to husbands and their friends, to those helping in production and to the chief. The training then focused on how these "free samples" could be reduced and the enterprise turned into more of a business, with attention paid also to customer service aspects - improving the beer's taste, ensuring clean surroundings and dressing neatly during selling. After the training, a record book of the costs and sales of beer brews in the village was then kept by one of the women. Profits went up immediately. Before long, profits of up to K55 000 (US$25) were being recorded per brew. With the additional income, the women were able to improve their situations by purchasing or bartering for additional grain, enrolling their children in schools, improving their homes, buying small stock and poultry, purchasing blankets (it was winter) and establishing other small businesses by bulk buying and reselling (in smaller quantities) commodities such as sugar and salt (Sitambuli 1999; Drinkwater & Rusinow 1999).
There are three main points to be emphasized about this case. First, the women were investing far more directly than the men in improving household livelihood security (another outbreak of livestock disease was in fact once again wiping out many of the increases in stock levels that had taken place since the beginning of the programme). This leads to a second point: within a short time, the process of treating beer brewing more as a business spread from the village where the training had originally been conducted to 16 surrounding villages, and this was thanks to the husband beer drinkers, who were impressed by the extra revenue their wives could earn. This support of men was facilitated initially by the effort the project had placed in community institution-building and leadership development. The involvement of men and their support for the process from the outset was critical.
The third point is that, without the active exploration of the benefits of the project activities to different genders, and without the internal management mechanisms enabling this information to be used to make appropriate, timely changes to the project strategy, the success of this programme would not have been realized.
It was this last understanding in particular that led to the inclusion of "reflective practice" as part of the programme design framework at the CARE Zambia HLS + gender workshop. During the workshop, a series of issues regarding the use of HLS and gender in the country office's project were identified and prioritized. This is a useful list, since the issues are of generic relevance across CARE's programmes. (The parenthetical numbers represent the votes of workshop participants.)
Priority issues related to HLS:
One of the conclusions reached in the discussion on this prioritization was that a "reflection" process entailed monitoring outside the framework of the log frame. If the project monitored only in terms of its specific objectively verifiable indicators (OVIs), then it might not identify some of these issues of unintended consequences, particularly with regard to the disaggregated effects of activities on different wealth groups and different members of a household. This then becomes an issue that programmes need to design more effectively into their learning frameworks in the future.
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