«Women-only focus group discussion in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. 17 August 2011 i Version 1 – August 2011 Contents Abbreviations and Acronyms Executive ...»
Women’s lack of education and literacy hinders their understanding of extension literature and participation in activities (Saito 1994). Additionally, the level of information literacy56 in developing countries is extremely low (Pejova 2002; Dewan et al 2005; Tilvawala et al 2009), and more so among women57. This is particularly important due to the growing number of information and communications technologies (ICTs) initiatives being implemented in developing countries, and particularly with the aim of supporting extension services and knowledge dissemination. Some countries are already taking steps towards addressing these problems through the setting up of specialised supporting centres (Drury 2011)58. On the whole, this is a relatively new area of work in development, and the literature is scant. Yet it is likely that interest will increase, precisely due to the number of agricultural programmes that are using mobile phone technology in the provision of agricultural and market information.
The way that agricultural extension services are staffed, managed and designed hinders women from benefiting from services (Collett and Gale 2009). Male staff may lack the knowledge and understanding of women’s constraints and make assumptions that information will be passed on to women (Karl 1997). Cultural norms restrict communication between male extension agents and female farmers and there are insufficient female extension agents (Saito 1994; Saito and Weidemann 1990; Truitt 1998).
5.5.2 Existing approaches Some approaches to extension training and information dissemination show great potential to address the needs and priorities of women. Many of these have developed in response to the many criticisms that traditional, public ‘top-down’ approaches to extension and
information dissemination have faced (Kahan 2007):
Private-sector providers. There are increased links between commercial extension and individual women entrepreneurs, particularly in emerging agro-industrial sectors such as ornamental plant and exotic flower production in countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Kenya. Such companies often target women farmers as preferred clients because of the high standards of care and attention women bring to the management of the plants.
This model will tend to benefit only women who already have access to land Information literacy is defined as the ability to access, manipulate and use information effectively and often relates ICTs (Tilvawala et al 2009).
Initiatives are currently in place to address the issue of information illiteracy in Africa, namely the e-schools initiative in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). See http://www.nepad.org/crosscuttingissues/ict.
In 2009 the government of Kenya launched the Pilot Pasha Centres, which aim to develop digital villages, i.e.
to connect peri-urban and rural villages to the internet, through facilitated access. It is not yet know the full impact of this pilot in rural population’s capacity to access and manipulate information provided through ICTs.
In two programmes currently underway, in Kenya (GSMA) and in Uganda (Grameen Foundation), reaching women and increasing women’s access to the technology have been challenging. While it is acknowledged that women have a lot to benefit from using mobile phones to access agricultural extension information, lesseducated rural women with the lowest incomes are less likely to do it so. See GSMA and Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women (2010).
(homestead, family or rented; see Jiggins et al 1998). Hence the risk is that such schemes rarely target poor, landless women.
Women-only groups. Women-only groups can be a successful way to engage with women farmers (see Section 5.2). Sasakawa Africa Association has trialled women-only extension with great effect in Ethiopia and more generally women have played a key role in highlighting the gender issues in extension (Gallina 2010).
Farmer groups. There are a number of examples of extension carried out by farmer groups and other types of community organisations. For instance, the Farmers' Groups Network in Tanzania (MVIWATA) views extension from the perspective of the importance of structured, ongoing dialogue between researchers, extension agents and farmers to identify priority problems, suggest and try out possible solutions, and disseminate technologies and information judged by both researchers and the farmer groups as useful (Jiggins et al 1998).
Women- only extension agents. Recruiting and training female extension workers, particularly in areas where cultural norms restrict male-female interaction, can increase women’s participation in extension activities and their adoption of new technologies (Gallina 2010). Large studies have found that the presence of female extension agents was an important factor for the participation of female farmers in extension activities (Quisumbing and Pandolfelli 2010; Truitt 1998).
Family focused. Some extension models have deliberately focused on families and couples, rather than individuals, e.g. Management Advice for Family Farms (MAFF) in West Africa concept (Faure and Kleene 2004). Another example is ‘couples’ training’, where both husbands and wives are training together. This widens opportunities for women to acquire the necessary information, skills and knowledge for the production and marketing of agricultural commodities. Partners also understand, assist and appreciate each other technically so that they gradually build their knowledge together, thereby overcoming the weakness of relying on husbands to pass information to their wives after training. It also helps women strengthen their role in decision-making in the household with respect to which technologies to use and which marketable commodities to produce, and it helps break taboos about the traditional gender division of labour and contributes to bringing about gender equality (Aregu et al 2011).
Participatory or learning by doing models. There are numerous examples of participatory approaches that focus on assessment of the particular needs and priorities of farmers. This usually means that activities are numerous, rather than the provision of
training on one particular area. Examples include:
Farmer field schools (FFS), an FAO concept for women and men farmers’ learning, discussion and experimentation for improving their food security and livelihood (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009). FFS often includes particular training to support specific needs, e.g.
women’s ignorance about their rights often prevents them from exercising their full legal rights and/or enjoying legal protection. Community-based legal education projects help greatly in educating women about their legal rights in family law, land and property matters. FFS in Kenya, for instance, included a ‘legal empowerment’ component in their training course that will focus on enabling farmers, mostly women, to address legal issues that affect their food and livelihood security (Dimitra 2009). Such approaches often include alleviating constraints to learning, such as illiteracy and lack of time, to help women develop their abilities (Collett and Gale 2009).
In Tanzania, SIDA has been supporting experimentation with participatory rural appraisal (PRA), and digital video and picture-processing technology to explore the possibilities for interactive dialogue between groups of women farmers and those more removed from agricultural reality, including male extension workers (Jiggins et al 1998).
In Uganda and Malawi, CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) has implemented a participatory approach entitled Enabling Rural Innovations that develops the capacity of rural women and the poor to analyse and access market opportunities for competitive products that will increase farm income and employment. Women must account for between 30 and 50 per cent of market group members, and enterprises must be selected based on the extent to which both women and men can benefit from them. Group members are also given training in group leadership, conflict management, gender issues and HIV/AIDS awareness.
Recent studies have highlighted the advantages of these approaches (Kaaria et al 2008 in Quisumbing and Pandolfelli 2010).
Information services that use innovative methods of communicating extension knowledge to women farmers and support their information needs in a variety of ways.
Farm Radio International (FRI), a Canadian NGO, works to address the needs of smallholder farmers in 39 African countries. Information content is developed through participatory means. FRI is particularly working to develop new standards for participatory radio content. Although there have been some challenges in reaching women, the process of participatory development of content has shown great potential for responding to the needs and priorities of smallholders (ALINe forthcoming). ILO’s CoopAfrica supported the Kenya Institute of Fisheries to help women fish processors and traders adopt ICT technologies to assess better market information (Omariba undated).
5.5.3 Opportunities There has been little systematic evaluation of new approaches to extension and to what extent these approaches support gender aware or gender transformative objectives (Quisumbing and Pandolfelli 2010). However, a number of points can be made:
There is evidence to suggest that empowerment gains are more likely when the ‘learning-by-doing’ approach is pursued, and through farmers creating their own learning platforms (Farnworth 2010; Taylor 2010).
In general, participatory methods have been shown to support empowerment outcomes better than top-down approaches, where women and men make ‘their own decisions rather than merely adopting the recommendations of others’ (Bartlett paraphrased in Meinzen-Dick et al 2010: 6), and where women’s empowerment is concerned with increasing women’s capacity for self-determination (Kabeer 1999).
5.5.4 Risks Public-sector providers have long been criticised for top-down approaches that have been highly centralised, supply- and production-based, and unable to both embrace and change as a result of feedback from farmers, especially women. As a result of this criticism (as well as due to structural adjustment), governments have actively brought in private sector and civil society providers to replace the public sector, although the degree to which this has happened varies by region and country. The result has been the demise of public sector extension services at a time when farmers’ needs are acute. NGO, community-based and private sector providers have not been able to fill this void (Kahan 2007). There is still a need for public sector extension, but reform is required to ensure that this is more demanddriven. However, the capacity of the public sector to use these new methods is currently limited and more structural reforms are needed (Mogues et al 2009; Gallina 2010; Mapila et al 2010).
5.5.5 Recommendations Work within existing context by strengthening existing extension services and working with existing groups (Jiggins et al 1998). This might mean working with women-only groups (Saito and Weidemann 1990) or mixed groups (Gonzalez Manchón and Macleod 2010). As can be seen in the section on group participation, this will depend on the context of interventions and the specific situation of women. In Guatemala, P4P staff are working closely with a national organisation whose remit is the delivery of extension services, with the view to implement gender-friendly extension services.
Accessibility. Ensure that extension and training is adapted to the literacy level of rural women. This means that a prerequisite for extension for women might be functional literacy training (see section 3.4 and other types of capacity building). Without literacy training, there is a limit to what trainees can access, even if practical, visual methods are used (Collett and Gale 2009).
Adaptation. Adapt programmes to suit women’s needs and priorities. Particularly important to support market integration are enterprise development, leadership (IFAD
2010) and legal training. Both short-term and long-term needs should be addressed and the lead time for implementing larger-scale production methods in poor rural areas should explicitly be taken into account when designing training. Skills for immediate and medium-term use should be combined with longer-term skills. The opportunity to select a combination of training programmes can enable women to accumulate a portfolio of skills that allows them to extend the gain from training into the future.
Timing. Allow sufficient time to enable women to acquire new skills and adjust schedules to fit women's existing workloads, including giving participants enough advance notice, scheduling during less busy seasons and on non-work days, and shifting more resources to village-based training rather than residential training. Studies have shown that where women are able to choose the timing of training, they have more ownership of and commitment to the training, and are able to ensure that it fits in with their productive activities (Collett and Gale 2009). Agricultural information services, such as radio, should target channels that will reach women at times convenient to them.
Innovative methods. Be innovative about methods used for extension, training and
Use participatory approaches (e.g. FFS).
Use mobile extension services.
Use more practical and visual training tools to deal with barriers to literacy.
Use different mass media, including radio and mobile phones.
Reorientation of extension and research policies and priorities: Greater knowledge of women's key roles in agriculture can help persuade agricultural development policy makers and planners of the need to reorient extension policies and priorities to include the needs of women food producers and of landless farmers. Mandates and guidelines are needed to implement this, as well as M&E mechanisms.
Improving the linkages between extension and research: Gender-responsive extension services can channel information to research institutes on the needs of women farmers;
and gender-responsive research institutes can channel gender appropriate information and technologies to farmers through extension services.
Training extension workers to involve women in extension services: Both men and women extension workers need training on how to work with women farmers and promote their participation in extension work.