Gender

Agri-Gender Statistics Toolkit ::: Data items

Agricultural population and households

Agricultural census data relating to the agricultural population and households can provide a wealth of gender-specific information on, for example, the structure of the agricultural population, composition of the agricultural households and socio-economic characteristics of the agricultural population.

Analysis of the distribution of male and female farmers among different age groups at national and sub-national levels offers insight into the availability of farm labour and can reflect the outcomes of developments such as migration, civil conflicts and the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the agricultural labour force. Such developments need to be taken into consideration by agricultural planners and policy makers as they may lead to shortages of male and/or female labour in rural areas and to an overall decline in agricultural production and productivity.

Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the kind of information that may become available from detailed analysis of sex and age-disaggregated data of an agricultural population. The 2000 National Agricultural Census in Guinea recorded a rather balanced structure of the national agricultural population with 48 percent men and 52 percent women. However a different picture appeared when the data were differentiated by age and sex, showing a clear over-representation of female farmers in the 20 to 45 years age group at the national level (refer to Figure 1). The predominance of female farmers in this age group is most likely the result of rural out-migration by (mainly) male farmers of the same age group. This trend can be even more pronounced at sub-national levels as indicated by data from the Labé region in Guinea (refer to Figure 2) (FAO, 2005a).

Figure 1: Agricultural population at the national
level per sex and age group in Guinea

Figure 2: Agricultural population per sex and age group in the Labé Region of Guinea

Source: National Agricultural Census (RNA), Guinea, 2000

A large amount of sex-disaggregated data can be obtained by cross-tabulating data relating to the agricultural population and households with agriculture related data. For example, the identification of the sex of the head of household1 or holder2 allows for comparisons to be made between male and female-headed agricultural households/holdings3 in terms of the area cultivated, agricultural production and productivity, access to productive resources, marketing strategies applied, the division of labour, food security and living conditions. Such information can help planners and policy-makers focus on constraints faced by male or female farmers and develop more sustainable agricultural and rural development programmes and policies. Sex of the sub-holder provides the basis for assessing the roles and contributions of male and female household members to the holding’s overall production and gives planners and policy-makers better insight into complex decision-making processes of the household.

These issues as well as regional differences in roles and responsibilities of men and women in agricultural production need to be taken into account in the design and implementation of agricultural projects and programmes and the formulation of agricultural policies. It is recommended that the following sex-disaggregated data are collected and tabulated with regard to the agricultural population and households (refer to Overview 2). 

Overview 2: Sex-disaggregated data related to agricultural populations and households

Agricultural population and households (Data Item 1)

D 1.1

Characteristics of the agricultural population by sex and sex of the head of household

D 1.2

Dependency ratio of the household4 by sex of the head of household

D 1.3

Distribution of agricultural holdings or sub-holdings by sex of the holder or sub-holder

D 1.4

Distribution of holdings or sub-holdings by type of holding and sex of the holder or sub-holder

D 1.5

Migration of household members by sex and age, and sex of the head of household

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Access to productive resources

Sex-disaggregated data on men and women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land, agricultural inputs, labour, equipment, credit, information, extension services and training programmes provide vital information for planners and policy makers. The data help explain gender differences in agricultural production and productivity and provide greater insight into measures that can be taken to support those who lack access to and control over productive resources. Such information is essential for the development of effective strategies to enhance food security, reduce poverty, promote gender equality and empower women (Millennium Development Goals 1 and 3).

Land is one if not the most important productive resource for farmers. Access to fertile agricultural land, however, has become a serious problem in many countries for both male and female small-holders due to environmental degradation, increasing population pressures, land conflicts, increased use of land for non-agricultural purposes, decreasing communal lands and the consolidation of land by large landowners. In addition, women’s access to land is often further restricted by customary practices and laws and/or legislation which stipulates that title deeds are only given to the male head of the household. Data collected during the 2000 round of agricultural censuses illustrated significant differences between countries in the percentage of agricultural holdings managed by women. The highest percentages were recorded in Lesotho (55 percent), Cape Verde (53 percent) and Malawi (52 percent), while the lowest percentages were recorded in Guinea (6 percent), Tunisia (6 percent), Egypt (5 percent) and Algeria (4 percent) (refer to Annex 1).

Farmers with insecure land rights usually have less access to credit because land serves as collateral for loans. They could also be denied membership in cooperatives and other rural organisations and are therefore unable to benefit from the services provided by these organisations. Moreover, insecure land-rights reduce farmers’ incentives to invest in higher yielding agricultural practices or to preserve and regenerate the land.

Overview 3 gives an impression of sex-disaggregated data that can be produced through agricultural censuses in relation to access to productive resources. Gender differences generally become more apparent when the data are collected and presented at sub-holder level.

Overview 3: Sex-disaggregated data related to access to productive resources

Access to productive resources (Data Item 2)

D 2.1.

Access to land and water:

 

1. Access to land by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Area cultivated by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

3. Tenure status of land used by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

4. Distance from the fields to the homestead by sex of holder or sub-holder

5. Access to irrigation, erosion control and water harvesting structures by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 2.2.

Access to agricultural inputs:

 

1. Access to selected agricultural inputs by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Source of agricultural inputs by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

3. Reasons for not using agricultural inputs by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 2.3.

Access to agricultural implements, assets and technologies:

 

1. Access to selected tools, equipment and machineries by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Access to draught animals by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

3. Reasons for not using agricultural implements or assets by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

4. Access to selected agricultural technologies by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 2.4.

Access to credit:

 

1. Access to credit by sex of borrower and position within the household

 

2. Purpose of credit by sex of borrower and position within the household

 

3. Source of credit received by sex of borrower and position within the household

 

4. Type and amount of credit received by sex of borrower and position within the household

5. Type of collateral provided for credit by sex of borrower and position within the household

 

6. Repayment period of loan by sex of borrower and position within the household

 

7. Reasons for not receiving a loan or credit by sex of the head of household

D 2.5.

Access to extension services and training programmes:

 

1. Access to agricultural training and extension programme(s) by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Adoption of extension messages by sex of holder or sub-holder

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Production and productivity

Sex-disaggregated data on agricultural production and productivity, especially at sub-holding level, can provide insight into who produces what, the amount produced and constraints encountered by men and women farmers in this regard. This information can be used to monitor the impact of agricultural policies and programmes on male and female farmers and address differences between female and male farmers in terms of their production and productivity.

Women’s contribution to agricultural production is often underreported because much of what they produce is obtained from holdings formally headed by their husbands and is therefore recorded as being produced by male farmers. Moreover, agricultural censuses have only recently started collecting more detailed information on agricultural activities which involve large numbers of women farmers such as kitchen gardening, gathering of (forest) produce, rearing of small animals and poultry farming, horticulture and (peri-)urban agriculture.

Results from Burkina Faso’s 1993 Agricultural Census clearly illustrate the underreporting of women’s contribution to agricultural production and the relevance of producing sex-disaggregated agricultural production data at holding and sub-holding level (refer to Table 1). The findings illustrate that female heads of households managed between 1 and 4 percent of the collectively managed areas cultivated with crops such as millet, maize, groundnuts, vouandzou (a local crop), and white and red sorghum. This may give the impression that women’s share in the production of these crops was rather limited. However, a very different picture evolved when crop production was presented at a sub-holder level, showing female plot-managers overseeing up to 80 percent of the area cultivated individually with vouandzou and respectively 68 and 55 percent of the areas cultivated individually with groundnuts and millet. Both levels combined (columns 6 and 7) showed a much more accurate picture regarding men and women farmers’ responsibilities vis-à-vis the selected crops (FAO, 2005b).

Table 1: Distribution of areas, differentiated by crop, cultivated by male and female heads households and plot managers (Burkina Faso)

Crop

Holder
(collective plots) %

Sub-holder
(individual plots) %

Both
(all plots) %

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6)

(7)

Millet

97

3

45

55

87

13

Maize

99

1

90

10

89

11

Rice

98

2

65

35

85

15

Groundnuts

97

3

32

68

54

46

Vouandzou

96

4

20

80

50

50

White sorghum

98

2

58

42

90

10

Red sorghum

97

3

55

45

91

9

(Sub) Total

98

2

48

52

86

14

Source: National Agricultural Census (ENSA), Burkina Faso, 1993

 

Depending on the scope of the census and the subjects covered, it is recommended that the following sex-disaggregated data are collected through agricultural censuses in order to obtain greater insight into the production and productivity of male or female holders and sub-holders (refer to Overview 4).

Overview 4: Sex-disaggregated data related to production and productivity

Production and productivity (Data Item 3)

D 3.1

Food and cash crop production and productivity by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 3.2

Horticultural production and productivity by sex of the head of household/holder or sub-holder

D 3.3

Animal production and productivity by sex of the household member or head of household

D 3.4

Aquaculture production and productivity by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 3.5

Agro-forestry activities by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 3.6

Hunting and gathering activities by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 3.7

Production constraints faced by agricultural producers by sex of holder or sub-holder

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Destination of agricultural produce

Sex-disaggregated data relating to the consumption, storage, processing, trading and/or marketing of agricultural products can provide greater insight into the involvement of men and women in these activities. Although men and women both tend to be involved in each of the activities mentioned, their level of involvement and the kind of involvement may differ not only on a product basis but also between geographical areas. Consequently, agricultural planners and policy makers may need to develop different programmes and policies for male and female farmers if they wish to enhance their storage, agro-processing, trading and/or marketing capacities.

Agricultural planners and policy makers also need to pay attention to the fact that agricultural policies and strategies may have a different impact on male and female farmers. Structural adjustment policies and an increasing globalisation of market operations have contributed towards an increasingly market oriented agricultural sector. Many policies introduced during the past two decades promoted the liberalization of trade and markets and favoured large-scale commercial farming and export cash cropping over household subsistence production. Small-scale farmers were affected in particular by the opening of local markets to cheaper imported agricultural products and the removal of agricultural subsidies. This shift has had a greater impact on women farmers compared to men farmers because they operate at lower production levels, have less options and smaller risk margins to adapt to new market situations.5

It is recommended that the following sex-disaggregated data are collected and tabulated with regard to the consumption, storage, processing and marketing of agricultural produces (refer to Overview 5).

Overview 5: Sex-disaggregated data related to the destination of agricultural produce

Destination of agricultural produce (Data Item 4)

D 4.1

Destination of agricultural production by sex of holder or sub-holder

D 4.2

Storage practices of agricultural households by product and sex of holder

D 4.3

Agro-processing practices by product and sex of holder

D 4.4.

Marketing:

 

1. Marketing practices by product and sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Transportation means used for marketing purposes by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

3. Marketing constraints faced by product and sex of holder

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Labour and time-use

The collection of sex-disaggregated data on agricultural labour has improved in the past decade, as most countries now collect sex and age-disaggregated data on different kinds of agricultural labourers employed (family labourers, hired workers and mutual support groups), their employment status (seasonal, occasional or permanent) and payment status (unpaid versus paid labour). Having accurate information on the structure of the labour force is essential from a development perspective, as it contributes to a better overall understanding of labour relationships in the agricultural sector and the impact of, for example, poverty reduction programmes or the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the agricultural labour force. Few agricultural censuses collect data on the actual payments received by farm labourers and even fewer do so in a sex-disaggregated manner. Studies show that women often outnumber men as unpaid family farm workers and when paid for they tend to receive lower wages as hired farm labourers.

Information on the gender division of labour within the agricultural sector is essential if agricultural programmes and policies are to address the different roles and responsibilities of male and female farmers with regard to agricultural production. Women farmers in Africa take up a larger share of the sowing, weeding, harvesting, threshing and agro-processing activities as well as activities relating to the transportation and marketing of food crops. Men are generally responsible for the clearing, preparation and ploughing of fields and the transportation and marketing of cash crops. They also more involved in other mechanized activities relating to crop farming. With regard to animal production, women usually take up tasks relating to the rearing, breeding and sales of small animals, the taking care of young animals, the cleaning of stalls and the milking of animals. Men generally take care of the larger animals, their herding and breeding, and the slaughtering and sales of these animals. In the fishing sector, men are usually involved in off-shore fishing activities whereas women are more involved in fishing activities carried out in rivers, shallow waters and coastal lagoons and fish processing activities. In the forestry sector, women are mainly responsible for the collection of seedlings and the gathering of food products, fodder and fuel wood, while hunting activities are mostly performed by men (FAO, 1998). Unmistakably, exceptions and regional differences will exist with regard to the very general picture presented above.

Much of the nature and scope of agricultural activities performed on agricultural holdings depends on the holders’ access to labour. The kind of labour used may differ depending on the size of the holding/enterprise, the resource position of the household and the number of active household members within the household. Moreover, female headed households tend to have less adult family labour at their disposal compared to male headed households. This observation is supported by data collected during the 2002/2003 Agricultural Census in Tanzania (refer to Annex 2). The findings show that households headed by a man are larger than female headed households (on average 5.4 and 4.0 members per household respectively) and that their dependency ratios6 are lower (respectively 1.03 for male and 1.17 for female headed households). The differences can be ascribed to absence of especially male adults in female headed households.

Assessing the amount of work carried out by female farmers has proven to be more difficult than for male farmers due to a number of reasons. Firstly, women’s work often contributes to outputs of others through, for example, the provision of unpaid family labour. Secondly, rural women’s work is frequently destined for household consumption and, as such, is not always recognised as productive work. Thirdly, women are often engaged in a range of activities spread out over the day such as cleaning/washing, working on the family plot as well as their own, taking care of animals, gathering fuel wood and water, transporting agricultural produce to the home or market and preparing meals for the family. IFAD estimates that household work (including the fetching of water and fuel wood) may take up between one third and half of a woman’s working day and therefore limits their abilities to be fully engaged in productive activities, though it indirectly contributes to the productive activities of other household members (IFAD, 2001).

Time-use surveys are one of the best tools for evaluating gender specific contributions to economic and non-economic activities of a household. The data provide insight into differences that exist between male and female farmers in terms of their time-use and time constraints faced. These surveys are however time-consuming and complex7, which is why time-use related questions are seldom integrated into agricultural censuses. Countries such as Ethiopia and Tunisia did include a few time-use questions in their agricultural census, bypassing some of the hurdles related to time-use surveys by focussing on a few activities only or addressing the questions to a limited number of household members.

Overview 6 illustrates the kind of sex-disaggregated data that can be produced by agricultural censuses in relation to labour and time-use.

Overview 6: Sex-disaggregated data related to labour and time-use

Labour and time-use (Data Item 5)

D 5.1.

Farm labour used on own holding:

 

1. Family labour used on own holding by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Hired labour (temporary and permanent) used on own holding by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

3. Mutual support groups used on own holding by sex of holder or sub-holder

 

4. Husband/wives’ involvement in agricultural activities on plot(s) managed by their spouses by sex and activity

D 5.2

Farm labour provided on other holdings:

Number of household members working on other holdings by sex, age and duration

D 5.3

Farm labour remunerations:

 

1. Kind of remunerations received by sex, labour status and activity and sex of holder or sub-holder

 

2. Level of remunerations paid by sex of holder

D 5.4

Division of labour:

Division of labour and responsibilities by sex and by sex of holder

D 5.5

Time use:

 

Amount of time spent on domestic and socio-economic activities by sex of holding member and by sex of holder

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Income and expenditures

Data production by agricultural censuses on income and expenditures generally relate to holding or household levels and can provide greater insight into differences that may exist between male and female-headed households in terms of their agricultural income and expenditures. Such information is essential for policy and programme designers who wish to divert resources and services to the poorest households. Very few censuses collect data on the income and expenditures of individuals, as this is a complex and time-consuming exercise8.

Agricultural censuses also seldom collect data on decision-making processes related to the household income and expenditures, though such information can provide useful information on intra-household management processes relating to income and expenditures. Table 2 illustrates the results from a survey undertaken by the River Basin Management and Smallholder Irrigation Project in Tanzania on decision-making within the household in relation to agricultural matters. The survey shows that even though most decisions were taken my male household members, female household members had a say on all matters and in particular on the distribution of the income, the type of crops grown and the sale of surplus crops.

Table 2: Men’s and women's role in decision-making within the household in Jitengi Village, Korogwe District, Tanga Region (Tanzania)

Type of Decision

Men (%)

Women (%)

Both (%)

Total (%)

Type of crop to grow

48

36

16

100

Where to plant

56

22

22

100

What agricultural techniques to use

60

20

20

100

Sale of surplus crops

46

33

21

100

Sale of surplus livestock

73

18

09

100

Distribution of agricultural income

38

43

19

100

Distribution of income from crop sale

41

27

32

100

Distribution of livestock sale income

40

30

27

100

Total

48

30

27

100

Source: Mhina, 1996

Overview 7 highlights examples of sex-disaggregated data that can be produced with regard to the income and agricultural expenditures of agricultural households.

Overview 7: Sex-disaggregated data related to income and agricultural expenditures

Income and agricultural expenditures (Data Item 6)

D 6.1

Household income:

 

1. Main sources of income by sex of the head of household

 

2. Income obtained from agricultural activities by sex of the head of household

D 6.2

Agricultural expenditures:

 

1. Agricultural expenses by activity and sex of the head of household

 

2. Farm labour expenses by sex of the manager or owner of the holding

D 6.3

Decision-making:

 

Decision-making related to the use of household income obtained from agricultural activities by sex and by sex of the head of household

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Membership of agricultural/farmer organisations

Sex-disaggregated data collected on agricultural/farmer organisations such as farmers’ groups, associations, cooperatives, unions or marketing organisations, usually focus on the type of organisation concerned, the services provided and aspects of membership. Membership of such organisations can strengthen the socio-economic position of farmers, increase their access to information and give them easy access to the services provided. Women’s membership is often hampered by their lower literacy levels, time constraints, inability to comply with membership conditions (e.g. possession of formal land title), gender biased selection procedures9 and the prevalence of traditional value systems that restrict women’s participation in public life. Usually, women are slightly more involved in community-based solidarity groups and organisations supporting activities predominantly undertaken by women. Sex-disaggregated data relating to the membership of steering committees are seldom collected through agricultural censuses but may be obtained from agricultural surveys or studies.
Overview 8 gives indicates the kind of sex-disaggregated data that is currently collected by agricultural censuses on membership of agricultural/farmer organisations.

Overview 8: Sex-disaggregated data related to membership of agricultural/farmer organisations 

Membership of agricultural/farmer organisations (Data Item 7)

D 7.1

Membership of agricultural/farmer organisations by sex, age, position within the household, type of organisation, level of involvement and services provided

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Food security

Food security and the welfare of farming households are being threatened by a growing reliance on production for the market and a breakdown of traditional social safety nets. Farmers are increasingly vulnerable to failures in yields, with their growing dependence on markets for farm inputs and the higher and more volatile price levels associated with market liberalization (Barrett, 1998).

A better understanding of intra-household level dynamics playing a role in households’ food security situation has contributed to an increased demand for accurate sex-disaggregated data relating to food production and food security. Greater attention for the social, gender, environmental, technical and economic dimensions of food production and consumption has lead to an increased recognition of the importance of women's contribution to household food security. It is now generally acknowledged that efforts to alleviate rural poverty and improve levels of household food security and nutrition will not be successful unless policy makers and planners take account of: (i) women’s contributions to agricultural production, household food supply and income10, (ii) their lacking access to and control over productive resources, (iii) their role as decision-makers on household expenditures, and (iv) the gender specific impact of policy reforms on men and women’s economic and social roles towards household food security (FAO, 1998).

Overview 9 illustrates the kind of sex-disaggregated data that can be obtained from agricultural censuses in relation to food security.

Overview 9: Sex-disaggregated data related to food security

Food security (Data Item 8)

D 8.1

Food sources:

 

Main sources of food by sex of the head of household

D 8.2

Food consumption:

 

1. Number of meals normally taken by the household by sex of the head of household

 

2. Number of days the household consumed meat during the past week by sex of the head of household

 

3. Frequency that the household could not meet its food needs over the past 12 months by sex of the head of household

 

4. Changes in food consumption patterns observed over the past 12 months by sex of the head of household

 

5. Main reasons for food shortages by sex of the head of household

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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Poverty indicators

The overall development goal of most governments is to obtain sustainable economic growth while reducing prevailing poverty levels. Agricultural censuses can play an important role in this regard, as they can contribute to a better understanding of the underlying causes of poverty, provide baseline data for the planning of poverty alleviation programmes and offer the necessary references to monitor the impact of such policies. Sex-disaggregated agricultural data can provide greater insight into differences in poverty levels that may exist between female and male-headed agricultural households. Poverty related sex-disaggregated data that can be produced through agricultural censuses are listed in Overview 10.

Overview 10: Sex-disaggregated poverty indicators

Poverty indicators (Data Item 9)

D 9.1

Housing conditions by sex of the head of household

D 9.2

Water sources used by sex of the head of household

D 9.3

Energy sources used by sex of the head of household

D 9.4

Toilet facilities used by sex of the head of household

D 9.5

Ownership of household assets by sex of the head of household

D 9.6

Livelihood constraints by sex of the head of household

D 9.7

Financial constraints for agricultural activities by sex of the head of household

Examples of how such data can be collected and tabulated are provided in the database.

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FOOTNOTES

1 The household is one of the basic elements of a national statistics system and standards for defining a household have been laid down by the United Nations in its guidelines for population and housing censuses as follows: "The concept of household is based on the arrangements made by persons, individually or in groups, for providing themselves with food or other essentials for living. A household may be either (a) a one-person household, that is to say, a person who makes provision for his or her own food or other essentials for living without combining with any other person to form part of a multi-person household, or (b) a multi-person household, that is to say, a group of two or more persons living together who make common provision for food or other essentials for living. The persons in the group may pool their incomes and may, to a greater or lesser extent, have a common budget; they may be related or unrelated persons or constitute a combination of persons both related and unrelated.” (FAO, 2005a).

2 Within the African context, the head of the household is usually also the agricultural holder.

3 There are two types of agricultural holdings: (i) holdings in the household sector – that is, those operated by household members; and (ii) holdings in the non-household sector, such as corporations and government institutions. In most countries, the majority of agricultural production is in the household sector. The concept of “agricultural holding” is therefore closely related to the concept of “household” (FAO, 2005a).

4 Number of inactive versus active household members.

5 Women’s lack of access to and control over productive resources such as land, credit, inputs, transport, extension services, storage, technical assistance, and market opportunities and know how has prevented them from adopting new technologies, switching to higher-return crops and/or increasing their economies of scale (FAO, 2006).

6 Dependence ratio = the number of dependent household members per adult member.

7 FAO’s Economic and Social Development Paper no.7 (1992) clearly documents the complex nature of such surveys. It indicates that the concept of “time worked” in the agricultural sector is much more difficult to apprehend than in other economic sectors because: “There is no fixed place of work, as farm work includes working in the fields, preparing agricultural products for marketing, taking farm produce to the market, bringing farm requisites from town, keeping farm records, etc. Part of the work is done on the holding, another part in the holder’s dwelling, still another in markets or in towns, etc. Travel between these different sites of work may be long and time-consuming. It is therefore advisable that all relevant periods of work and travel time are taken into account when recording the time worked by the holder, family workers and paid workers.” (FAO 1999b).

8 Time-use surveys would need to be carried out in support of income and expenditure to obtain reliable data on the individual contributions made by male and female household members to the household income, as these surveys allow for double measurement strategies of production and consumption variables – in time units as well as in value units, both at the individual and household levels (FAO, 1999a).

9 In cases where membership is limited to one person per household, male household members are more likely to represent the household than female members.

10 Studies have shown that women spend a significantly higher proportion of their income on food for the household than their male counterparts. 

Contact

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2 Gamel Abdul Nasser Road
Accra, Ghana
email: FAO-Gender-Stat@fao.org