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II. Gender and participation in agricultural planning

II. Gender and participation in agricultural planning

What is agricultural planning?

In this paper, the term "agricultural planning" refers to two processes: agricultural policy making and agricultural planning per se.

Agricultural Policy Making

Policy makers are the elected or appointed officials, high level civil servants, and, in some cases, aid donors who wield the political and financial power to:

• set goals for the agricultural sector (such as growth, food security, regional equity),

• develop strategies to pursue them (such as giving priority to export crops, commercial farms, smallholders), and

• set price, input, credit and land policies designed to induce farmers, technicians: and others working in the sector to take decisions that that will achieve the policy objectives.

Agricultural Planning

Planners develop national, regional, district, or investment plans and projects as well as line agency programmes that are compatible with the goals strategies, and policies set by policy makers. Planners may be economists, social scientists or technical specialists employed in the planning units of the Ministry of Agriculture or its various line agencies, like extension or livestock services, or in national or international development NGOs and agencies. Managers may also be involved in planning, especially in programme planning for line agencies.

There are the official government planners, but planning also takes place in international organizations (ea. FAO) as well as in private agencies, NGOs, commercial establishments, and on individual farms. Thus, to some extent, everyone involved in the sector is a planner. Nonetheless, to be clear, we will reserve the term "planner" to the government planner and use the term "stakeholder" to designate all other actors and interest groups in the agricultural sector.


Stakeholders are all persons and organisations, who stand to gain or lose from a particular policy, programme or project. Many people and groups have a "stake" in the results of agricultural planning, including men and women farmers from different socio-economic, ethnic or age groups, livestock owners, commercial farmers, agricultural wage labourers, fisherfolk, employees and owners of agricultural processing or marketing enterprises, farmer organisations, elected officials, civil servants and representatives of international agencies


Farmers, as used in this paper, refers to men and women who engage in small-scale, livestock, crops and fish production and processing as their primary economic activity and who have limited land, capital, educational, and labour resources.

The evolution of theory and practice in agricultural planning

In the 1960s and 1970s, macro-economic national planning was highly promoted and widely practiced. National plans set growth targets, broke them down by sector, analysed macro-economic constraints on growth, and developed national and sectoral strategies. Large-scale public, parastatal, and private sector projects were often included in the ubiquitous Five Year Plans, but projects were rarely planned in detail since their funding was usually not yet assured. The lack of planners trained in project preparation was an important constraint on overall agricultural planning (FAO, 1984:8). Large projects were often included in the plan specifically to attract international financing.

The national and agricultural sector plans often included price, input, research, and extension policies designed to promote rapid economic growth. The strong priority to growth kept the focus on better endowed regions, large commercial enterprises, and export sectors, sometimes exacerbating regional and local income differentiation and often failing to alleviate poverty (Labonne, 1988; FAO, 1985). The smallholder subsistence sector was generally neglected.

This situation changed in the 1970s when major donors began to favour a new breed of "integrated rural development" (IRD) projects. IRD projects included both social and economic activities and usually focused on the smallholder sector, sometimes even on subsistence-oriented farming systems. The major objective, however, was still to increase the amount of marketed output. Nonetheless, there was a new focus on targeting specific population groups - the poor, the landless, women and youth - with a wide array of services. In some cases, especially in Latin America, these groups were expected to participate in the design of the services they needed (Young: 1993: 47). In most cases, however, participation was not carried down to the village level, and most "services" targeted at women were related not to their productive activities, but to health, education, water supply, etc., that is, to women's reproductive concerns.

A new form of rural development research, the farming systems research and extension approach (FSR/E), was also developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, bringing a call for inter-disciplinary and more participatory methods to the agricultural research establishment. The impact of FSR/E on agricultural planning and on major agricultural sector projects, however, was limited. This was because most large-scale agricultural projects either targeted or in actual practice worked mainly with so-called "progressive farmers", who were almost invariably better-off male smallholders or larger commercial farmers. Furthermore, FSR/E was rarely able to integrate all members of the farm-household into its analysis or to consider male-female relations at the intra-household level or at the inter-household level (Young, 1993: 52).

Nonetheless, feminist critics of male biased development projects found inspiration in the FSR/E approach for their work in developing gender analysis. So did the proponents of participatory methods who were seeking ways to make project planning more "bottom-up" (Young, 1993: 47-48). The result was the beginnings of the gender and agricultural literature and the gender and planning literature, as well as the beginnings of a process that was to transform many of the methods and tools of rapid rural appraisal into a method that became known as participatory rural appraisal.

The 1970s concern with both poverty and inter-regional disparities also led to the emergence of decentralized, area-based agricultural planning (regional and/or district planning), beginning in India and other parts of Asia in the 1970s and moving to Africa and other parts of the developing world in the 1980s (FAO, 1985; Labonne, 1988). The objectives of area development planning combine growth with poverty alleviation and regional "balance" or equity. Participatory planning methods, however, have rarely been used in decentralised planning processes. Like national plans and projects, regional and district plans, as well as integrated rural development projects, have usually been developed in a top-down manner (Maetz and Quieti, 1987; Belshaw, 1988; Bendavid-Val, 1990 and 1991).

The debt crisis of the 1980s again shifted the emphasis of government policy (with considerable prodding from international creditor agencies) back to growth, an objective that was pursued by focusing development efforts on regions, farm enterprises, and crops with the highest "growth potential", i.e. private sector commercial agriculture and export crops. This time, however, growth was to be pursued by changing the structure and reach of the government itself, specifically by reducing government and shifting many of its functions to the private sector. Thus, IMF/World Bank led demands for "stabilisation" and "structural adjustment" led to widespread reductions in government budgets and staff. Major efforts at national planning were discouraged.

The resurgence of policies to favour commercial and export agriculture again exacerbated disparities among regions and households. Eventually, the serious negative effect of many "adjustment" policies on the poor were recognised. This stimulated interest in local area planning and generated proposals for micro-projects to alleviate poverty. Among the methods advocated to plan both medium and small-scale area-based projects was rapid rural appraisal (RRA) (Conyers, 1993:108-9) and, more recently, participatory rural appraisal (PRA).

The tools of RRA were used mainly with village leaders and "local informants" from district line agencies, resulting in a strong "male bias". The same was true of the earlier efforts to use PRA, although this is changing. However unintentional, a male bias has also permeated in regional and district planning as well as FAO's series of Training Materials for Agricultural Planning. (See Maetz and Quieti, 1987: 37-8; Bendavid-Val, 1990: 7 and 1991:49).

From the late 1970s, evaluations of the negative effects of growth focused policies and projects on women had produced a feminist critique that was soon extended into a comprehensive critique of planning itself (Palmer, 1979; Buvinic, 1986). The critique was often accompanied by suggestions for new ways to engage in planning, complete with a set of tools for '`gender analysis" and gender sensitive planning (Overholt et al., 1984; Poats et al., 1988; Young, 1988; Feldstein and Poats, 1989; Rao et al., 1991; Ostergaard, 1992; Moser, 1993; Young, 1993). This, of course, is the work from which the projects represented in this workshop have drawn both inspiration and methods.

During the 1980s, increasing concerns with poverty and the need to understand its effects from the point of view of local communities led to a reworking of the methods of rapid rural appraisal into a new set of planning tools called participatory rural appraisal (PRA).1 The feminist development community quickly realised the power of PRA methods for highlighting gender issues, and in the 1990s produced the PRA/GA literature (Feldstein and Jiggins, 1994; Thomas-Slayter et al. 1995; and the draft SEAGA manuals).

1 See Clark/Egerton Universities (1991) for an early version of a PRA Handbook. For a more comprehensive set of PRA methods see Thomas-Slayter et al. (1995) and the current drafts of FAO's multiple volume guidebooks to participatory macro, intermediate, and field level planning in its "Socioeconomic and Gender Analysis Programme" of the Women in Development Service.

The mainstream agricultural planning literature, while promoting decentralised area planning for poverty alleviation and participatory methods for a better integration of local priorities into area plans, has rarely taken the gender-focused literature into account (FAO, 1986; Maetz and Quieti, 1987; Belshaw, 1988; Bendavid-Val, 1990 and 1991). A few works mention the importance of women, but do not integrate gender analysis into the "body" of analysis or into the methods advocated. Mollett (1990) added a chapter on women in the second edition of his textbook on agricultural planning, but did not use gender analysis in the rest of the text, even where it would be highly relevant. This is reminiscent of the way "women's components" were attached to projects that otherwise ignored gender issues. Ellis's 1992 textbook on agricultural policies, which includes a discussion of the effects on women of each policy covered, is a refreshing exception. It is, however, the only exception I could find.

In the "real world" as well, gender analysis has rarely, if ever, entered the planner's tool kit. Neither, in fact, has PRA, except in a very preliminary manner that tends to confine participation to the official village leadership. Current decision-makers and senior planners have been far more highly trained in the technical aspects of projecting supply and demand, setting targets and allocating resources, than in taking socio-economic and gender differences among farmers into account in agricultural planning. Our case study experiences confirm that many people from this older generation of decision-makers are sceptical of bottom-up planning and especially of the "need" to integrating gender analysis into agricultural planning processes. Several case studies also remarked that agricultural officers arid field workers had never previously been exposed to either PRA or gender analysis.

The projects have demonstrated the relevance of these tools for gender-responsive planning. The next challenge is to work out how planning procedures can be adapted to become more responsive to the information the tools can generate. With that challenge in mind, the remainder of this annex reviews the major features of different types of agricultural planning and policy making.

An overview of different types of agricultural planning

The structures, processes, and relative importance of the different "levels" of planning differ from country to country. Any project attempting to work with this system needs to study it in its local context. Nevertheless, a basic familiarity with the common features of most agricultural planning systems can help us determine where and to whom the information produced by gender-sensitive participatory processes can be directed in order to increase the responsiveness of planning to gender and other differences among farmers.

Development planning, including agricultural planning, may be divided into two basic categories: centralised and decentralised In a centralised planning system all major policy, planning, and programming, and budgeting decisions for the sector as a whole and for sub-sector line agencies are made at the national level. In a decentralised system, responsibility for a large number of planning, programming, and budgeting decisions is devolved to regional and/or district levels. A separate regional or district planning apparatus may be formed to develop an area-based investment plan. The decentralisation of planning and agricultural administration tends to bring problem analysis and planning closer to regional and local realities.

Because the decentralisation process is spreading geographically (currently in Africa in particular) and intensifying in areas where it has long been advocated (in parts of Asia and Latin America), and because it is a form of planning that is often introduced with an explicit goal of increasing farmer participation in planning, it's main outlines are reviewed here.

In a decentralised system, the national level focuses on setting goals and targets and on formulating agricultural policies to guide government agency programming and project planning and to influence decision-making in the private sector. National planners also provide budgetary and technical support and coordination, monitoring and evaluation services for lower levels of planning. They are often involved in designing large-scale projects at national and regional levels.

Regional or area planning is the middle level of a decentralised planning system, charged with aggregating and coordinating plans and programmes initiated at lower levels and attempting to reconcile them with the policy and budget constraints set at the national level. Regional planners may also be involved in the design and implementation of nationally designed projects operating in the region. Regional planners usually provide technical and administrative assistance as well as training for district planners and for institutions involved in local planning and project development.

District planning takes place in sub-sector line agencies, like district extension programming, and in multi-agency institutional or community settings where local projects are designed and implemented. At this level, elected local councils, NGOs, private organisations, and farmer organisations, often participate in project and programme planning along side district planners and line agency technicians. In the past, the lack of funding for more independent programming and planning at local levels has inhibited district planning, but as government administrative decentralisation has been increasingly pursued, more funding decisions are being passed down to regional and district levels. A more binding constraint on local area planning, especially on integrated rural development planning (that may involve crops, livestock, natural resource management, research, extension, credit, marketing and social sectors in a single project) has been the lack of experience in working in multi-disciplinary teams and a lack of appropriate planning methodologies (Maetz and Quieti, 1987).

Village or community level planning is still rare. As decentralisation takes hold, however, village planning may well become increasingly important. It has two basic functions: i) providing information for higher planning levels by means of participatory problem analysis, and ii) setting community priorities and action plans that can be carried out either independently or with some outside assistance.

The increasing importance of decentralised planning is one of three main elements in the current context of agricultural policy making and planning.

Major elements in the current planning environment

new constraints, especially a squeeze on operational funding arid the loss of staff in a wide range of government agencies as a result of structural adjustment,

new approaches, government administrative decentralisation and regional and district inter-disciplinary planning, and

new demands, for participation, "bottom up" planning, and taking women into account.

While all these factor don't necessarily "fit" in all countries, and every element is not necessarily "new" in all contexts, they are common enough to constitute a relatively new policy and planning environment. This environment presents an important opening for gender and socio-economic difference responsive, participatory agricultural planning.

The challenge to planning to "become more participatory" has several sources. Among the most compelling is the failure of many development projects and programmes to meet their objectives when farmers failed to respond as expected. The old habit of blaming farmer ignorance and backwardness has lost its appeal, especially in the face of evidence that many farmers, such as the resource limited, many women farmers, and some pastoralists, face constraints that make it impossible for them to respond as expected. Secondly, successful community development programmes based on participatory planning, implementation, and monitoring processes have demonstrated that rural communities are indeed interested in development and will work to make plans and projects succeed as long as those plans respond to local priorities. Finally the push for democratization has added an important political dimension to the demand for more participatory, 'bottom up' planning.

The admonition to "take women into account" also stems in part from the lack-lustre performance of projects that have ignored women's roles in farming systems. Two decades of gender-sensitive project evaluations have resulted in a growing recognition that many projects, while improving men's situation, have actually made women worse off. Other factors have gradually shifted attitudes at both international and national levels, among them pressure on donors and governments to respond to women's needs as farmers, and the momentum created by the major international conferences on population, the environment, and women. The rapid growth in women's organisations, throughout the world and their growing links with one another have added a political thrust.

A far less positive factor in the current environment is the often extreme pressure on governments to reduce their budgets in order to meet structural adjustment and "stabilisation" targets. This factor weighs in at many levels, from cutting into planning funds and personnel, to prioritising "men's" export crops, to restricting funds for government services like extension, marketing, and credit for women farmers. The implication for gender-sensitive participatory planning methods is that much more attention must be paid to cost-effectiveness in generating and using information that can promote gender-responsive policy, programme, and project development.

While the new voices in this complex "planning environment" have, in many places, evoked a positive political response, the question for planners is still, what exactly should be done? That there are no easy answers is obvious. There are, however, promising new approaches for involving different groups of farmers, including women and the poor, in agricultural planning. The projects represented at this workshop have demonstrated the relevance and usefulness of several gender and difference-sensitive participatory approaches. They are reviewed in the next section.

Before reviewing the projects, however, we need to be clear about what we mean by different terms. Most importantly we need to clarify what we mean by 'gender and difference-responsive participatory agricultural planning". Let's begin by looking at each component.


Participation is a term that is notoriously broadly interpreted. It may even be interpreted differently by different stakeholders in the same agricultural planning process. An FAO study of multi-level planning for agricultural development in Asia and the Pacific (FAO, 1985: 89-90, quoted in the box) reviews the various ways "participation" is practiced in planning processes.

Levels of people's participation in agricultural planning

1) participation limited to elites only (mostly elected representatives);

2) participation in which people are asked to legitimatize or ratify projects identified and formulated by government, but do not participate in the detailed planning and management of the project;

3) participation in which people are consulted from the very start and also actively participate in planning and management of projects;

4) participation in which representatives from different strata of society/occupation groups find their places in all planning/coordination/evaluation mechanisms devised at the various levels including the highest policy-making level; and

5) participation in which representatives in (4) actually control the decisions at all levels

The FAO study points out that as of 1985, "experience in the various countries shows that the modes of participation in (4) and (5) have not effectively materialised" (ibid. p 90). While this may no longer be strictly true, participation even at level (3) is still quite rare. In planning projects to promote participatory agricultural planning, we need to analyse current levels of participation to better understand the changes that will be required to reach higher levels. We also need to be clear about what we mean by participation.

Who should participate? The analysis of difference

Projects to improve the responsiveness of agricultural planning to the priorities men and women farmers from different socio-economic groups need to foster participation by as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. The ideal would be to have active involvement in planning by representatives from all groups with a stake in the policy, programme or policy. Some of the projects at the workshop experimented with the analysis of difference, an important method for identifying and involving different stakeholders at the community level.

The analysis of difference

The analysis of difference is a method to identify different stakeholder groups at the local level. Gender, age, wealth/income, ethnic or religious affiliation, caste, occupation, and education are indicators of difference. One tool for an analysis of difference is participatory socio-economic ranking, in which community: representatives divide the households of an area into different categories and then define the criteria on which their categories were based. Thus, the community itself identifies the important parameters of socio-economic difference in the area. This tool allows a planning team to form small homogeneous "focus groups" representing the most important differences in socio-economic status. The focus groups might be further differentiated by gender, age, ethnicity, and so forth. When each focus group uses the tools of participatory planning separately, the chances that each group's particular constraints, resources, needs, and priorities will be appropriately analysed and represented are greatly improved

Participatory rural appraisal: PRA and MARP

Participatory rural appraisal, commonly referred to as PRA, is a set of tools to facilitate a research and action process managed by the local community. It is an exceptionally relevant and powerful method for involving communities in the information generating, analysis, and priority setting phases of agricultural planning. Specific tools such as village resource maps, problem trend lines, and institutional profiles assist in the analysis of community issues. Other tools like farming systems diagrams, seasonal calendars, daily activity profiles, and household resource maps can be combined with gender analysis to facilitate the analysis of the livelihood systems of different socioeconomic groups. A third set of tools help communities and different socio-economic/gender based focus groups identify and prioritise their problems and resource needs and to develop group or community action plans. This method is further described in the next section. PRA is very similar to the French MARP (methode acceleree de recherche participative). They are used interchangeably in this paper.

Gender Analysis

The current policy environment advocates "involving women", but does not necessarily promote an analysis of gender issues in policy, programme, and project planning and implementation. Gender analysis studies the different roles and responsibilities of women and men, the differences in men's and women's access to and control over resources, and their consequent differences their constraints, needs, and priorities. Incorporating gender analysis into the tools of participatory agricultural planning helps policy makers and planners understand how the structure of policies and programmes need to be modified if women are to be involved equally with men. It can demonstrate why some projects and policies have negative consequences for women.

Gender analysis identifies established patterns of gender-based inequality in economic life. This can be threatening to more advantaged stakeholders in the agricultural planning process. In many cases, senior staff or policy makers have been found to be more resistant to gender analysis than farmers and government field staff. In some cases, however, the use of gender analysis tools at the community level may foster a level of conflict that can be inimical to women's interests. To avoid such negative outcomes, local women should decide whether or not specific gender analysis tools are best used in mixed sex settings or by women alone. Where gender relations are hierarchical (the vast majority of cases), participatory methods like PRA should always include a separate "women's problem analysis" and probably a "women's community action plan" as well.

What is gender and difference responsive, participatory agricultural planning?

It is agricultural policy planning that both understands and responds- to the different constraints, needs, and priorities of different groups of farmers where these differences are based on gender, socio-economic situation, age, ethnicity, race, and other factors. Planners and policy makers are aware of these differences and of how best to respond to them because men and women farmers from different socio-economic, age, and ethnic groups have taken an active part in planning agricultural development activities.

How responsive is current agricultural planning to gender and socio-economic differences?

We don't really know. A review of books and reports available at FAO and in major library collections conducted for this paper found very little attention to gender issues in the mainstream agricultural planning literature. Two textbooks on agricultural planning and on agricultural policies published in the early 1990s (Mollett, 1990; Ellis, 1992) have chapters on women, but only Ellis has integrated gender issues into each topic. A review of ten recent volumes in FAO's Training Materials for Agricultural Planning found a pervasive lack of attention to gender issues. The Guide for Training in the Formulation of Agricultural and Rural Investment Projects, published in 1986, stresses the need to engage different socio-economic groups in participatory methods of information generation, but neglects gender issues.

In contrast to the neglect of gender issues in the "mainstream" agricultural planning literature, there is a rapidly growing literature specifically focused on gender and agricultural planning from what I will call, for want of a better name, the "women's movement". Beginning with the 1970s critiques of the negative effects of development projects on women (Palmer, 1979) through the pioneering text outlining the so-called Harvard framework for gender analysis (Overholt, et al, 1985), we have seen an explosion of literature on gender issues in agriculture, much of it with practical guidelines and tools for gender analysis and project planning.2 This, of course, is the literature from which the projects represented at this workshop have taken their inspiration, as well as many of their methods.

The major issue raised by the very existence of this extensive literature is: why hasn't it had more of an impact on the "mainstream" agricultural planning literature? Much of the answer involves timing. The great bulk of the gender and planning literature has been produced in the late 1980s and the 1990s.3 Another part of the answer may reside in the isolation of "women's issues" in technical and academic discourse, a fate that has been shared by "gender". Be that as it may, the rapidly growing literature on gender, agricultural and planning has had a significant impact in helping to build the policy environment in which many governments are now mandating planners to increase participation and to involve women.

2 Among the most important book length treatments are: Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extension (Poets, et al, 1988), Working Together. Gender Analysis in Agriculture with case studies and teaching notes (Feldstein and Poats, 1990), Gender Analysis in Development Planning (Rag, et al, 1991) Gender and Development: A Practical Guide (Ostergaard, 1992), Gender Planning and Development. Theory, Practice, and Training (Moser, 1993), and Tools for the Field. Methodologies Handbook for Gender Analysis in Agriculture (Feldstein and Jiggins, 1994).

3 FAO's Women in Development Service and the International Training Center of the ILO are currently developing an important new set of training materials under the Socio-economic and Gender Analysis Programme. These materials will be of great interest to any rural planners seeking practical tools for integrating participatory, gender and socio-economic difference responsive tools into agricultural and rural development planning processes.

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