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Women in Development Service, FAO

AS A NEWLY INDEPENDENT COUNTRY, Namibia has an exciting atmosphere of change. The government's new policies aim at rectifying the social imbalances that were inherent in the apartheid system set up by the South African colonial administration, and a more equal distribution of wealth is a fundamental tenet.

FAO has been working with the Government of Namibia during this crucial post-independence period supporting two projects aimed at strengthening the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development's (MAWRD's) capacity to address the needs of both men and women farmers and to mainstream gender issues in its policies, strategies and programmes. The Training for the Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development project aimed at introducing more participatory and gender-sensitive approaches to extension activities among subsistence farmers in communal areas. This involved training agricultural extension technicians in a combination of gender analysis and participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques and then supervising them through practical field experience that allowed them to investigate, first-hand, men's and women's different activities, constraints and priorities. The main output of the project is the creation of a core group of trainers who can train other agricultural outreach staff in this approach.

While the training project focused on building capacity for microlevel planning, Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning focused on bringing microlevel information to planners and policy-makers at the macrolevel. PRAs were carried out in several localities throughout Namibia (in conjunction with the PRA activities of the training project) to enrich the information base on gender issues in agriculture. This information was then shared with MAWRD staff and other relevant actors in a process of consultation, discussion and sensitization. All of these activities then culminated in the formulation of an Action Plan for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development Policy.

These two projects were very interesting in many aspects. They coincided with a period of activity in which MAWRD was preparing its own agricultural policy and strategy and, thus, the projects could contribute to the formulation process and, more importantly, build capacity for the even more challenging task of implementation. The projects were also innovative in their use of participatory approaches and methods and thus represented a relatively new experience for both FAO and MAWRD.

These two projects provided a powerful learning experience for those who participated - from the extension technicians who were trained in PRA and gender analysis, to the decision-makers who had not yet considered all the implications of a policy commitment that targeted women farmers and female-headed rural households, to the FAO and MAWRD staff and consultants who set up the framework, provided the training and other support services. Documenting the experience and sharing information about what worked best offered useful lessons, not only to those directly involved but to others who are interested in supporting similar participatory processes. This case study reviews the combined experience of the two gender projects in order to share what was learned in terms of how to:

Background on Namibia

AS THE MOST ARID COUNTRY in sub-Saharan Africa, both agricultural and livestock production in Namibia are severely limited by the scarcity of water resources, erratic rainfall regimes and fragile ecological systems. Along the country's western border lies the Namib desert, to the south is the Kalahari. The interior of the country is either arid or semi-arid grass or scrub savannah. Only to the north, towards the Angolan border, does mean annual rainfall increase and the land supports a semi-humid and sub-tropical climate.

Although Namibia's total population is only 1.4 million inhabitants,1 there is immense regional variation in population density (the average is 1.7 per square kilometre). Water availability is the major determinant of settlement patterns. The bulk of the black rural population resides in the north along the perennial rivers which form the country's northern border; other rural inhabitants are concentrated around seasonal rivers and floodplains, and along human-made pipelines and water systems.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany colonized the country, setting up a basic infrastructure to gain access to newly discovered diamond and mineral mines. After the First World War, South Africa was given the guardianship of South West Africa, as Namibia was called, and encouraged white settlement by giving title to land for commercial farming. Both the German and South African colonizers created ethnically based reserves and restricted movement into the settler zone in order to limit the productivity of African farmers and to force rural men to provide cheap labour for mines, commercial farmers, fishing enterprises and urban businesses. Race-based land policies ensured that white settlers owned superior grazing land in the central areas. The subsequent shortage of land and labour created a dualistic agricultural system: black subsistence farming in the communal areas, in which women constitute the majority of producers; and white commercial farming, in the central and southern areas, in which black farm workers provide the bulk of labour (Girvan, 1995).

The communal areas directly support 95 percent of the nation's farming population, but occupy only 48 percent (33.5 million ha) of the total agricultural land. Farmers in the communal areas are engaged mainly in subsistence rainfed cropping and extensive livestock production, characterized by extremely low levels of productivity, high variability of output from year to year and high levels of poverty, household food insecurity and malnutrition. The commercial farming sector occupies about 36.2 million ha which are used mainly for extensive ranching. This subsector is made up of 6 337 freehold title-deed farms belonging to about 4 200 large-scale farmers, each with an average landholding of approximately 8 620 ha (NAP, 1995: 1).

Namibia has a high incidence of extreme poverty and highly inequitable income distribution. The richest 5 percent of the population control 71 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), with an average per caput income of US$14 000 per year, which is comparable to the middle stratum of developed countries in Europe. The poorest 55 percent account for merely 3 percent of GDP, with a per caput income of less than US$100 per year. Approximately 47 percent of the population are living in poverty, i.e. in households where more than 60 percent of income is spent on food. Of these, 13 percent are living in severe poverty (spending more that 80 percent of their income on food) and suffering from varying degrees of malnutrition (NAP, 1995: 2).

In some regions, the prevalence of outward migration has resulted in rural households consisting mainly of the elderly, women and children. According to the 1991 census, 42.9 percent of households in rural areas were headed by women (Girvan, 1995: Table 14). Although many rural households rely heavily on the remittances or wages of family members employed in urban areas or on commercial farms, the responsibility for food production and preparation and the overall well-being of the household continues to fall on women. Gender analysis of the situation of the rural poor reveals that women are especially constrained by their heavy workloads and by unequal access to land, labour, agricultural services and assets, natural resources and employment opportunities. Female-headed households face the additional constraint of seasonal labour shortages (caused by male migration) and are generally among the poorest of rural households.2

The new policy environment

Given that the majority of Namibians live in rural areas (over 72 percent in 1991) and agriculture is by far the most important source of employment, supporting directly or indirectly some 70 percent of the country's population, the new government has selected agriculture as one of its four priority sectors. Avoiding hasty policy initiatives just after independence, the government supported a broad-based, countrywide consultative process during 1994 and 1995 to seek the people's views before formulating policy for the agricultural sector.3 The National Agricultural Policy (NAP) was finalized and approved by cabinet in October 1995.

The overall goal of the NAP is to increase and sustain levels of agricultural productivity, real farm incomes and national and household food security, within the context of Namibia's fragile ecosystem. A major thrust of the policy is to target support specifically to the much-neglected communal farming sector which is considered to offer the greatest potential for growth and diversification (and is the area of greatest need). This will be accomplished through a major change in the role of extension services which will be divested of direct responsibility for providing farmer support services such as drought relief and ploughing services (which mainly benefited large-scale farmers). Instead, extension will provide services in the form of advice, information, communications and training aimed at empowering farmers and encouraging the adoption of improved agricultural and related income-generating technologies and practices. The extension service will promote participatory farming systems research with a focus on developing sustainable farming practices and improved productivity and diversity of production. The extension services will target small- and medium-scale farmers in the communal areas, especially female-headed households, youth and retrenched farm labourers.

The NAP's gender considerations

A unique aspect of Namibia's agricultural policy is its recognition of the important role that women play in agricultural production. From the many references made to gender issues throughout the NAP document (NAP, 1995), it can be implied that the government and other actors in the sector must adopt a more gender-responsive approach to working with communal farmers. These references include the following:

Project design and objectives

Training for the Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development

In 1993, MAWRD requested FAO's assistance in reorienting the extension service to make it more responsive to the needs of small-scale subsistence farmers in the communal areas of the country. Although MAWRD had increased the number of extension staff in the communal areas after independence, extension services in Namibia were still in the early stages of development and were severely constrained by a lack of human and material resources. There were estimated to be only 150 extension staff. In the northern extension region, where the vast majority of communal farmers live, there was one extension officer for every 4 000 farming families - and only a small proportion of the activities being carried out by field staff could be defined as extension work. Most of the staff's time was taken up with administrative tasks involving the supply of inputs to a limited number of better-off farmers. Within this framework, there was also a lack of suitable extension messages to deliver, especially to resource-poor and subsistence farmers, the majority of whom are women.4

The aim of the Training for the Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development project (TCP/NAM/4451/NAM) was, thus, to help MAWRD move towards a more client-responsive extension approach in which "clients" were explicitly understood to include women farmers, female-headed households and rural youth (as was eventually spelled out in the NAP). The question the project sought to address was how to build capacity within MAWRD to bring about this transformation.

The project was designed to provide support for a training programme that would help extension workers to identify communal farmers' extension priorities and understand how these priorities differ by gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and farming system (i.e. an analysis of difference in agricultural extension). A particular focus of the training would be on learning participatory planning techniques based on a combination of gender analysis and PRA. The training was to include field experience of using PRA tools to distinguish the various needs within a local community. The project supported training of trainers (TOT) to provide a lasting, institutional resource that would continue to build capacity within MAWRD. As a final project activity, the newly prepared trainers would conduct regional workshops throughout Namibia to train their colleagues in the analysis of difference for agricultural extension.

Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning

This project is part of an inter-regional project funded by the Norwegian Government for implementation in Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Nepal. The project was designed to provide follow-up in countries where FAO had assisted ministries of agriculture to prepare sector reports on women, agriculture and rural development for the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

The Namibian report to Beijing identified three key obstacles to improving the situation of rural women in the country. The first was the scarcity of gender-disaggregated information about communal farming areas.5 The report identified that there was almost no information "from the source" about what were the most pressing problems and needs for agricultural development in communal areas, much less information on gender-based differences. The second obstacle was the absence of a clear policy for addressing gender issues in the agricultural sector that would provide a mandate to MAWRD personnel to take action.6 Closely related to these two problems was the lack of awareness among MAWRD staff and others working in the sector of the gender-based characteristics of agricultural development in Namibia.

The Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning project (GCP/NAM/005/NOR) was designed to address these problems. Methodologically, it had two particular concerns: how to give rural men and women a voice in the planning process; and how to enrich the generally weak information base in a cost-effective and timely manner, especially in light of the fact that MAWRD was in the middle of its own consultative process to formulate a new agricultural policy and strategy. As a research methodology, PRA seemed better-suited to addressing these two problems. As a pilot effort, the project was to experiment with PRA to make microlevel processes and gender relationships visible to planners and policy-makers working at all levels.

The immediate objectives of the project were to:

The project was to start with PRAs in the four agro-ecological regions of Namibia. The information from the PRAs would be analysed and written up into regional reports on gender issues in agriculture. Filming of the PRAs would take place in order to produce a documentary on gender roles in agriculture and livestock production in Namibia which could be used for future training purposes and for sensitization of policy-makers. A series of regional workshops would then be held for MAWRD staff, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others working in the agricultural and rural development sectors to discuss the findings of the PRAs and develop regionally based strategies for gender-responsive agricultural development. The last activity would be a national workshop to disseminate the research results, discuss the proposals from the regional workshops and generate additional inputs for the elaboration of an Action Plan for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development in Namibia.

Linkages between the two projects

Because implementation of the two projects overlapped, the work plans for both were developed to be mutually reinforcing and to make the best use of limited project funds. Since PRA was a component in both projects, it was decided that participatory research activities would be combined. The second project would, thus, take advantage of the agricultural extension personnel who had just been trained in PRA under the first project, by forming teams to carry out the proposed PRA research. Table 1 outlines the basic framework of each project and the linkages between the two.

Project profiles and linkages





Training for Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development (June 1994 to June 1996 )

Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning (November 1994 to June 1997)


US$115 000

US$125 000

Counterpart institution



Expected outputs

Core group of trainers trained in the analysis of difference for agricultural extension and participatory training techniques

Training case studies (one for each extension region) on gender issues in Namibian farming systems

All agricultural extension technicians trained by core group in the analysis of difference

Four regional reports (one for each extension region) on gender issues in Namibian farming systems

A video documenting findings

Management and supervisory staff sensitized in the use of gender-sensitive participatory approaches

Action plan for gender-responsive agricultural policy and programmes

Main activities

Needs assessment of extension services and research to develop two training case studies for TOT activities

First TOT workshop in the analysis of difference and PRA

Sensitization workshop for extension supervisory staff on purpose of PRA

PRA in two or three villages in each of Namibia's four extension regions

Second TOT to analyse PRA results and prepare training case studies; skills enhancement in participatory training techniques

Third TOT to consolidate training skills in the analysis of difference for agricultural extension and prepare for regional workshops

Five regional gender analysis workshops conducted by core group of trainers to train other agricultural extension technicians

Backstopping of PRA activities by NGO and University of Namibia researchers, filming of PRA exercises

Analysis of results and preparation of regional reports by staff from the University of Namibia's Gender Programme

Preparation of film documentary on gender issues in agriculture

Regional-level workshops on gender-responsive agricultural policy

National Workshop on Gender- Responsive Agricultural Policy

Project implementation

A GENDER-SENSITIZATION COMMITTEE was set up to oversee the management of the two projects and was chaired by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of MAWRD (who later became Permanent Secretary). The Division of Rural Development Planning took the lead role in executing the projects on behalf of MAWRD in collaboration with the Directorate of Extension and Engineering (DEES) and the Division of Agricultural Training. The Deputy Director of Rural Development Planning led the project management team in her role as national coordinator. The coordinator was chosen from within the ranks of MAWRD to reinforce linkages between the projects and the institutional framework.

Two local organizations - ACORD, an NGO with expertise in PRA, and the Gender Programme of the Social Sciences Department (SSD) of the University of Namibia - were contracted to backstop the PRA, organize the workshops and write the Gender Action Plan in collaboration with the Division of Rural Development. Although the project was mainly implemented under local guidance and with local consultants, limited use was made of international consultants from FAO to carry out the first planning mission and to design and deliver the training programme.

Phase I : Training extension workers in gender analysis and PRA

Activities started in June 1994, when an international consultant carried out the initial project planning, working with national counterparts to identify constraints within the current extension system and determine who should participate in the TOT programme. The consultant and the national project coordinator also organized and carried out pilot research in two communities to develop case studies that would be used in the subsequent training programme.

In October 1994, the FAO trainer arrived and organized the first training workshop on the analysis of difference for agricultural extension. The objective of this workshop was to enhance extension workers' abilities to identify communal farmers' extension priorities and understand how these priorities differ by gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and farming system. The focus was on learning how to work with rural people to plan extension interventions using a combination of gender analysis and PRA techniques.

The participants were a group of 23 agricultural extension technicians who were responsible for the most grassroots-level operations within the extension service. This group had just attended a training workshop sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), where they were introduced to the principles of participatory training, the importance of community participation, and household food security issues. The in-service training division of MAWRD had chosen them to participate in the TOT programme in order to build upon what they had just learned and to utilize their comprehensive experience to create a core group of trainers for MAWRD. Six of the participants were female.

The workshop used a participatory training methodology based on several kinds of activities, including role plays and games designed to show participants what the analysis of difference means and why it is important. The participants learned a step-by-step gender analysis methodology that was based on applying the Gender Analysis Framework: A Training Tool for Agricultural Extension8 to the two case studies prepared during the first consultant's mission.

Through practice sessions during the workshop followed by fieldwork, the participants learned how to use ten PRA tools. The table below shows how gender analysis and PRA tools were combined to facilitate learning in the workshop and during the fieldwork.

The gender analysis/PRA Framework




1. The context

What is getting better?
What is getting worse?

In terms of the environmental,economic, social and political patterns that support or constrain development

Village maps

Transect walks

Trend diagrams

2. Activities

Who does what?
In terms of the division of labour for productive and reproductive activities

24-hour clocks

Seasonal diagrams

3. Resources

Who has what?
In terms of access to and control over resources and benefits

Venn diagrams

Decision-making matrices

Income and expenditure matrices

4. Work plan for success

What should be done?
In terms of delivering extension services that will be sustainable, effective and equitable.

Force field analyses

Priority matrices

Trainers from ACORD were brought in to assist in the PRA training. The ACORD trainers accompanied the trainees on the one-day fieldwork and, later, played a crucial role in backstopping the participatory research supported by the two projects.

Despite the fact that many of the trainees showed a great deal of scepticism at the onset, they evaluated the workshop very positively - the most frequently mentioned weakness was lack of time, especially during presentation of the PRA tools.

Phase II: The PRA research and follow-up

Four regional teams of trainees carried out participatory field research in April 1995 in nine villages, two in each of the four extension regions of the country and one extra. ACORD was contracted to provide technical support for this activity. Prior to the fieldwork, ACORD organized a workshop to review the PRA tools with the trainees and go over the research plans before departure to the field. ACORD also organized a workshop for the trainees' supervisors (the chiefs of the various agricultural extension offices) before the PRA exercises took place, so that they would know what the agricultural extension technicians would be doing during the research, and would support the activities. Unfortunately, only three chiefs attended this workshop.

The objective of the research was to gather basic information about the agro-ecological features of the area and the perceptions of men and women farmers about their work, access to resources and extension needs. The information gathered was adapted into case studies, for use in the gender training project's regional courses, and regional reports on gender issues in Namibian agriculture.

The research had to be completed before the second TOT course, which was originally scheduled to take place in early June 1995. This put pressure on the local organizers, and ACORD did not have enough time to organize properly or arrange technical support for the research teams. Given that the different teams had to carry out their research simultaneously to meet the time schedule imposed by the project work plan, ACORD could only send one member of staff to accompany and guide the teams.

Another logistical problem was that funding for the contract with the Gender Programme of SSD at the University of Namibia was not yet available from FAO. This meant that the university's highly qualified researchers, who were contracted to prepare the regional reports, were unable to participate in the PRA and lend their experience to the process.

Although the research teams were trained in how to present information in the form of a training case study, they were not given enough time to do the necessary analysis and writing. This problem was mostly owing to the fact that the research teams did not have the necessary support from their chiefs.

The second TOT workshop was held from 10 to 21 July 1995. Most of the first week of the training course was dedicated to going over the data, writing up the training case studies 9 and presenting the findings. The researchers from the Gender Programme of SSD at the University of Namibia joined the training team on those days so that they could go over the findings with the research teams, and ACORD personnel contributed their knowledge to the review and writing process.

The second week of the workshop was devoted to practice in running a training session based on the gender analysis framework. Overall, the quality of the training was very good, but it was clear that participants' understanding of gender concepts and issues was still not fully developed and, in many instances, they had difficulty explaining points when challenged. This meant that the group was not yet ready to train others in gender analysis. The FAO training consultants strongly recommended that an additional TOT be held for trainees who had the skills and conceptual understanding required to be good trainers. A third training course would help trainees consolidate their skills in the training methodology and provide them with an opportunity to design the regional workshops. Even more importantly, a third course would ensure that the trainees had acquired the necessary self-confidence to train their peers.

Although the PRA data provided an excellent basis for training case studies that represented Namibia's various farming systems, it soon became clear that the data were not of sufficient quality (or quantity) for the purposes of preparing regional reports on gender issues in agriculture, as planned. SSD faced an additional problem in writing the regional reports because two major sources of secondary data - the Agricultural Census and the Living Standards Survey - were still being analysed and the results would not be published for some months. In order to recuperate as much as possible from the PRA material to serve the needs of both the projects, project management asked SSD to produce final versions of the case studies which could be edited and enriched with information from secondary sources.

The training and sensitization material prepared for the project included:

Phase III: Information sharing and formulation of the Gender Action Plan

When the PRAs had been carried out and written up, it was possible to organize the next phase of activities which involved sharing the information gathered with MAWRD staff and other actors in the agricultural sector and seeking their inputs for the Gender Action Plan. In October 1995, the NAP was officially approved by Cabinet. Given that the new policy had a considerable pro-gender approach, the regional and national workshops were also used to raise awareness about the implications of the new policy.

Activities in this period started with a one-day sensitization workshop in which senior-level MAWRD managers did a series of exercises to help them reflect on the Ministry's approach to the integration of gender. This was especially relevant because, at the time, all MAWRD staff were involved in developing implementation strategies for the NAP. Unfortunately, senior-level policy-makers (directors) did not attend the workshop, but sent their deputies or other staff instead. As a result, the project management team, knowing how important it is to involve senior management in this process, requested that the Gender Sensitization Committee hold another seminar for higher management at the end of the project. The request was approved.

Five regional workshops were then held in October and November 1995 to:

Participants included farmers and farmers' union representatives; government representatives, community leaders and headmen; MAWRD staff, especially from the Division of Extension and Engineering (DEES); NGOs; staff from other ministries involved in local government and rural development; and staff from the Sustainable Animal Range Development Programme (SARDEP) and the Northern Livestock Development Programme (NOLIDEP). To reinforce the learning process, trainees from the gender training project also participated as resource persons.

The NAP and SSD's issues paper were used as the departure point for discussions during the regional workshops. The video documentary "Reaping the harvest" was also shown. Discussions during the workshops focused on gender-sensitive, region-specific strategies for each of the eight sections of the NAP, i.e. livestock; veterinary services; pricing and marketing; credit and savings; extension and training; research; technology, labour and inputs; and institutions.

Once the regional-level consultations were completed, a national-level workshop was held in Windhoek in February 1996 to: review the input from the regions; identify the individuals responsible for each sector of the NAP; identify existing programmes and projects; analyse problems that remain unsolved by existing programmes; and identify mutually supportive actions that will help fill the gaps between what already exists and what is required.

The final step in the formulation process was to synthesize the regional- and national-level inputs into an Action Plan for Gender-Sensitive Agricultural Policies and Programmes. The Gender Action Plan sets out to:

The Plan is divided into sections that parallel those of the NAP. The final draft was published in May 1996.

Phase IV: Completing the training and building support

The third TOT workshop was held over a two-week period in May to June 1996 for the core group of eight agricultural extension workers selected from the previous training course. The overall objective of the workshop was to give participants the skills needed to conduct regional training workshops for other extension workers in the analysis of difference using the gender analysis framework.

Participants were grouped into regional training teams. For each agricultural region a core team of two people was selected on the basis of their location within the region and knowledge of the region's farming system. Each two-person team was to be supported by two other trainers in order to have the full range of training skills needed to run regional workshops.

The gender sensitization workshop for upper management

The fact that trainers graduating from the third TOT would be training extension workers of a similar rank to themselves presented a major challenge - they were likely to encounter resistance to their role as trainers, in addition to the usual resistance associated with gender-focused workshops. Again, MAWRD's support was needed, in the form of a clear endorsement of gender analysis's and the regional workshops' relevance to extension activities. A second two-day workshop for senior MAWRD management was held just after the third TOT course, this time with the full endorsement of the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture.

The workshop was conducted by the two FAO training consultants who had designed and delivered the TOT course. There were 32 participants, including most of MAWRD's Deputy Directors and Directors. The Permanent Secretary of Agriculture participated fully and provided the opening and closing statements. The Director of Extension and Engineering (acting Deputy Permanent Secretary) also attended, and this was crucial in building understanding of and support for the extension workers' regional workshops.

The overall purpose of the workshop was to build support for the regional workshops by introducing management to the gender analysis methodology. The focus of the workshop was on using the gender analysis framework to analyse two of the case studies developed from the PRA data and representing two very different communal farming systems. Furthermore, the implications of the gender analysis findings were directly linked to two NAP priorities - food security and livestock production.

Despite their initial scepticism, the majority of the top management found the training relevant and useful and recommended that similar workshops be held for other ministries and for all field-level workers.

Lessons learned

Entry point

Both of the projects supported bottom-up, decentralized-to-centralized processes of capacity building, participation and sensitization. The entry point for the gender training project was capacity building of agricultural extension technicians who represent the most grassroots level of MAWRD outreach staff. The serious question of who to train was raised during the initial planning phase of the training programme. MAWRD decided to invest in building capacity at the field level where there was an identified need to introduce more gender-responsive and participatory extension approaches even before the NAP established its specific mandates. Moreover, the focus of the training was on acquiring skills for agricultural planning approaches at the field/community level, i.e. working directly with rural communities to analyse their problems and develop interventions that respond to their expressed needs.

The activities carried out under the gender-sensitive planning project also showed a clear progression from the field to the policy level, from activities that were carried out at a decentralized level to consolidation of work at the central level. The PRAs provided the starting point for activities and the microlevel information gathered was then relayed to relevant actors and policy-makers at the macrolevel through the regional- and national-level workshops, as well as in the training workshops.

Many development projects start at the policy level and work their way down. One of the lessons learned from the Namibian experience, where this approach was reversed, is that facts from the field are the most powerful tool for convincing technical staff and policy-makers that giving attention to gender issues will make their work more effective.

Tools and methods

Gender analysis training. Gender analysis training can either alienate the participants from the subject or open their eyes to a new, more expanded, concept of people-centred agricultural development. The effectiveness of the gender analysis training conducted in Namibia in convincing MAWRD staff at all levels of the importance of examining gender roles in agriculture can be attributed to the following:

Gender analysis and PRA for field-level training in gender-sensitive approaches to agricultural extension. During the second TOT workshop, the agriculture extension trainees demonstrated that they had learned a great deal from applying gender analysis and PRA techniques to field research. This was confirmed by their comments during the workshop evaluations, where they expressed an interest in continuing the gender analysis training and were eager to have other opportunities to better their PRA skills.

From the training perspective, the gender-sensitive PRA was an invaluable learning experience since it provided the agricultural extensionists with their first opportunity to listen to and learn from farmers. Through an open, two-way dialogue with men and women farmers, the agricultural extensionists were able to recognize that different categories of farmers face different constraints and have different needs and that farmers have knowledge that can be built on when planning extension interventions.

However, another point that emerged during evaluation of the PRA experience is the ease with which gender can be overlooked in PRA. Although an understanding of gender-based differences in rural communities was an explicit objective of the research, the agricultural extension trainees were undoubtedly helped by the inclusion of gender analysis as an integral part of the research tools.

The following is a summary of the lessons drawn from this experience:

PRA to support macrolevel planning. A central component of the gender-sensitive planning project was the use of PRA to gather information to support policy analysis and planning processes. While the project was being planned, it seemed obvious that the PRA objectives could be combined with those of the training project.

However, although the PRA fully met its objectives for the training programme, it fell short of the mark for the gender planning project, i.e. the data collected were not sufficient to prepare regional reports on gender issues in agriculture. In some cases, the PRA had not given sufficient attention to gender issues; insufficient data had been collected for some areas of research; some of the data could not be verified owing to inadequate recording of the research process; and some of the PRA tools had not been fully understood, such as the matrix on resources and decision-making. However, it should be remembered that:

Given the above constraints, the teams did a commendable job.

It is obvious that the use of PRA to gather topical information for macrolevel planning and policy analysis is a highly specialized research activity that requires clearly defined objectives and outputs, good planning, appropriate methods and experienced, gender-aware researchers. Although the original planning for this activity had all of these components, administrative and logistical constraints hampered effective application of the above formula. The main lessons that can be drawn from this experience are:

Video on gender issues in agriculture. The aim of the video Reaping the Harvest was to provide MAWRD with a tool for sensitization and training on gender issues in agriculture. Although the film was generally seen as being a high-quality work (it was shown on television in Namibia and South Africa), it proved to have some limitations as a training tool. Its strong focus on women's roles and constraints rather than on understanding what both women and men do and how these roles vary from farming system to farming system in Namibia, tended to make viewers less willing to understand the importance of women's roles. The lesson learned from this reaction, together with other instances of participants' resistance to some of the project activities, is that a focus on gender (rather than on women only) is more conducive to learning about the constraints and priorities of a particularly disadvantaged group (e.g. rural women) because they emerge as part of a balanced picture of constraints experienced within the larger context.

Gender information

The PRA information confirmed that agricultural activities are clearly divided along gender lines. The main findings from the PRA can be summarized as follows:

However, the PRA data also revealed that the traditional system, with its clear division of labour, is changing in response to economic necessity and opportunities, especially the migration of men to urban centres in search of jobs. New information from the PRA data about the changing nature of gender roles in Namibia's farming systems includes:

During the analysis of difference workshop for senior management, where participants had the opportunity to analyse data from the case studies, it became clear that most of MAWRD's top management were not aware of the extent to which women are involved in agricultural and livestock production. Their new knowledge helped management to understand why the NAP put such emphasis on extension support for women farmers and on using gender analysis for project/programme formulation and implementation. They also realized that men and women have different priorities for technical assistance based on their different agricultural and livestock activities and responsibilities. In terms of planning extension interventions, the information from the PRA data made managers aware that women, as well as men, need:

Capacity building

Building field-level capacity within MAWRD. A great deal of emphasis was placed on the training of agricultural extension workers because they are the bridge between national policies for agricultural development and the communal farmers. However, building capacity among this group of people presented some challenges because their education and technical preparation had not focused on the development of analytical skills (only a few of the trainees had a university education). They therefore needed to develop from scratch the sort of interaction and quick thinking that were required of them as potential trainers. The subject matter (gender issues in agriculture) was also completely new to them. To meet these challenges, the project supported a step-by-step capacity-building process at the field level.

The main outputs from this process were:

One lesson learned from working with this group of trainees is that a single training event is not sufficient to build adequate skills in gender analysis; capacity building requires a series of intermittent opportunities to learn and use new skills.

Sensitization of decision-makers. The objective of the gender planning project was to complement the field-level capacity to "address more effectively the needs of rural women" with the capacity at the planning and policy-making levels of MAWRD to discern the need for participatory, gender-responsive approaches to agricultural development. The objective of the project's sensitization activities was to promote understanding among those working in the agricultural sector of the need for adopting these approaches within MAWRD policies, strategies and programmes. One very important lesson learned from the Namibian experience was that management needs to understand why participatory, gender-responsive approaches are important, and how they can be implemented, in order to believe in their usefulness and, therefore, provide support for field-level efforts.

Horizontal capacity building. The project also helped to strengthen in-country capacity in participatory, gender-responsive approaches to agricultural development by bringing together the diverse capacities found within MAWRD, ACORD and the SDD Gender Programme at the University of Namibia. As a result of their participation in the project, each organization was given opportunities to expand its expertise in new directions. ACORD enhanced its ability to carry out gender-sensitive PRA. The researchers from the SDD Gender Programme were able to consolidate their expertise in gender issues in agriculture with participatory methods for agricultural development planning. This helped to create broader-based, more versatile knowledge and skills among Namibian organizations in how to support these new approaches.

Linkages. The fact that the NAP arrived when the projects were already being implemented (October 1995) meant that project management and consultants made every effort to ensure strong linkages to the new policy framework (see Figure). The NAP's responsiveness to gender equity issues was owing to the participation in the consultative process of individuals and interest groups who considered these issues to be high priority, including the national coordinator for the two gender projects, who played a pivotal role in ensuring that gender concerns were integrated into the policy document.

Project staff and consultants also tried to link the formulation of the Gender Action Plan with the on-going planning exercise for formulation of the draft National Agricultural Strategy (NAS) which was occurring at the same time as the Gender Action Plan was being developed. The Gender Action Plan was discussed with each MAWRD Directorate and some elements were incorporated into the Directorates' Strategic Plans as well as into the draft strategy paper. It was hoped that the final NAS would retain the explicit commitments made in the first drafts to using gender analysis in formulating and implementing all agricultural programmes and projects.

Later, an effort was made to link with the Department of Women's Affairs, the government office responsible for promoting the advancement of women in Namibia, which had initiated a process to develop a National Gender Policy. Here again, through participation of the MAWRD staff on the Gender Network Coordinating Committee, efforts were made to incorporate elements from MAWRD's Gender Action Plan into the National Gender Policy to ensure that it took adequate account of rural issues.


One of the most important lessons learned from the Namibian experience is the power of official policy to create a more enabling environment for gender-responsive, participatory approaches to agricultural development. The NAP had a very positive impact on the implementation of the two projects since it reinforced the relevancy of the activities they supported. For example, the NAP clearly established a mandate for extension services directed to women farmers and female heads of households, while the gender training project aimed at creating the relevant capacity for this. There was a considerable difference between the pre-NAP environment, in which actors in the agricultural sector had to be convinced that gender issues were important, and the post-NAP environment, in which attention to gender issues had become mandatory.

Institutional support was also a key element in creating an enabling environment for gender-responsive agricultural development planning in Namibia and contributed significantly to the success of both projects. The projects were launched and supported by a few well-placed people within MAWRD, who were committed to getting gender issues into the Ministry's reorientation of services for communal farmers. The continued support from the Deputy Permanent Secretary of MAWRD as chairperson of the Gender Sensitization Committee ensured that MAWRD mainstreamed project activities into its operations. The national coordinator for the projects was the Deputy Director of the Division of Rural Development Planning, the technical division of MAWRD that has the mandate for promoting the integration of gender into the Ministry's work. She also played a pivotal role in making sure that gender issues were integrated into the NAP and Strategy.

Although a few key players within MAWRD recognized the need for adopting more gender-responsive approaches to agricultural development, lack of support from mid-level staff (e.g. from the agricultural extension chiefs who were the supervisors of the training participants) created problems for the effective implementation of project activities. This situation, however, improved over the life of the two projects, partly in response to the explicit mandates outlined in the NAP and partly as a result of the participation of MAWRD staff in project activities.

The building of a broader support base within MAWRD turned out to be instrumental in promoting long-term institutionalization of the project approaches. As a result of the TOT programme and the workshop for senior management on the analysis of difference, top management at MAWRD directed the Ministry's Training Division to include gender analysis training in its annual training programme for extension workers. The Divisions of Training and Rural Development have been given the task of formulating operational policy guidelines and procedures to internalize the incorporation of gender fully into the training agenda and support services programme of MAWRD. This means that the regional gender training workshops will be implemented with the much needed cooperation and support of the Division of Agricultural Training.

It is hoped that MAWRD's inclusion of gender analysis as a mandatory component of its in-service training programme will lead to institutionalization of the gender-sensitive methods and tools used by the projects into the curriculum of the new Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources which is being established at the University of Namibia. The project management highly recommended that the knowledge and experience gained under the two projects be incorporated and mainstreamed into this formal educational setting.

The Namibian experience of creating an enabling environment for gender-responsive, participatory approaches to agricultural development can be summarized as follows:


The process of capacity building, participation and sensitization supported by the two gender projects certainly strengthened the institutional base in Namibia for using more gender-sensitive, participatory approaches to agricultural development. Based on this experience, the following advice could be given to others who would like to support similar processes:


This case study was written under the auspices of a Government of Norway-funded interregional project entitled Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender-Sensitive Planning (GCP/INT/602/NOR) which was implemented in Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Nepal between 1995 and 1997.


1 Data from the 1991 census.

2 The data gathered during the PRAs carried out in the projects support this hypothesis.

3 In the process, MAWRD was assisted by the FAO project TCP/NAM/4454, Assistance in Finalizing the NAP.

4 This information was obtained from the needs assessment to identify constraints within existing extension policies carried out at the beginning of the gender training project

5 The new Government of Namibia inherited an incomplete information base from the colonial government which focused all of its administrative support on the white population. There was, therefore, very little information about the situation in communal areas in general, and even less gender-disaggregated information.

6 The report was prepared in April-May of 1994, a full year and a half before the NAP was published.

7 It should be noted that the combined funding for these two projects came to less than US$250 000.

8 This framework was adapted by V. Wilde, the international consultant who delivered the training course, from the Field-Level Framework of the Gender Analysis and Forestry training package she had developed with A. Vainio-Mattila for FAO's Community Forestry Unit.

9 Five village case studies were completed during the second training course: Eenkalashe (Omusati) and Okahitua (Otjozondjupa) in the North Central Region; Lisikili (Caprivi) in the Northeast Region; Oruvanjai (Kunene) in the Northwest Region; and Klein-Aub (Hardap) in the South.


L.A. Girvan. 1995. Women, agriculture and rural development: national sectoral report for Namibia. Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development. Rome, FAO.

NAP. 1995. National Agricultural Policy, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development. Windhoek

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