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In 1988 the Council of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) unanimously adopted guidelines for the Organization to ensure that women's concerns are incorporated in all its activities. This Plan of Action for Integration of Women in Development recognizes that women already make a crucial contribution to agricultural production. It is dedicated to enhancing their participation through projects and programmes that systematically bring women into the mainstream of development activities and national life. The Plan addresses the condition of women in four spheres -- 1) civil status, 2) economic, 3) social and 4) decision-making. The long-term objectives of the Plan are to improve women's legal status; increase their access to and control of resources for greater production and productivity; integrate nutrition, education, and social activities into production-oriented endeavors; and to train women in skills that increase their participation and bargaining power in local and national institutions.

In its approach, the FAO recognizes the need for women-specific projects that focus on women in agricultural development, but also promotes mainstreaming, that is, the integration of gender concerns and women participants in all relevant FAO projects and activities.

This booklet is one of a series of publications produced by the Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development Service of the FAO. The series is directed to a general audience of development practitioners, policy-makers, and other people concerned with rural development, with the aim of presenting successful models of development work and generating discussion around strategies for continued grassroots work with rural women.

The FAO-coordinated projects executed in Honduras from 1986-19921 represent a successful experience in training both peasant women and extension staff. The project has improved the capacity of the Government's extension system to reach rural women with information and technical assistance, and has led to quality-of-life improvements for rural women and their communities. The project is being implemented by various organizations at the national level and the training model developed has been adopted by the country's two state extension agencies for their work with rural women. Although the success of the project is specific to Honduras, the constraints encountered and the solutions developed can serve as a guide for other projects that work with rural women.

1 Phase I of "Promotion and Training Programme for Women's Incorporation in Rural Development" was completed in 1989. An interim Technical Cooperation Project in 1990 provided continuity between Phase I and Phase II of the project. Phase II is due to be completed in 1992. Originally known as the "Peasant Promotion and Training Programme for Women's Incorporation in the Productive Process", the project was renamed to reflect women's multiple roles in the rural economy.

The training offered helps redefine women's roles in their communities and families and offers them real skills that they can apply in agricultural production. The project offers a relatively non-conflictive approach to increasing women's access to and control over development resources, by strengthening women's organizations, teaching techniques in agricultural production and small livestock husbandry, improving the family's diet, and, in some cases, increasing women's income.

One of the aims of the case study is to illustrate how a development project can have a dynamic life when it is designed to include both formal and real flexibility -- in short, room to grow and benefit from initial mistakes. The reader will see that the project underwent numerous modifications as it's staff confronted the specificity of women's daily realities. Each training module was examined after completion in order to discover where the problems lay and what had been successful. This work was done through long discussions with the peasant women trainees, and contributed to the design of the modules that followed. This iterative process of critique led to a very promising model which is the core of the project today.

This case study was prepared by Susan Fleck, consultant to FAO's Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development Service. Thanks is owed for their assistance to the staff of the National Agrarian Institute and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Government of Honduras, to project director Haydée de Martinez, and to the women's groups and trained extension liaisons who shared their experiences and hopes with willingness, honesty and hospitality. Thanks is also owed to Sharon Cowan, editor, and to Susan Fleck, who provided the photographs.

H. Meliczek


Human Resources, Institutions and Agrarian Reform Division

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