Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Access to resources and services is often a constraint for rural households, and will vary greatly between different household members and socio-economic groups. Women, youth and the landless are often at a disadvantage in terms of access to both resources and services, and it is therefore necessary that the extension services pay particular attention to reaching and supporting these groups. Governments face constraints in terms of how much they can and should spend on different sectors. They also face constraints due to the economic situation in which they currently hold office.

Constraints can be gender-linked. In many instances, constraints to increased productivity are the result of gender-linked differences in access to inputs and resources.

Some questions to ask to address gender-related constraints

(Adapted from Jiggins et al, 1997)

Assessing household constraints & opportunities

Labour: who does what?

Access to and control over resources

Needs and priorities

Vulnerable groups

Assessing extension service providers and stakeholders

Questions related to assessing extension services/organisations

The following table might be of help in organising the information you get on services being offered to communities:


Type of organisation

Services provided to rural people

Geographical area covered

Segment of population covered

Expertise available in organisation

Number of male/female staff in organisation

Household resources: Water

Water is at the heart of many livelihood activities and is an important source of food and income (for example through fishing and fish processing). Freshwater is an essential input to many livelihood activities, such as food preparation, livestock and crop production. It is also an indispensable household resource for health and sanitation purposes. Water availability is often a limiting factor to production and the dry season increases the time spent on water collection - often the task of women. The SEAGA Irrigation guide provides more guidance on this topic.

Understanding gender roles in household water use is crucial to giving due attention to everyone’s needs, for instance when planning water-based interventions. Both women and men should be represented in water management associations to ensure that the water needs of all clients are considered. If water is a constraint to efficient household resource management, it is important to gather data on water needs and possible solutions such as water conservation, harvesting and storage techniques. Linking up with other service providers and local groups could be useful for sharing information or explore collaboration.

Some questions to ask about household use and management of water

Household resources: Land

Knowing how land is held, allocated or divided along kinship and gender patterns is essential for extension work. The issue of access to land is highly sensitive - politically, religiously, legally and culturally - so it needs to be handled carefully.

Households and different household members have different degrees of access to and control over land as well as different ownership and inheritance rights. Ownership and secure tenure are indispensable conditions to improving agricultural activity and to supporting the ability and interest of rural women and men to engage in sustainable agriculture. Women’s access is often limited to household and personal use for crops through a male family member. Their landholdings are typically smaller than men’s. Access to land largely depends upon (FAO 2002a):

Some questions to ask about household use & control of land

Household resources: Credit, savings & income-generation

Both women and men seek opportunities to earn cash for immediate use or for savings for later use. Often, diversifying the incomes of the poorest households means using as little land and inputs as possible. It is important to remember that many, in particularly women, may only be able to commit a small amount of time to new activities if these are added to existing task and responsibilities.

Many rural men and women live in marginal areas with poorly developed transportation and communication to urban areas, so certain types of income generation activities may not be suitable for all locations. Small-scale farmers also have to compete with intensive farming that may be encouraged in new resettlement zones. Below are some questions that can be used to assess possible interventions, but please see FAO’s SEAGA Microfinance Guide for more guidance on this issue.

Assessing possibilities for introducing alternative businesses

Household resources: Time & labour-saving technologies

A good understanding of time use by different household members and groups of clients can assist extension workers to plan visits, training and other activities that require the presence and time of women, men, youth or other groups. It can also help extension workers to understand the needs of women and men in terms of time- and labour-saving technologies. At the same time it can help avoid adding more work to an already overburdened household member while trying to make sure that time used on some of her/his other tasks are reduced. For more details on labour-saving technologies, see FAO/IFAD (2003) and FAO/IFAD/JICA (1998).

Some questions to ask about time use and labour-saving technologies

Nutrition and different household members

Extension workers should be aware of the developmental and cultural context as well as other situations that lead to low nutritional status of certain groups in communities or individuals in households. Good nutrition requires enough food, proper health and adequate care. Nutritional demands vary depending on age, sex, health status and activity level. During pregnancy and breastfeeding women need extra nutrients to keep themselves and their babies healthy. Good nutrition cannot cure AIDS or prevent HIV-infection, but it can help to maintain and improve the nutritional status of a person with HIV/AIDS and delay the progression from HIV to AIDS-related diseases (FAO 2002b). Women may play an essential role in feeding their family, but ensuring good nutrition is the joint responsibility of all household members, including men.

Some questions to ask about nutrition and household food security

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page