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October 2005

Agricultural Censuses and Gender:
Lessons Learned in Africa

Prepared by the Regional Office for Africa,
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

This document highlights lessons learned in Africa with regard to the integration of gender concerns into agricultural censuses and provides recommendations on how to further improve the integration of these concerns into agricultural data collection systems.

Past policies for agricultural development often focused on production growth while overlooking the importance of human resources, as well as the social and welfare aspects of agricultural development. By the late 1980s this started changing as more evidence became available of the importance of human capital to sustainable agricultural development. Moreover, users and producers of agricultural statistics increasingly noted that agricultural statistics all too often did not reflect the actual roles and responsibilities of women in agricultural production. This led to a first increase in demand for the production of accurate and up-to-date socio-economic and gender-disaggregated data through agricultural censuses and surveys for the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of agricultural development policies and programmes geared towards the sustainable development of the agricultural sector.

The production of gender-disaggregated agricultural data has improved over the past two decades as a result of:

  • increased concerns among governments about the lack of gender-disaggregated agricultural data and their increased willingness and commitment to address this problem;
  • an increased awareness among users and producers of statistics of the usefulness of such data for the development of effective agricultural policies and programmes;
  • an increased need for such data due to political changes and to be able to respond effectively and appropriately to emerging issues affecting the organizational structure of the agricultural sector and its labour force;
  • technical support provided in the field of gender and statistics.

The following valuable insights were obtained with regard to the integration of gender concerns into agricultural censuses from case studies conducted in Mozambique, Namibia and Senegal, and information obtained from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea and Lesotho:

  • A further substantial increase of the demand for gender-disaggregated agricultural data is needed if gender concerns are to be effectively mainstreamed into agricultural censuses and surveys. Ideally, this demand is obtained from data users through user-producer collaboration and interaction. At the same time, data producers must be made aware that the collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data can be achieved with commonly used statistical methodologies and without substantial extra work or costs.
  • The production of gender-disaggregated agricultural data is positively linked to whether gender concerns have been integrated into the planning and design of agricultural censuses. The incorporation of gender concerns into the scope and objectives of the census justifies not only the collection of gender-disaggregated agricultural data, but also all other actions related to the production and analysis of such data.
  • Agricultural censuses may fail to accurately highlight existing gender interactions, disparities and inequalities in the agricultural sector due to gender biases resulting from the way that concepts and definitions are used. This has called for an adjustment of a number of concepts and definitions used such as the head of household and the head of holding and/or the introduction of new concepts such the sub-holding and the sub-holder. In some cases, gender biases can be reduced by highlighting possible pitfalls during training sessions, sensitizing respondents on the importance of both menís and womenís work and assets in agricultural production, and interviewing various household members, not only the head of the household, to collect data on small-scale agricultural production units.
  • Capacities of statisticians need to be strengthened in order to produce gender-disaggregated agricultural data. The production of gender statistics is a dynamic field in which new options for gender-specific data collection are developed and new needs and demands established. Statisticians require a good understanding of gender concepts and gender analytical tools for data collection, processing, analysis and dissemination if they are to adapt to such changes. Furthermore, they need to be able to question the gender-disaggregated data that they collect in order to produce meaningful information for planning purposes. Training programmes and instruction manuals should address these issues.
  • The roles and responsibilities of male and female farmers in the agricultural sector have become more apparent as a result of an increased collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data in particular when presented at sub-national level. Moreover, these data have enabled policy-makers and planners to design appropriate programmes and policies for those who are most actively involved in farming activities. The demand for sub-national data has increased considerably over the past decade due to political changes, such as the decentralization of decision-making and the increased stakeholder participation in planning and decision-making processes.
  • The analysis and presentation of gender-disaggregated agricultural data strongly depend on the extent to which gender concerns have been taken into account in the planning and design stages of the census. They also depend on the abilities of statistics producers to analyse the data from a gender perspective and whether there has been an explicit demand for a gender analysis of collected data. Considerable amounts of sex-disaggregated data can still be obtained through re-tabulations of agricultural statistics available from past agricultural censuses that have not yet been analysed due to a lack of human and/or financial capacity at the time of data collection.
  • Statistics producers need to explore different ways to disseminate gender-disaggregated agricultural data in a flexible and more user-friendly manner. The use of modern data dissemination tools and techniques such as the Internet and CD-ROMs has significantly improved the availability of statistical data for users who are computer literate and have access to computers and the Internet.
  • The capacities of data users need to be strengthened to allow for a better use of gender-disaggregated agricultural data. Statistics users need to be trained in the correct use of gender-disaggregated agricultural data for planning, design, monitoring and evaluation purposes. They also require a clear idea of the prerequisites of statistics production to enable them to formulate appropriate requests and to provide feedback on how they use statistics in their work and how suitable the collected data have been. An increase in the use of gender-disaggregated agricultural data will contribute to greater production of such data.

The production and use of gender-disaggregated agricultural data has increased significantly in the past two decades. Nonetheless, challenges still remain as governments, development partners and international organizations continue to identify ways to harmonize the use of definitions and concepts, address complex gender issues, strengthen the capacities of data users and producers to address gender issues, improve user-producer collaborations, and secure funds for the production, analysis and presentation of sub-national data.

(available in English)

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