The Next Steps for Gender Research in Ethiopia

There is virtually no data on female farmers living in a male-headed household says Warner. Photo credit: Flickr/ Eileen Delhi

There is virtually no data on female farmers living in a male-headed household says Warner. To move gender research forward, this information gap must be filled. Photo credit: Flickr/ Eileen Delhi

In 2014, the Research for Ethiopia’s Agriculture Policy (REAP) team undertook two projects to take stock of the current research and data available on male and female farmers in Ethiopia. They found that there is significant information on farmers who are the head of their household, but relying on analysis based solely on heads of households can result in misleading conclusions. One reason is because national estimates reveal that women lead only about 20 percent of households. “We have information on male and female-headed households,” says James Warner, Research Coordinator for REAP. “Gender experts are saying, ‘let’s explore in more detail, let’s get to where most people live’, which is in a traditional male-headed household.”

So what’s happening with female farmers who live in a married household? According to Warner there is virtually no data on this in Ethiopia. “We have begun a dialogue with both government policy advocates as well as the Central Statistics Agency (CSA) on [collecting] more comprehensive sex-disaggregated data within the traditional household. This will address a major data gap that everyone agrees needs to be addressed,” says Warner.

Both studies were instrumental in refining gender initiatives in the next phase of the country’s 5-year development plan (GTP II) according to Seblewongel Deneke, Director of the Gender Program at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). Now efforts are being made to include married women she explained. This includes areas such as access to trainings and extension information, participation in cooperatives, and the use of farm technology that is “female friendly.”

The two gender studies also revealed regional differences in the barriers that female farmers face. To share this information with local leaders, Warner teamed up with the ATA’s Gender Team and partners at the Ministry of Agriculture Women’s Affairs Directorate (MoA-WAD) to organize regional workshops.

The first workshop took place in the Amhara Region on June 13, 2015. Over 45 senior officials from the government and local NGOs attended the event. “The event was organized to inform and discuss what the [studies have] found, how it relates to their day-to-day work, what data are available and how they can use it,” says Seblewongel. The workshop was also designed to provide participants with an opportunity to share the regional challenges that they face and discuss possible interventions to close the gender gap.

Next Steps

This year, REAP took on two new gender studies. The first study will look at a new ATA pilot to distribute input credit vouchers to farmers through a third-party financial institution instead of through cooperatives, which is the norm. The pilot was introduced in Amhara, and has been successful for the most part, but “reaching female farmers with the services has been low,” says Seblewongel. One goal of the study is to learn why women are not participating as expected in the rural finance pilot and provide recommendations on how to include more women in the next round. This goes beyond efforts to simply engage women, and must also include efforts to understand the needs of women in the community and of the credit providers says Seblewongel. “Overall, this project is meant to review a program intervention consistent with ATA’s gender mainstreaming initiative,” says Warner. “The results will provide further recommendations for enhancing gender inclusion in ongoing ATA work.”

The second project is to identify farm technology that is “female friendly” because many rural women are saddled with the double burden of caring for the household and the farm. Since rural women face competing priorities for their time, it’s important to ensure that programs to introduce new technologies to farmers also “address the needs of women and female farmers,” says Seblewongel. Two key questions are: 1) how can these new technologies ease women’s time constraints?; and 2) how can they allow female farmers to be more efficient in farming? To answer these questions, researchers will first pinpoint the challenges that women face with farm production and then identify technologies that are designed to address these barriers. From there, the ATA will have a better idea of how to design interventions that can successfully benefit the productivity of both men and women in the farm sector.

Warner points out that right now, there is not much “evidence-based information” to design appropriate policies for rural women farmers. “That’s what our whole project is trying to do,” says Warner. These studies provide the ATA with a framework so that they can design interventions that can successfully address the needs of female farmers. “People say gender matters, but that’s all they get,” says Warner. “If you can start providing detailed information, then you can begin to address the issues.”

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