Extension and community workers carry a heavy burden of work; they must be all things to all people. They must respond appropriately to the needs of rural households and carry extension messages from their ministries and others to households and communities. Their job is made all the more difficult in the context of macro-economic trends that favour economies of scale and privatisation of services. They also face the challenge of responding to the fast-paced demographic changes in rural households - in large part caused by migration, rural ageing and epidemics such as HIV/AIDS.
Such stresses impact heavily on intra-household resource management dynamics, particularly in terms of:
access to productive resources and agricultural services and technologies.
All of this leads to a greater need for extension personnel to better understand the issues related to the changing dynamics of household management of resources, particularly in terms of household and individual food security, rural livelihoods and how HIV/AIDS is impacting on them. To do so, it is essential to address the gender-differentiated roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities, costs, benefits, needs and priorities of people. Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying and reaching extension clients, for effective communication and for mutual learning processes between extension workers and farmers.
Example: Intercropping beans and maize in the same row led to an increase in bean yields in Zambia, but women were reluctant to adopt the practice since, by intercropping with maize, beans would become a mans crop and sold for cash rather than for household relish (Feldstein & Poats, 1990).
Extension workers are valuable links between rural men and women and policy-makers. Developing extension programmes and providing services that respond to the needs of both women and men in various agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts is a challenge to extension services. Rural women and men rarely engage in only one type of activity, but rather have many on-farm and off-farm activities, and they therefore need advice on a combination of areas including nutrition, income generation, credit schemes, new technologies and so forth. It is therefore critical for extension workers to have good knowledge about the actual and potential users of their services.
Households are very different, both in composition and socio-economic status. They vary greatly, both from one culture to another, and within a community.
Household resource management uses the household as an entry-point to understand and address rural development challenges. But it also moves beyond the household black box and considers the management systems within households.
Decision-making dynamics and relations within the household;
Assigning priorities to different activities and household members;
Allocating resources and benefits; and
Accessing and controlling resources (e.g. land, water, time, credit, labour)
Women, men, young and old, all manage resources (e.g. knowledge, labour, money, livestock, water, crops, tools, information) but they all have different access to, and control over, these resources. They also give different priorities to managing resources and benefit differently from them.
For example, different household members may not agree that selling livestock should be given priority. Similarly, income earned from such a sale may benefit household members differently, depending on who decides how the income is spent.
In order for extension services to be useful and sustainable, they must be designed to meet the needs and priorities of the community, its different households and individual household members - not an easy task! Socio-economic and gender analysis can help extension workers with this task.
How does a
community define household?
What kinds of households exist?
Who are the household
(age, sex, extended family, and hired help)?
What kinds of resources exist in the household and community to support different livelihoods?
Who uses these different
Who makes decisions about the use of these different resources (control)?
Who benefits from the use of the different resources, and how?
What are the different needs of individual household members? What are their priorities? What are their interests?
What changes have been caused by HIV/AIDS in how women and men manage household resources and decision-making? What are the emerging needs?