Future strategic goals and objectives
The sectoral reports identified several strategic goals and objectives for promoting the advancement of rural women with regard to their involvement in agriculture and food security by increasing their access to resources and services and, more generally, by integrating their concerns and needs into development processes. A few of the objectives were already constituent elements of national plans for the advancement of rural women, for food security or for economic development, while others were recommendations that emerged from the findings of the sectoral reports. A number of strategies for achieving these objectives were repeatedly emphasized and are listed below.
(1) Collection and Dissemination of Data Disaggregated by Gender. Internationally, there has been a growing recognition of the need for gender disaggregated agricultural statistics in order to ensure greater efficacy in rural development policies and programmer, both with respect to analysis and to representation, identification and targeting of beneficiaries. It has been demonstrated worldwide that agriculture and rural development policies, programmes and projects have often not fully succeeded because rural men and women's social, economic, legal, technological and other short-term needs and constraints were not adequately addressed. The inter-relationships between women's productive, reproductive and community roles have often not been perceived due in part to the lack of adequate data, leading rural development experts and planners to underestimate the importance of these relationships.
Several of the sectoral reports called for the collection and dissemination of gender disaggregated agricultural data that accurately illustrates women's involvement in agricultural production and food security. The Zimbabwe sectoral report proposed that the Central Statistics Office create a special section for gender in order to develop a systematic framework for generating quick and cost-effective data on the role of women in agriculture and rural development, which should be supported by WID/gender training programmes for statisticians and other users and producers of statistics. The Namibia report suggested that the upcoming National Comprehensive Agricultural Survey, to be conducted by the Central Statistical Office and the MAWRD, should include gender based questions and analyses.
(2) Research. There is increasing recognition that resource allocation within the household is rarely equal, and that research needs to go beyond the household as the unit of analysis in order to examine the power relations within the household which govern men's and women' access to and control over resources. Research is also needed on the gender division of labour, as well as the socio-economic contexts that determine such divisions, in order to develop appropriate policies, programmes and projects that meet rural women's specific development needs.
Several other areas requiring further study were identified in the sectoral reports and include:
- Needs assessments for rural women;
- Causes of poverty and its effects on rural women and their families;
- The impact of macro-economic and sectoral policies on rural women;
- Informal coping strategies of rural women;
- Longitudinal studies to monitor the status of rural women over time;
- Technical research on labour saving technologies in terms of both women's reproductive and productive roles; and,
- The role of women in natural resource use and management.
(3) Institution Building. Since the mid-1980s there has been a growing recognition of the importance of effective and technically qualified WID/gender units in the Ministries of Agriculture and other line agencies to ensure that the gender dimension is integrated into all policies, programmes and projects. It has also been recognized that more female extension staff are needed and that all extension staff - both male and female - should be trained in gender analysis.
WID/gender units. Many of the reports called for the establishment or strengthening of WID/gender units in Ministries of Agriculture and other rural development line ministries, as well as the need for coordination among NGOs, national women's machineries and international organizations. The sectoral report for Morocco, for example, proposed the creation of a permanent unit at the level of the Prime Minister's Office to develop coordination mechanisms among the different actors concerned with rural development and for the creation of a central unit for rural development in each department. Training in gender analysis for the staff of Ministries of Agriculture and the line ministries was also consistently proposed.
Extension services. Most of the reports also called for the reorganization of extension systems, placing more emphasis on researching issues of concern to rural women, hiring additional women extension agents, and institutionalizing gender analysis training programmes for extension staff. The sectoral report for Sudan proposed that women's studies be included in agricultural research institutions and colleges. The report for Mauritania emphasized that the choice of extension themes should be specific to the activities of women in agriculture and livestock raising. In Morocco, while efforts are being made to recruit more female agents, the sectoral report emphasized that rural women should also be encouraged to dialogue with appropriately trained male agents. The report for Namibia proposed that extension staff receive in-service training on gender aware approaches to development.
Several reports mentioned that, in order to increase the number of female agricultural professionals, girls must have better access to secondary schooling and to agricultural disciplines at higher levels. In addition, the working conditions of field workers must be made more conducive to women.
(4) Promoting Participatory Methodologies in Research and Project Identification. Participatory methodologies have been found to be fundamental for achieving sustainable improvements in the welfare of the poor, and specifically for identifying rural women's and men's specific development needs. Several of the reports called for the involvement of rural women in the research stage of the project cycle as well as throughout. The report for Benin proposed that rural women be involved in the elaboration of rural land management plans.
The Congo report called for rural women's increased participation in implementing the global plan on land use, especially in the areas of agro-forestry and in the integration of agriculture with livestock raising. The Namibia report proposed that-all extension staff receive training in participatory development approaches, while the Mauritania report proposed involving women in all project phases through their increased participation in village meetings.
(5) Support for Local Initiatives and Strengthening of Women's Groups and Associations. Experience has shown that women's groups and organizations have an important role to play in increasing rural women's visibility at local and international levels, in representing and safeguarding women's traditional and legal rights, increasing women's ability to control their earned income, increasing women's access to agricultural services and resources, and in influencing policy-making and legislation at the national level (FAO, 1990b).
Several of the reports underlined the importance of supporting women's groups and encouraging their participation in other rural institutions. The Mauritania report called for the promotion of women's self-help organizations through the training of rural women trainers, the creation and reactivation of women's groups, and for inter-village meetings in order to allow for the exchange of experiences. The Namibia report proposed that professionals working in rural areas should help mobilize rural women into pressure groups as existing women's organizations remain primarily urban based. The Zimbabwe report identified marketing as one of the areas most affected by the economic reform programme and called for the strengthening or creation of farmers organizations and grassroots institutions, and for their training in marketing skills.
(6) Legislation. Women's legal rights to land, credit, and extension services have implications in terms of food production and household food security, and many of the reports emphasized the need to amend discriminatory legislation in these areas. The Benin report called for the abolishment of the plurality of legal systems in those areas where customary laws risk obstructing new legislation on behalf of women. The Congo report called for the elaboration of land legislation in order to facilitate women's access to fertile land. The Namibia report called for the repeal or amendment of discriminatory laws so that women may obtain credit and loans in their own right. The Sudan report also called for the revision of laws concerning women, while the Tanzania report called for changes in the land tenure system in order to ensure increased land rights for women.
It was also pointed out in several reports that the existence of legislation alone does not necessarily guarantee equality of opportunity if women and men continue to be unaware of such rights. Therefore, efforts must be made to ensure that women and men, particularly in rural areas, have access to information regarding women's legal rights and the appropriate means to enforce them.
It is necessary to stress that the overall effectiveness of the strategies listed above is in turn influenced by the policy environment in which they are undertaken. Government commitment to, and investment in, the agricultural sector, and the women and men farmers within it, is a prerequisite to attain the goals envisioned. To gain this commitment, accurate data and information is needed on the role of rural women in national development, and on the constraints they face in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. Such information will assist in the drafting of appropriate policies that take the specific development needs of rural women and men into account.