Posted February 1999
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Good practices in gender mainstreaming and implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action
Project sheet: Namibia
Project Title: 1. "Training for the Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development"; 2. "Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender Sensitive Planning" 
Project duration: 4 years (1994-1998)
Executing agency/agencies: FAO
Implementing or co-operating agency/agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development's (MAWRD), Government of Namibia
Project cost: US $ 240,000 (FAO/TCP); US $ 120,345(Government of Norway)
The "Training for the Integration of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development" project aimed at building capacity within the extension service in how to use participatory and gender sensitive approaches to plan extension activities with subsistence farmers in communal areas. This involved training agricultural extension technicians in a combination of gender analysis and participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques, and then walking them through a practical field experience to allow them to investigate, first hand, men's and women's different activities, constraints and priorities. The main output of the project is the creation of a core group of trainers capable of training other agricultural outreach staff in this approach. This core group of trainers then trained all of the field level extension staff in the Ministry of Agriculture over a period of 2 years.
While the training project focused on building capacity for micro-level planning, "Improving Information on Women's Contribution to Agricultural Production for Gender Sensitive Planning" focused on bringing micro-level information to planners and policy makers at the macro-level. Participatory rural appraisals were carried out in several localities throughout Namibia (in conjunction with the PRA activities of the training project) to enrich the information base on gender issues in agriculture. This information was then shared with Ministry staff and other relevant actors in a process of consultation, discussion and sensitisation. All of these activities then culminated in the formulation of an Action Plan for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development Policy.
The implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action two projects coincided with a period of activity in which the Ministry was preparing its own agricultural policy and strategy. In part, the projects contributed to the formulation process and helped to make the policy, and subsequent strategy, gender sensitive. With the new policy, extension workers now had the specific mandate of working with communal farmers and targeting female farmers. So more importantly, the projects helped build capacity for the even more challenging task of implementing the new policy. The projects were also innovative in their use of participatory approaches and methods and thus represented a relatively new experience for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development.
Specific changes resulting from the project
- Extension workers on the front line are now all aware of gender issues in agriculture and know how to plan with rural communities and target women with their services.
- Gender analysis training, specifically "the analysis of difference", has been made a mandatory part of the in-service training curriculum of the Ministry of Agriculture.
- The strategic planning process for implementing the new agricultural policy is more gender sensitive.
- Overall, Ministry staff, starting with the Permanent Secretary, are more committed to dealing with gender issues in their work.
What was planned
- a training of trainers programme to enhance extension workers' abilities to identify communal farmers' extension priorities, and to understand how these priorities differ by gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and farming system ( i.e. the analysis of difference in agricultural extension). A particular focus of the training would be on learning participatory planning techniques based on a combination of gender analysis and participatory rural appraisal (GA/PRA);
- field experience in using PRA tools to see the variation of needs within a local community;
- regional workshops throughout Namibia, conducted by the newly trained team, for other grassroots extension agents in the analysis of difference for agricultural extension;
- participatory rural appraisals in the four agro-ecological regions of Namibia;
- analysis and write up of data into regional reports on gender issues in agriculture;
- filming of the PRAs to produce a documentary on gender roles in agriculture and livestock production in Namibia which could be used for future training purposes and for sensitisation of policy makers;
- a series of regional workshops for Ministry staff, NGOs and others working in the agricultural and rural development sector to discuss the findings of the PRAs and develop regionally based strategies for gender-responsive agricultural development;
- a national workshop to disseminate the research results, discuss the proposals from the regional workshops and generate additional inputs for the elaboration of an Action Plan for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development in Namibia;
- development of an Action Plan for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development in Namibia.
What was the strategy
- assist the Ministry in its desire to move towards a more client-responsive extension approach in which "client" was explicitly understood to include women farmers, female headed households and rural youth (as was eventually spelled out in the National Agricultural Policy);
- give rural men and women a "voice" in the planning process by supporting a community planning process through the PRA activities;
- enrich a generally weak information base in a cost-effective and timely manner, especially in light of the fact that the Ministry was in the midst of its own consultative process to formulate a new agricultural policy and strategy, by using PRA to make micro-level processes and gender relationships visible to planners and policy makers working at all levels.
Who was involved
A Gender Sensitisation Committee was set up to oversee the management of the two projects and was chaired by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of MAWRD (who later became Permanent Secretary). The Division of Rural Development Planning took the lead role in executing the projects on behalf of the Ministry in collaboration with the Directorate of Extension and Engineering (DEES), and the Division of Agricultural Training. The Deputy Director of Rural Development Planning led the project management team in her role as National Co-ordinator. The Co-ordinator was chosen from within the ranks of the Ministry to reinforce linkages between the projects and the institutional framework.
Two local organisations - ACORD, a non-governmental organisation with expertise in PRA and the Gender Programme of the Social Sciences Division (SSD) of the University of Namibia - were contracted to backstop the PRA, organise the workshops and write the Gender Action Plan in collaboration with the Division of Rural Development. Although the project was mainly implemented under local guidance and with local consultants, limited use was made of international consultants from FAO to carry out the first planning mission and to design and deliver the training programme.
The trainers from the Ministry were the key protagonists, as well as those who they eventually trained in the analysis of difference. The residents of the 9 villages where the PRAs took place were actively involved and in many cases, revisited by the extension agents later. Many other actors in the agriculture and rural sector also participated in the regional and national gender planning workshops.
What was learned, factors contributing to success
- You can't underestimate the requirements for carrying out good quality research using PRA. Although the PRA activities of the two projects provided a powerful learning experience to the participants of the training programme, they needed to be backstopped by more experienced, gender aware researchers in order to assure the data would be of sufficient quality to be useful for policy analysis. What undoubtedly helped the research teams do a commendable job despite the lack of backstopping was the fact that gender analysis was an explicit part of the PRA tools.
- A non-confrontational approach to training and sensitisation on gender issues works better, especially if it is based on an exploration of relevant facts rather than prejudices. Project activities that applied this approach were very successful at convincing technical staff and policy makers of the importance of gender issues in agriculture. Conversely, project activities that took a more confrontational or women-only focus tended to alienate participants and raise their resistance to the issue.
- Projects should plan for a series of training opportunities to build and use new skills. There is a tendency to underestimate training needs and the inputs needed in order to build skills in gender analysis and participatory approaches, especially at the field level where the training presents a more challenging situation. In Namibia, the training programme consisted of a series of events that were spread out over time and complemented by additional learning experiences. All of this helped to reinforce learning in a group of trainees with little prior exposure to the subject matter.
- Invest in both vertical and horizontal capacity building to create a sustainable, in-country resource. Both the Ministry of Agriculture as well as a few key Namibian organisations now have better knowledge and skills to support gender-responsive, participatory approaches.
- Provide opportunities to introduce management to the approaches to build support for project activities. Gaining the support of MAWRD management turned out to be crucial not only for assuring the success of the projects but also for promoting institutionalisation of the approaches used.
- Promote efforts for incorporating gender concerns as much as possible into mainstream policies, strategies and programmes. The support lent by the National Agricultural Policy to project efforts was significant and can be expected to have a long term impact by providing an enabling environment for gender-responsive approaches to agricultural development in Namibia.
See also: Sontheimer, Sally (1997) Gender and Participation in Agricultural Development Planning: Lessons from Namibia, FAO, Rome.
1. The implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action's two projects overlapped, and since the projects were mutually reinforcing their impact is discussed here as though they were one project.
For more information, contact:
Ms. Cornelia Koenraadt
Women in Development Service
FAO Hqs Rome, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
Tel: 00 3906 57054757; Fax: 00 3906 57052004