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Achieving gender equity in agricultural value chains

APF is supporting organisations seeking to bring a gender lens to their on-going value chain work (© Agri-ProFocus)
APF is supporting organisations seeking to bring a gender lens to their on-going value chain work
© Agri-ProFocus

Women play crucial, albeit often unrecognised, roles in agricultural value chains. Their contributions tend to be invisible or under-valued. Apart from the unfairness of this situation, for producers and other chain actors and chain supporters, this also represents inefficiencies: business opportunities may suffer and profits will be lower and/or unequally distributed as a result. Moreover, existing gender inequities are perpetuated. In short: fighting poverty is hard if you are 'gender-blind'.

With 700 members from donor agencies, knowledge institutes, NGOs and partner networks, Agri-ProFocus (APF) - a partnership that promotes farmer entrepreneurship in developing countries - has been working to improve gender equity in agricultural value chain development initiatives. Through the collective effort of key partners in the APF gender and value chain development learning group, a book based on 25 case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America was produced. Challenging Chains to Change: Gender Equity in Agricultural Value Chain Development is enabling APF partners in Africa to begin implementing strategies to address gender equity in agricultural value chains.

Sweet potatoes, pork and drought: making the links

Using knowledge from the book, APF began working with partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to provide gender coaching. The aim was to support organisations seeking to bring a gender lens to their on-going value chain work through a locally-based coach in each country. In Uganda, two representatives from 23 organisations have been participating in a 'coaching track' and several workshops have taken place, each with a different focus to support the participants in their on-going work. To begin with, a workshop introduced gender sensitive value chain mapping and value chain selection: in this way, gender would be incorporated in value chain development from the start. With guidance from the coach, participants have also been working on Gender Action Plans which are used as a 'road-map' for gender-based activities each organisation aims to undertake.

Mapping exercises have proved to be a powerful awareness raising tool (© Agri-ProFocus)
Mapping exercises have proved to be a powerful awareness raising tool
© Agri-ProFocus

Other activities include mapping exercises which have proved to be a powerful awareness raising tool, particularly for the male participants. To capture the challenges and opportunities that value chain practitioners face when bringing gender into their work, value chain mapping exercises with farming communities were carried out. After one exercise*, the main bottleneck to the sweet potato value chain was identified to be drought. Men and women were broken up into different groups to analyse the cause and effects of droughts and coping strategies. The women identified a link between drought and gender-based violence, which surprised the men. The women explained that as a result of drought, less food is produced and that leads to increased hunger in the home, which forces women to look for off-farm sources of income but this is often not enough, leaving the children hungry and crying. Meanwhile the men drink and eat pork and when they return drunk ask the women to make the children stop crying and blame them for not feeding them. When the women try to explain, they are beaten up. Must women be the only providers of food?

This example highlighted the unfair treatment imposed on wives and the unequal decision-making power at the household level. "Much of the work on gender and value chain development revolves around sensitisation and awareness raising: changing mentalities and behaviours that lead to gender inequalities," explains Jacqueline Terrillon, the local coach. "This story demonstrated the urgency."

Gender coaching

The coaching track in Uganda has exposed many challenges and opportunities for value chain practitioners in bringing gender equity into their value chain work and illustrated how a new awareness of gender issues can have a big impact. But coaching is a tough job. Each organisation has a different starting point and different needs. For example, some organisations want to address gender issues internally, while others want to focus on their work in the field by identifying the roles of men and women in a specific chain, or discovering which chain to work on in order to achieve gender equity alongside economic gains. The coach must also help organisations overcome challenges in accessing or collecting relevant sex-disaggregated data in order to unveil gender inequalities, plan relevant interventions and develop relevant strategies to address these inequalities, and monitor the impact of these strategies. The coach has to grasp an organisation's learning needs and address them in a tailor-made way through one-on-one sessions or group work. "The coach has to be adaptive and flexible to the needs of the people they are supporting," reveals Rhiannon Pyburn from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). "In Uganda, my role is to work closely with the coach and help them to better support the organisations."

The coaching track in Uganda is one of four underway in four countries (© Agri-ProFocus)
The coaching track in Uganda is one of four underway in four countries
© Agri-ProFocus

Coaching is an innovative method APF is trialling to develop practitioners' capacities to address gender in their value chain work. Learning and sharing between organisations facing similar challenges is fostered as strategies, tools and methodologies are explored in a supportive learning community. "Coaching is a continuous and on-going process, which allows the coach to address specific organisational needs in a thorough and comprehensive way. It is a demand-driven process and as such, the level of participation varies, with some organisations being proactive and motivated and others less focused and more supply-driven," Terrillon adds. "The biggest challenge for the coach is keeping the participants motivated all through the process. A rigorous methodology and regular follow-up are essential in order to keep the organisations on track. High motivation and clear learning objectives from the organisation are critical for success."

The coaching track in Uganda is one of four underway in four countries through APF, which will come to a close in March 2013. A set of guidelines will be produced to detail experiences gained. In addition, the experiences of participating organisations from across all four countries will be brought together, so that separate anecdotes and experiences become a coherent and validated body of knowledge. APF is also developing a global programme to scale up the experience through an online platform.

* This example was provided by Sarah Mayanja from the International Potato Center (CIP).

Written by: Rhiannon Pyburn (Royal Tropical Institute) and Jacqueline Terrillon (Agri-Profocus Uganda)

Date published: March 2013


Have your say

Thanks Jacqueline for the coaching. it has helped aBi as an ... (posted by: Irene Murungi)

The coaching trajectory by Jacqueline helped me understand m... (posted by: Mugisa Patrick)

Gender coaching is the best approach of empowering individua... (posted by: Mugisa Patrick)


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