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January 2006

Announcement of a new publication

Gender and farming systems

Lessons from Nicaragua

Despite the fundamental role of rural women in agricultural and livestock production, their contributions to achieving food security and sustainable development have been systematically ignored and undervalued. In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest in the incorporation of alternative models that take account of a gender dimension in development policies and guidelines.

The purpose of this study is to propose a conceptual and methodological framework that integrates a gender perspective into the analysis of farming systems. The aim is to produce a reference guide for future rural development programmes and projects. The first part of the study reviews systems and gender analysis within the agricultural context. The second part reviews the experiences of the Nicaraguan project “Strengthening the Capacity of Women in the Management of Small-scale Farm Production Units” (GCP/NIC/020/NOR). It sets out to identify the methodological findings, including the advantages and disadvantages, emanating from that project’s valuable experience, rather than to carry out an actual evaluation of the project.

When applied to agriculture, systems analysis focuses on boosting productivity and production by studying the socio-economic and agro-ecological context, as well as reviewing farming systems. Gender analysis, on the other hand, examines the roles, activities, responsibilities, opportunities and constraints of each member of the community under review, and attempts to achieve greater equality between women and men within their spheres of interaction.

Although the research areas of gender and farming systems analysis intersect at various points, each has its own scope. While gender analysis takes into consideration economic production, reproduction and community participation, farming systems analysis tends to focus on the technical and socio-economic aspects of agricultural production. A conceptual framework, designed to combine both approaches, would therefore offer a better opportunity for grasping the complex and heterogeneous reality of peasant economies.

The overall goal of the Nicaraguan project was to stimulate and strengthen rural women’s participation in the community and in agricultural development in farming areas affected by armed conflict in Nicaragua. When the project activities began, a conceptual framework combining farming systems analysis with gender analysis was not available. As the project advanced, methodologies, tools, variables and concepts were adjusted through a process of trial and error to constitute such a framework.

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