Prior to the 1980s, rural development programmes oriented toward women tended to focus exclusively on their roles as household managers. Thus, they typically included activities such as improving the efficiency of women's domestic tasks in areas of child care, nutrition, food preparation and conservation, and hygiene. Women's roles as producers and resource managers were seldom addressed. Nevertheless, on the other extreme, in the 1980s some projects have tended to focus on women exclusively as producers, failing to recognize that the relationship between women's multiple roles conditions their performance in each of these roles, creating both opportunities and constraints.
The project under discussion contains many of the elements of the traditional "home economics" development approach, promoting activities within the traditional gender division of labour, organizing work within or close to the home, directing benefits to individual families as well as to the community, and emphasizing training for nutrition and family diet. The specific activities developed under this rubric were household maintenance, food preparation and conservation, and attention to children's and women's malnutrition. The training of the Food Production Liaison and the other Liaisons motivated women as mothers and caretakers.
Numerous other activities, though, led to women's personal growth and greater involvement in home and community decision-making. These include: handling of credit for subsistence projects; leadership and organization training; experience in group dynamics for self-management; greater physical mobility for peasant women; veterinary and agricultural extension skills; control and use of simple agricultural tools; access to training and materials useful for implementing productive projects; and practice in community surveys and project development.
What do these non-traditional activities bring to women? They offer concrete knowledge of plant and animal husbandry, critical thinking that permits them to analyze community problems and propose solutions and, of course, personal growth. At an individual level, the trained Liaison gains recognition and status when her organizational work bears positive results. The hoped-for multiplier effect also improves family welfare, improves the status of the women and of their groups, and generates increased production for family consumption as well as income.
Despite the inclusion of traditional activities, then, this training is not traditional. Instead, the project identified women's primary needs before working to overcome constraints to women's participation. The combination of skills and knowledge taught to the Food Production Liaison, who in turn transferred these to her group, was a catalyst for other types of participation. Evidence abounds that women's participation through their traditional roles has motivated many women's groups to participate in non-traditional activities production of coffee and coffee seedlings, marketing basic grains, collective production of soybeans, red beans, rice and corn, production and sale of dried cashew fruit and cashew nuts, and cultivation of annatto.
The Food Production Liaison training module, which is meant to organize and mobilize women using a combination of traditional and nontraditional components, enjoys acceptance from all corners -- among women, their husbands and state extensionists. The relative lack of conflict around the women's training makes it an attractive means to deliver development goods.
Analyzing the results of the project through the lens of the FAO Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development, the training activities have had a positive impact on the women trained and their groups, the communities where they live, and the state institutions from which they receive extension support.
The economic and social conditions of women have improved as a result of the project. Women's groups have established a variety of social and productive projects that increase household consumption, improve family nutrition, save women's time, or increase household income.
The civil status of the participants has been positively affected. The rural communities have come to respect the work of the Community Food Liaisons for their contribution to community development, and the women's husbands have lent their solid support.
State extensionists and social promoters have come to respect the work of the women who have lightened the extension workload and changed the work orientation of field staff from one of organization and promotion to one of supervision and support.
Women's power in their households, communities and organizations has increased, leading to greater involvement in decision-making. They have gained skills in appropriate agricultural techniques and organization, and have acquired confidence and new attitudes. They are consulted on and propose solutions for agricultural production techniques and problems. They have increased their profile and that of the women's groups in their communities. The women's groups participate in the village decision-making process.
As a result of pressure from the Women's Group Organizers, male-dominated peasant organizations have been increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, giving the women the right to vote and addressing women's issues, such as including the demand for women's right to land in their platforms for legislative change.
The four training modules were all successful to some degree, although the activities of the women trained through the first three modules have either slowed down or ceased. The problems they confronted -unrealistic expectations, insufficient training and follow-up, inadequate project resources, lack of access to credit, limitations of peasant organizations, and social and cultural constraints -- paved the way for the implementation of a successful fourth module, the training of Food Production Liaisons. Although the training of the Food Production Liaisons is directed towards nutrition and home production, the module incorporates non-traditional skills and activities to catalyze growth and transformation. Phase II of the project is now consolidating the women's groups and refining the teaching methodology in order to ensure follow-up even after the project has been completed.
The project "Promotion and Training of Women for their Incorporation in Rural Development" has completed and surpassed its initial direct objectives of training rural women and extension agents who work with women. In 1986 Phase I proposed to train:
* 200 peasant women, and
* 152 field staff.
By the end of the project in 1989, it had succeeded in training:
* 288 peasant women and 30 peasant men in four distinct types of training, and
* more than 300 field staff in a "Methodology of Promotion and Organization of Rural Women" as well as other skills to work with women.
The Interim Project in 1990:
* provided follow-up training to 60 peasant women,
* established a Pilot Poultry Fund
* facilitated the reactivation of the National Agricultural Bank's Rotating Fund for women,
* supported an initiative to finance the Food Production Liaison module in three additional regions,
* wrote a methodological guide to help implement the Food Production Liaison module,
* Worked with a nutrition consultant in the National Agrarian Institute to establish participatory methods to detect and treat malnutrition, and
* established the project strategy for Phase II, incorporating the lessons learned from the previous four years of project implementation.
Overall, more than 7,000 people indirectly benefitted from this phase of the FAO training project in Honduras by participating in groups and organizations that were directly in contact with the trained peasant women.
Phase II of the project aims to:
* train 60 new Food Production Liaisons,
* consolidate the grassroots work of 60 previously trained Food
* train 60 state extensionists and other extension staff,
* institutionalize the methodology to assure its continued use,
* establish a system of monitoring and evaluation, and
* promote technical assistance and development of intermediate technology for social and productive projects at the group level.
The project has had sufficient resources to confront the obstacles encountered along the way. It has been able to establish credit funds, pay transport costs and initiate pilot activities. Once the project ends, the question of sustainability begins. At that time, women's access to credit and the institutional support of the two state institutions that have been involved will be crucial to group stability and sustained activity. in the second decade of the United Nations' work with women in Honduras, the Food Production Liaison model will be measured by its success in developing support for concrete activities that directly improve the welfare of peasant women and their communities.