"Harvesting best practices" - gender workshop held in Rome

Agricultural planners throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America are increasingly asked to engage in "bottom-up" participatory planning that will benefit rural women farmers as well as their male counterparts. Agricultural planning that takes the different needs of men and women into account is rarely practised, however. "Harvesting best practices", a workshop on gender and participation in agricultural development planning, held in Rome from 8 to 12 December, examined why this is the case and looked at how agricultural policy can be made more gender-responsive.

More than just "involving" women, the issue of gender means looking at the different roles and responsibilities of women and men, the differences in their access to and control over resources, and their particular constraints, needs and priorities. Incorporating gender analysis into agricultural planning helps policy-makers and planners understand how policies and programmes must be changed if women are to be involved equally with men. It can also demonstrate why some projects and policies have negative consequences for women.

"In the agricultural planning sector, very little differentiation has been made between men and women until very, very recently in very few places," says Maria Fernandez, Gender and Biodiversity Specialist in FAO's Women and Population Division. "Increasing the availability of gender-disaggregated data and incorporating this into the information that feeds into agricultural planning is crucial to the development of a gender-sensitive agricultural sector".

Sponsored by FAO's Women in Development Service, the workshop brought together planners and development specialists, women and men, from across the developing world to discuss the challenges of introducing gender into agricultural planning in their home countries and to exchange experiences. The objective of the workshop was to develop a framework based on the participants' experiences that would allow planners to move forward. Case-studies of FAO field projects that tested methods and tools to make agricultural policy-making and planning more gender-sensitive were presented from Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tunisia. The workshop case-studies are available on SD Dimensions, the web site of FAO's Sustainable Development Department.

Most of the projects represented by national and international staff at the workshop had placed a strong emphasis on increasing women's participation in the agricultural sector. "The work to improve the visibility and participation of rural women as well as the response to their needs continues, because, unfortunately, there is still a lack of gender balance in agricultural development institutions and programmes," said Fernandez. "Improving the situation of women is critical so that we can better work on issues and needs of both sexes and not only those of women. In the long run, we're working to improve society as a whole, working with men and women, as complementary parts of society".

23 December 1997

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