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Familiarize emergency operators with a gender approach in procurement and distribution operations.

See: WFP Transport and Logistics Manual.
Module link: Module on SEAGA Tools.


Gender sensitive specifications, Local procurement, On site-logistics, Participatory quality control, Procurement process phases.


Procurement is one of the most crucial phases of relief operations. The timely delivery of relief packages to the identified target beneficiaries at their location, highly depends on sound planning and functioning of this complex operation.

Procurement is the acquisition of goods and services, making the best use of available funds. The process starts with the assessment and description of precise requirements and ends with safe receipt and installation of goods. Procurement is not limited to purchasing, which is only one element of a process involving formal actions concerned with requesting bids, ordering, insuring, transporting, paying and recording.

Different Phases of the Procurement Process

  • Identification of needs

  • Design of technical specifications

  • Technical clearance

  • Purchase requisition

  • Identification of suppliers

  • Tendering and bidding

  • Ordering and purchasing

  • Delivery and quality control

The first four phases are under the direct responsibility of relevant technical services, which also specify the timing of the procurement process and, more particularly, delivery activities. Moreover, the relief operational staff at field and headquarters levels are also responsible to pre-identify and propose possible suppliers, specifying the geographical areas where appropriate and adapted supplies can be located. All these actions have intrinsic links with the overall relief implementation plan. Wherever possible, a gender approach in their design should be used.


Logistics involves many steps like communication, liaison, coordination, freight costing, procurement, insurance, superintendence, consignment, routing, forwarding, tracking, infrastructure capacity management, fleet management, stevedore handling, transportation, storage, distribution, holding and re-distribution.

On-site Logistics

  • Port capacity

  • Country transport infrastructure

  • Country transport costs

  • Quality of storage facilities

  • Quality of handling facilities

  • Communication infrastructure

Based on observations that women’s active participation increases the effectiveness of any relief operation, an increase of women’s control over intra-household resources (especially food) should be promoted.

WFP calls for 50% females in registration and distribution committees, and for 80% of food rations to be delivered into women’s hands. WFP also calls for public posting of names and entitlements of every beneficiary household and of each committee member. FAO does not yet have any particular gender-equality goals or numerical beneficiary targets. These are formulated on a case by case basis, depending on in-country assessment findings and the donor strategy.

Gender-sensitive Specifications for Agricultural Inputs

A gender perspective in aspects related to logistics, procurement and distribution begins with the identification of the end-users of the commodities to be supplied. The potential impacts (positive and negative) of distribution on female-owned retail enterprises should be analysed. Free distribution of relief goods at times can depress prices of locally supplied goods of the same nature.

In order to enable procurement officers to deliver correct calls for bids and properly identify the suppliers, food commodities and agricultural inputs should be specified adequately and thoroughly in all their technical features.

Food Commodities

These commodities should include a variety of culturally acceptable and easy to prepare foods. Women are generally responsible for household food procurement and preparation. Thus, they should be considered as a privileged source of information for the identification of appropriate commodities (including non-food items). The specifications should derive from the needs assessment process.

All food commodities should be selected considering international quality standards, local dietary habits, and the specific types accepted and/or requested by women. The availability of safe water and fuel supplies (distance and time for collection), pre-existing processing facilities and local preparation capabilities (time taken) should be considered.

Description of Food Items

  • Type of cereal and pulse grains, oils and fats, fruits and vegetables, spices

  • Maximum moisture and foreign material contents for grains and flour

  • Type of preserved meat and fish

  • Commercial features of grains and flour

  • Type of child food

Seeds and Planting Material

Increasingly rural women have become the principal responsible family members in cultivating basic staple crops and for ensuring household food needs. Men are devoted more to on and off-farm income generating activities. Consequently, while assessing the requirements for seed and planting material of basic cereal and pulse crops, vegetables and fruits, women are a fundamental source of information in the selection of species and varieties.

Specifications and Quality Standards for Seed and Planting Material[19]

  • Names (species, variety and landraces)

  • Germination rate (min. % for species/variety)

  • Analytical purity
    (min. % of alien varieties)

  • Shelled or unshelled status (e.g. pulses and groundnuts)

  • Packing material
    (e.g. impermeable to water in high humidity areas)

  • Alien content weight (Weed and other seed mass)

  • Moisture content

  • Absence of foreign material, pests and seed borne diseases

  • Treatment against local pests and diseases (clear marking)

  • Packing units
    (considering women’s transport capacities)

Agricultural Implements

The poor socio-economic status of rural women in developing countries determines the production tools and implements they can use and access, which vary in each country and whether the people are nomadic or sedentary in lifestyle. Often the level of technology is low and the material used by the local blacksmiths is of poor quality. It is important to consider that women often need different tools from men. The implement’s specifications should therefore be differentiated in order to allow manufacturers to produce gender adapted tools (e.g. including tangs in hoes to allow swapping and renewing of blades of varying weights and designs), in consultation with female farmer beneficiaries.

Neither small- nor large-scale manufacturers tend to undertake extensive rural market research with a view to adapting the tools produced to the needs or demands of different customer groups. The shape, the materials used and the weight are therefore standard, whether the tools are utilized by men or women. Thus, a woman or child will often have to wait until a husband or father has worn a tool down considerably so that it is light enough for them to use. However, this also causes it to be less sturdy and effective.

It is important to organize consultations between manufacturers and customers, especially women whenever possible. In this way, the specific needs of men and women (e.g. use of time, energy input, working posture, the size and weight of tools) can be taken into account. It is also recommended to invite women farmers to take part in demonstrations and workshops on the use of animal traction methods.

Agricultural Implements Used by Women Farmers in Africa[20]

A study conducted in 1998 by FAO, IFAD and FARMESA in rural areas (with prevalent subsistence farming) in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe showed that technical solutions often clash with religious beliefs, taboos and traditional attitudes within communities. Specific cultural factors have a direct impact on women farmers’ choice of tools and techniques, on ergonomics and on the overall conditions of their farm work. There is still a particular taboo against women using animals for farm work in these countries. Traditionally men are in charge of cattle and horses, and most traction equipment is too heavy for women.

Traditionally, short-handled hoes are thought to be more effective and faster for use by women. In fact, they force a woman to bend forwards and, as often she is carrying a child on her back, this increases the strain of her daily workload.

Improving the tools used by women in their work will not only boost productivity, reduce work time, workload and strain, but also promote the transfer of appropriate technology. In more tragic circumstances, situations of conflict or war also take men away from their families, and women and children then find themselves left on their own to carry out most of the family tasks, particularly farm work.


Veterinary remedies are frequently among the most important procurement inputs in an emergency. Special consideration must be given to their continuing supply and affordability, and the availability of livestock technicians or veterinarians. Delivery of these inputs in a timely manner depends on adequate funding for specialized storage, transportation and field allowances. The application of slow-release anti-parasitics (for ecto- and endo-parasites) together with the use of thermo-stable vaccines may go a long way to solving this problem. Governments often are not able to provide such operational funds, even in normal times, and serious action needs to be taken in terms of downsizing and eliminating wastage and wasteful practices.

Strategic emergency livestock-interventions, like many other relief options, require adequate analysis, careful planning and appropriate implementation. Some basic lessons have been learned from past emergency livelihoods programmes (FAO/OFDA/Tufts University).

Lessons Learned

  • Timing is important. Natural and indigenous methods of restoring herds may be pre-empted if re-stocking is introduced too soon after a disaster (or in the acute phase).

  • Premature restocking may simply perpetuate or even exacerbate existing constraints (structural, natural, managerial, etc.) that contributed to the problem in the first place.

  • Local resources should be utilized. Communities should tailor interventions with external supervision and support. Personalities count.

  • Targeting should focus on individual families (not groups) that are likely to be most successful in restoring herd and management viability (i.e. families that have strong herding skills, some resources and sufficient labour).

  • It is essential to involve target communities in the design of the project, the terms of the aid, and the selection of the beneficiaries, etc.

  • Beneficiary selection criteria for consideration: (1) Skilled herders that are judged suitable by their peers; (2) Post drought household herds of not more than 10 animals; (3) At least 2 persons of working age in each household; (4) Secure access to winter/spring grazing.

  • Local stock should be procured rather than using "imported" stock. If possible, animals should be procured from the immediate area. This can be viewed as in-kind asset redistribution within an affected community or region.

  • Loans are preferable to gifts. It is better to loan animals than to provide outright gifts.

  • Gifts create dependency and tend to interfere with local restocking mechanisms. Loans facilitate longer-term and more holistic growth in that sector (e.g. animal health services, marketing, etc.).

  • Attempts should be made to build on traditional restocking mechanisms, e.g., match the number of stock obtained through social/traditional methods.

  • If a revolving credit system is to be considered, recipients should be included in the selection and purchase of animals. First recipients should hand returning stock directly on to the next person, who will then re-issue. Personal interest ensures that the second in line will monitor the first recipient better than any other committee.


For the provision of chemical fertilizer the specific needs and requests of the target beneficiaries should be considered in the relief package; and the types and formulations must be tailored to local markets availability, traditional know-how, and overall sustainability criteria. As fertilizers are bulky compared to other inputs, they can be more logistically demanding and may be subject to theft or damage in transit, if not carefully handled.

The obvious hazards associated with the use of pesticides necessitate a rigorous approach to pesticide procurement, especially in emergency situations.

Agro-chemicals Specifications[21]

  • Nutrient type and concentration.

  • Active ingredient.

  • Product common name and registration number (not patent name).

  • Formulation (%, g/l, g/kg, EC, WP, DP, GR, UL, etc.).

  • Physical status (powders, granular, liquid) -depending on application-mode and means, and practices of production.

  • Combination of nutrients.

  • Miscibility.

  • Toxicity class (lowest human or mammalian toxicity should be selected).

  • Labeling for technical and cautionary advice.

  • Packing material and units (e.g. suitable for high humidity areas and re-consignment and carrying from distribution points).

Appropriate protective clothing should also be an integral part of provided pesticides. Women, due to insufficient exposure to extension and training, are likely to lack knowledge in the proper use of pesticides. Therefore, the use of pesticides should be foreseen only if necessary. Self-reliance and sustainable integrated agricultural production at the farm level should always be considered. The application of integrated pest management methods with the provision of technical assistance services is recommended.

Need to Maximise Local Procurement

The maximisation of local procurement, ex-manufacturing and purchasing should be encouraged to enhance the national economy, provide adapted technology and supply appropriate food and means of production with a gender perspective.

When a disaster has occurred, the institutional distribution systems might have collapsed, or could have been disrupted and unable to meet the demand to ensure the supply of production means in due time for the cropping seasons. In such cases, the possibility of creating informal supplying networks should be carefully investigated and available local knowledge exploited for collective benefit. Local procurement through female farmers and improvised suppliers of seed and planting materials might be the only way to procure adapted and appropriate inputs. Existing areas of safe-production should be identified and formal agreements with producers undertaken.

For food aid, local purchases can constitute an internal transfer of local and appropriate food resources from better off regions to deficit areas or populations. Such purchases are more cost efficient and have advantages in terms of timing and acceptability. Since women in emergency-situations are the prime producers of basic foodstuff, local purchasing by creating additional market outlets stimulates production, increases income and employment, compensates losses created by the emergency situation, and eventually empowers women.

Establishing Participatory Quality Control Systems

A quality control system (particularly for seeds, planting material, agro-chemicals and tools) should be conceived and organised in a participatory manner. Emergency operators, selected representatives of intervention implementing partners and officials of the local relevant institutions may compose a specific unit at central country level. In the area of interventions, sub-units with beneficiary representatives should be established.

Quality Control Systems



  • Germination tests and verification of moisture content and purity should be performed on seeds procured, upon arrival and prior to distribution, in compliance with FAO guidelines.

  • Appointed blacksmiths and tools and implements produced and delivered should be monitored by a Quality Control Unit (with women beneficiary representatives) against original specifications.

Such a system would be responsible for the functioning of the project quality control system (guaranteeing the respect of the designed specifications, and contributing to the restoration of necessary institutional interrelationships - and in some cases creating ex-novo such facilities).

Question Tank - Procurement and Logistics

Logistics Checklist

  • Are men and women consulted separately about their needs?

  • How are men and women consulted about crops and varieties, hand tools, and replacement draught animals required for a quick recovery?

  • What are the existing infrastructures and communications habits?

  • Which food/non-food items are available and needed by men and women? Which are not?

  • How are items transported from the distribution point to people’s homes?

  • What are the anticipated handling and storage costs?

  • Who should organise farmers’ groups? What are the local equipment requirements?

  • Who should monitor the distribution?

  • How should the use and cost-effectiveness of items distributed be monitored?

  • If relief items are not freely distributed, who should oversee price-fixing, the management of counterpart funds, and advise on loans and their recovery?

  • Are on farm or off farm demonstrations recommended?

  • What are the areas to be served? Where should distribution centres be located? Are both women and men consulted on distribution mechanisms?

  • Are both women and men involved in decision-making about priorities for distribution? What are the normal bag sizes carried by women?

  • What should be the maximum distance from end-user locations? Why?

  • What is the opportunity cost of the time women spend in collecting and carrying aid?

  • Would collection by men significantly undermine women’s control?

  • Who - husband, wife - normally controls? family food stocks?

  • Who is responsible for children and unaccompanied minors?

  • Are sufficient resources available for all the children under a woman's care?

  • What impact will this have on women-headed households?

  • Are women eligible to collect food rations for migrant family members (such as husbands or sons)?

  • If a project focuses only on women, will this have a negative impact on men’s self-definition as "providers" for their families?

  • Can women drivers or local logisticians be hired safely?

  • How are men and women consulted about preferred needed domestic items? What are the local employment regulations?

  • Are there any local suppliers? Which ones?

  • How can men and women procure these food/non-food items?

  • How should distribution be organised with local authorities or with implementing partners?

  • How should distribution costs be shared?

  • What are the needs for supervision of receipt, quality control and transportation?

  • What is the best way to access female-headed households?

  • Who should conduct analyses of constraints and technical and economic results?

  • When payment for items is required, has the impact of various pricing decisions on female-headed households and other family structures been taken into consideration?

  • What is the need for complementary extension training programmes?

  • Are choices about which products to distribute gender sensitive? Have impacts on women’s workloads been considered?

  • What is the safety situation (e.g. the risk of landmines or that persons who are carrying food will be ambushed or attacked)?

  • How far is the distribution point from camps, villages or homesteads?

  • What would they be doing if they didn’t have to carry the food?

  • Would collection by women significantly enhance women’s control?

  • Are women-headed households recognized?

  • How many women are caring for other children who lost contact with family members?

  • Will families be required to send a representative to stand in line for long periods?

  • How are men and women spending time in a refugee camp?

  • Does the delivery timing/scheduling consider both men's and women’s roles and responsibilities?

  • Is it worth requiring women to collect food? Is there any risk of food diversion if men collect it?

[19] Source: FAO’s Plant production and protection Paper n° 117 on Quality Declared Seeds.
[20] Source: Agricultural implements used by women farmers in Africa. FAO, 1999.
[21] Source: International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (FAO, 1990). "Pesticides Selection and Use in Field Projects (FAO; Field Programme Circular 8/1992)". "Tender Procedures for the Procurement of Pesticides (FAO, Oct. 1994)".

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