Gender and development People

Posted September 1999

16th Session of the African Commission on Agricultural Statistics
Conakry, Guinea
28 June-1 July, 1999

Integration of gender concerns in agricultural data collection: Conceptual/methodological issues

Paper prepared by Diana Tempelman, Regional Officer, Women in Development, FAO Regional Office for Africa

1. Introduction

There are reasons to believe that the participation of women in agricultural activities in Africa is much higher than most current statistical sources indicate. This is due to conceptual and methodological lacuna's, constraints National Department of Statistics face, ambiguous demand from data users and socio-cultural biases in respondents answers.

It is more and more recognised that "gender questions" need to be addressed not only to overcome existing disparities between men and women's participation in the development process, but also to ensure an enabling environment for sustainable development of Nations as a whole. Hereto, gender disaggregated statistical data are required:

  1. to understand the economic, social and political differences existing between men and women;
  2. to ensure that such understanding is based on facts; and
  3. to allow for the planning of development programmes which take the specific situation of both sexes into account.

The importance of such data is especially relevant for the agricultural sector of African countries, where it is believed that women farmers produce between 60 and 80 % of the food production.

A number of countries have tried to overcome this gap in gender differentiated information and I will give some examples of how they have tried to do this. Furthermore, it is important that conceptual and methodological aspects of data collection, their analysis and dissemination are reviewed to increase the accuracy of gender differentiated recording of factors concerning agricultural production.

The context for such changes is favourable as present day users have a better understanding about the need for gender statistics and advance in clarifying their data needs. Data producers have become more open for, what is commonly called, "gender questions" and try to integrate these aspects in their workprograms, as we clearly see from the attention this subject is given by 15th and the current AFCAS meeting.

This presentation will first go into some conceptual changes required, which are derived from numerous efforts FAO has undertaken in technically strengthening agricultural data collection exercises. It will then look into some methodological aspects with scope for improvement. Thirdly, I will provide you some feedback from experiments undertaken in Bénin, Burkina Faso, Guinée and Tunisia, before concluding with some points for discussion by this meeting.

2. Concept and definitions

The focus of this part concerning statistical concepts and definitions will be on aspects which need special attention to avoid under-estimation of women's participation in the agricultural production.

Before doing so, I would like to explain that, though I will be talking about improving "data concerning women farmers", this does not imply that we do not need information concerning men farmers. National agriculture production is ensured by men and women farmers. Initially, agricultural data collection focused on production figures. This changed to some degree when questions concerning the farm households were introduced, usually through interviewing the male head of household. Often no distinction was made between the individuals in such households and women's participation in the agricultural production remained under reported. Hence the need to try to address this lacuna while continuing to report on men farmers. ==> Information on both is required to be able to present a realistic picture of who does what, with what and providing which returns?

I will be looking into the following concepts/definitions:

  1. agricultural holding
  2. household, agricultural household and head of household,
  3. agriculturally active person, and
  4. head of plot

2.1 Agricultural holding

This is the recommended unit of analysis, though it is investigated through another unit, the agricultural household. This forms the basis for common confusion: In taking an agricultural holding as the -usually land based- unit of analysis, there is a risk of excluding a large part of agricultural production from for example:

2.2 Household, agricultural household, head of household and Agricultural household

The recommended definition is: "each household in which at least ONE member undertakes an agricultural activity: cultivates or raises animals"
in case this definition is strictly adhered to, all those households just mentioned as often excluded from a list of 'agricultural holdings', should be captured.

Head of household. A tendency has been observed that the eldest male household member (whether usually present or not), is automatically recorded as the 'head of household'. This socio-cultural bias among interviewers and respondents, may have contributed to the following low figures of female headed households:

Guinea 2%
Tunisia 6.7 %
Benin & Burkina Faso 10% each

Guinea possesses additional information: women take up 55 - 70 % of the agricultural population in the 20 to 49 years age bracket. This would indicate that the percentage of female headed households should be much higher. No additional information is available from the other countries. However, a World Bank publication estimates that at least 40% of the smaller agricultural holdings in developing countries are managed by a woman.

interviewer training and sensitization of respondents is required to overcome this socio-cultural bias in the identification of 'head of household' and provide more realistic recording of the number of households headed by a man or a woman.

2.3 Agricultural active person

Labour is a crucial factor in agricultural holdings, especially so in the smaller ones. The difficulty concerning women's labour is to distinguish the work they spent on productive or on household activities. Prejudices exist as to what should be considered productive work, both on the side of interviewers and on the side of women farmers themselves.

The UN definition of productive work has changed over the years and activities previously classified under 'household activities' have been shifted to the category: 'productive work'. The most recent adaptation, from 1993, includes under productive work:

2.4 Head of plot

This concept is crucial for cross tabulations with other variables pertaining to a specific plot: size, productivity, production, use of inputs and availability/ownership of farm implements. When recorded by sex, it will provide the basis for in-depth analysis on intra-household differences with regard to the various production factors.

The most common definition of 'Head of plot' reads as follows: "the person who cultivates a certain plot, gets its products, but is not necessarily the owner of the plot."

sufficient training will be required to familiarise interviewers with this concept and its application.

3. Methodological aspects

Various methodological aspects of statistical data collection can be addressed to increase the visibility of women's work in the agricultural sector and to reduce existing gender biases in data recording.

4. Case studies

Experiences from Benin, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Tunisia are now presented as case studies of:

The case studies concern annual agricultural surveys, implemented in the selected countries in specific years. The current preparations for the next round of agricultural census also include various efforts to integrate gender concerns in these and other countries, but these will form the subject of future evaluations. Furthermore, I expect that other Member Countries may have the same or complementary experiences in integrating gender concerns in their Agricultural Surveys. Unfortunately, due to the scope of this paper, we could not take all into account and I hope that we will hear about them during the discussion following this presentation.


Methodology/concept Observations
1. Year
- '94/'95 additional questionnaire in 2 of 5 provinces, connected to Agricultural Survey
- '98/'99 Agricultural Survey includes revised questionnaire
2. Coverage
- National
- agricultural households
- urban areas
- modern agricultural sector (limited)
- cotton (SONAPRA)
3. Objectives
- establish data base on women's contribution to agricultural production
- integrate gender disaggregated data collection in Agricultural Survey
4. Interview method
- Head of household
- to detriment of women's contribution to agricultural production
5. Subjects/concepts
- agricultural HH/Head of HH by sex
- access to production factors/head of plot/sex
- productive activities + returns / head of plot/sex
- time-use
- division of responsibilities for productive & non-productive activities/sex
- Head of plot: manages a plot, alone or with others; principally receives plot's returns, not necessarily owner
- Agriculturally active: person over 10 yrs old undertaking an agricultural activity full time or part time
- access to production factors/sex is crucial to understand working conditions of men and women
- new concept: AGRICULTURAL DOMAIN: all plots managed by one person of a given sex
- only for HoHH and 2 wives
- concept should be elaborated to determine de facto HoHH
  Results: this availability of gender disaggregated data opens new perspectives


Methodology/concept Observations
1. Year
- 1990
- Annual agricultural survey, analysis gender concerns only for '90
2. Coverage
- National,
- agricultural households
- principal food crops
3. Objectives
- characteristics of agricultural population
- evaluation of selected aspects of women's participation in agricultural activities
4. Interview method
- Head of household
- to detriment of women's contribution to agricultural production
5. Subjects/concepts
- total agricultural population and active agricultural population/sex
- agricultural holdings/sex of holder
- size/sex of head of plot, productivity, production
- access to credit
- agricultural HH: HH in which at least one person (not necessarily head, respondent or main earner) manages a agricultural activities
- holder/ head of holding: person who ensures daily management
- head of plot: person who manages a plot
- in practise agricultural HH is identified by: "is there a person who practises agriculture or animal production (excl. homestead gardening and vegetable prod. and landless agric. labourers) - in case the husband is absent >
- 6 mnths/yr, wife is considered head of holding - more cross tabulations could have been undertaken with size, productivity


1. Year
- 1993
- 1998, donor agency requested 'gender' related analysis of plot distribution/culture/sex of Head of plot
2. Coverage
- National, rural areas
- agricultural households
- urban and peri-urban
- 'developed' areas (irrigated)
3. Objectives
- areas under production
- productivity
- production: estimates and effective
4. Interview method
- mainly head of HH
- to detriment of women's contribution to agric. prod.
5. Subjects/concepts
- characteristics of HH members (sex, age, act. head of plot)
- plot characteristics (size, responsible/sex, type, site, cultures, labour)
- inputs
- productivity
- production (estimated and effective)
- head of plot: person who decides sowing and use of production but does not necessarily work on the plot
- this definition of 'head of plot' is crucial for the understanding of the gender differentiated info available from this survey
- gender disaggregated info only available upon specific request for processing and analysis


1. Year
- 1996 pilot survey
- so far, no integration in regular data collection
2. Coverage
- National, rural and urban areas
- all agricultural HH (all sizes)
- all cultures
3. Objectives
- test methodology to measure women's contribution to agricultural activities
- contribute to integrated monitoring system on women's agricultural activities
4. Interview method
- interview heads of holding
- interview women on activities and time-use (productive & non-productive)
- easy to interview women (against expectations), though female interviewers facilitated this work.
- time-use method seems to be the best way to know which act. (prod. & non-prod.) were undertaken.
5. Subjects/concepts
- identification & characteristics of:
  - agric. holding
  -- the HH of the holder
  -- women agriculturally active in the HH of the holder
  -- other women working on the holding
  -- the HH of the other women working on the holding
- details of the productive & non-productive activities
  -- yesterday (/hour)
  -- last week (/day)
  -- last month (/week)
  -- last year (/season)
- various: training needs, extension, ownership, credit, mechanisation
- difficult for respondents to quantify work undertaken
- precision diminishes for earlier reporting period
- family help: renamed non-paid active family member, to stress productive work of women (especially)However time-use recording
(i) makes a survey complex and time consuming, and
(ii) was not implemented for men, to provide true gender perspective of the time requirements agric. sector - pilot survey strengthened conceptual and methodological aspects of agric. surveys, but has not been incorporated in regular data collection exercises
6. Results
- Time-use confirmed work quantity women contribute to agric. prod.
- Survey formed allowed for National project for women farmers

As you have seen, the approaches to improve the availability of gender disaggregated agricultural data varied in these countries:

The solution will be in finding a combination of the first and the third approach. A regular data collection with a limited number of detailed questions on access to production factors and returns, ensuring a frequent stream of essential information for planning of sustainable development efforts. A less frequent but more detailed data collection for complementary information on:

Such data collection could be planned, say every 5 years, and would be comparable to consumption and living conditions surveys.

5. For consideration by the 16th AFCAS meeting

In finalising my presentation, I now highlight points from the document for discussion. Expecting that I have given you enough food for thought and discussion, I thank you for your attention.

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