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Information as a
decision-making tool

As globalization evolves, concern about the risks it generates is resulting in increasing demands for policies and actions to be focused on human beings and their needs. At the same time, liberalization of the economy continues and the exclusion and impoverishment of particular groups is a growing source of concern. Furthermore, the break-up of political models is leading to a renewed interest in local socio-economic issues.

Faced with these paradoxical situations, the reconciliation of macro- and microeconomic dimensions is worth exploring in the search for solutions that reduce disparities, fulfil society's expectations and satisfy the increasing demand for people's participation (men and women). In order to strike a better balance between these two economic dimensions and to make decisions that are more informed, it is essential, inter alia, to have detailed gender-specific information on human resources and livelihoods.

The right hand must know what the left hand is doing: macroeconomic policies have to be in line with micropolicies and planning ....

Delegate of Finland

It is necessary to carry out research and analysis that can be used to generate gender-specific information regarding the value, importance and nature of the work done -whether remunerated or not - and to develop indicators regarding changes in access to and control of resources. Gender-sensitive information can give a clear demonstration and illustration of the relationships among increased agricultural production and productivity, sustainable natural resource management and equal access to resources.

Such research and analysis can only be achieved if all stakeholders are truly convinced of the usefulness of gender-specific information and if the working methods are thoroughly reviewed. A higher return on investments made in improving agricultural production and productivity, as well as an equal acquisition of the social and economic benefits, both depend on this.

A woman selling radishes and spring
onions at a market in Tajikistan

- FAO/20631/E. YEVES

Decision-makers and information producers, from the grassroots to the highest levels, need to adopt an attitude that is free of gender biases. They also need to acquire the methodological and technical knowledge that will allow them to assess men's and women's contributions to the rural and agricultural economy. Training in gender analysis and participatory approaches is essential.

Furthermore, for optimal availability and use of gender-specific information, the information must be generated within official information production systems (censuses, agricultural surveys and other national statistical instruments). The effectiveness of current methods and tools for gathering, processing and analysing information also needs to be reviewed. This approach will facilitate the revision of production processes and the introduction of innovative methodologies.

Successful production and dissemination of information depend on the combination of a wide range of different economic and social skills and on cooperation between producers (statisticians, researchers, development specialists, etc.) and users (planners, development agents, rural populations, etc.). It will then be possible to identify needs and shortcomings better and to use complementary methods for gathering, analysing, presenting and disseminating information.

The production of information that is relevant to decision-making on sustainable and gender-responsive policies and strategies depends on the following measures.

The costs of collecting data on gender are insignificant compared with our increased understanding of women's roles in agriculture.

Agnes Quisumbing, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)


Small farmers in Nicaragua plant trees as part of a reforestation and soil protection project


Two decades ago, when the official statistics were recording a decline in women's participation in the agricultural sector, which was especially sharp for Central America (from 6.3 percent in 1960 to 3.6 percent in 1970), a field survey conducted in the western region of Honduras showed that these statistics grossly undercounted women workers. Counting hired female farm labour in tobacco plantations and coffee farms, there was a sizeable discrepancy with the agricultural census for the region. In one district, the survey counted 11 640 women hired labourers. The census had recorded 642 women working in agriculture; 10  998 women workers were missing.

The reasons included problems with census definitions of principal economic activity, the inclusion of the category of unpaid family labour, the short time frame used for census questions, the concept of work, which excludes informal sector activities, and the perception of both women and census takers that women are not economically productive.

Progress is slow in changing the way work is measured. Two decades later, official statistics still undercount women's productive work in agriculture and off the farm, as is reported in an Inter- American Development Bank/Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IDB/IICA)-sponsored study that did more than 2 000 interviews with rural women in 18 countries in 1991-1993. While official statistics had recorded an increase in women's presence in the rural labour force, from 13 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 1990, this study raised the latter percentage to 37 percent - or 16 million women working in the agricultural sector. The 1990 census had missed counting 7 million women workers.

Source: Adapted from Mayra Buvinic. 1999. The missing workers: women in the rural economies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Presentation made at the High-Level Consultation panel discussion on Gender and Equality in Policies and Planning: Nature and Scope.

Immediate measures

Training of both planners and information producers at each requisite level in socio-economic and gender analysis and participatory approaches.

Identifying information requirements of all stakeholders, both for policy-making and for implementing productive activities.

Carrying out a critical assessment of available information (content and format), actors involved in the process of production, dissemination and use of information and target groups.

Identifying the gap between existing and required information.

Setting up multidisciplinary teams of information producers and users in order to:

- analyse the needs of and shortages in existing sex-disaggregated data;

- review the results of agricultural censuses and population surveys in order to extract gender-specific information on farmers;

- define guidelines to bridge the gaps and adjust methodological misconceptions, which are sometimes caused by gender biases;

- establish the most appropriate means of presentation and dissemination of the information obtained and publish it on a regular basis.

Conducting detailed surveys with a gender perspective on the division of productive and reproductive labour, time use, responsibility sharing and access to and control of resources.

Exploiting existing sex-disaggregated data and gender-sensitive information when planning resource allocation at the policy and institutional levels.

FIGURE 1: Women's labour rate in relation to the concept of work

Creating networks of specialists and partners from different backgrounds concerned with gender issues and interested in
improving and disseminating gender-specific information.

FIGURE 2: Women and men in the agricultural workforce in selected countries

Longer-term measures

Revising statistical methods and tools by defining or redefining the concepts and establishing the variables needed for obtaining data disaggregated by sex.

Developing indicators that measure and compare men and women farmers' access to resources and incomes.

Producing analyses, cross-referencing qualitative data (from case studies, surveys and research) with quantitative data (produced by statistical systems), to gain a better understanding of strategies affecting rural women, and their potential for change.

Coordinating the concepts, definitions and methods used in demographic and agricultural censuses and surveys, in order to improve practices and expand fields of study.

Setting up databases on rural women's economic and social status (analysis and trends).

Establishing information management systems and observatories that are easily accessible, especially for women farmers and rural women entrepreneurs, and that provide adequate and updated data (commodity prices, training, rural sector support measures, production incentives, rights, etc.).

Creating a system for monitoring progress in the use of gender-specific information.

Rural women in Peru attending a literacy class

- FAO/17465/A. ODOUL

Integrated pest management training at a farmers' field school in the Lao People's Democratic


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