Parallel Session 2A: Empowerment, equity and gender
byANH Academy
Academy Week Research Conference
| Agriculture, Gender and Equity, Nutrition
Date and Time
From: 26 June 2019, 11:55
To: 26 June 2019, 13:15
BST British Summer Time GMT+1:00
Country: India
Open Full Event


Five, 10-minute abstract-driven presentations.  

Speakers and Presentations:


  • Chair: Nirmala Nair, Ekjut
  • Carly Nichols, University of Iowa, USA
    Equity concerns in nutrition-sensitive agriculture promotion practices: A case from central India

  • Hayaan Nur, Ministry of Finance Malawi 
    Do gender inequities in agriculture affect food security and nutrition outcomes?

  • Josiah Ateka, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology, Kenya
    Impact of women’s empowerment policies on nutrition outcomes in Kenya

  • Alessandra Galie, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
    Understanding empowerment among informal milk traders in peri-urban Nairobi: Informing an adaptation of the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

  • Vidya Vemireddy, Cornell University
    Role of women’s time in agriculture-nutrition linkages: Panel data evidence from rural India



Equity concerns in nutrition-sensitive agriculture promotion practices: A case from central India

Carly Nichols, University of Iowa, USA

Introduction:  Malnutrition remains a large problem across India. In response, nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) programs have emerged, which promote crop diversification and homestead vegetable production alongside women’s empowerment. This paper examines how a large livelihoods non-governmental organization (NGO) working in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand has attempted to address malnutrition through incorporating NSA into its focus of improving staple cereal productivity and income. In both sites, the last decade has seen agricultural practices shift from a mix of traditional rice and coarse cereals to primarily high-yielding rice, which has led to increased rice production and consumption for many.

Methods:  Taking an ethnographic and qualitative approach, I conducted 11 months of participant observation and over 100 interviews with farmers and NGO and government workers across both sites. The research goal was to understand how NSA practices were disseminated by fieldworkers, and what effect this had on villagers' cropping practices and food consumption. Going beyond examining the efficacy of the program modules, my approach examined the equity implications of the project using a tripartite Rawlsian-inspired framework borrowed from Karlsson et al. (2018). This frame focuses on distributive equity (who shares in benefits/costs), procedural equity (who participates in program decision-making), and recognitional equity (whether different material contexts as well as knowledge/value systems are placed on equal footing).

Findings:  While nearly all respondents reacted positively to the tenets of NSA promotion, due to a combination of improved paddy’s labor requirements, landholding inequities, monsoonal unpredictability, and cultural aspirations to maximize rice production, most farmers (especially those engaged in improved paddy cultivation) were unable or unwilling to employ the prescribed practices of diversification in a substantive way. I argue years of agriculture extension and subsidies around paddy production have resulted in not just what Stone calls ‘agriculture deskilling’ from diversified cropping, but has also changed cultural aspirations and knowledge politics around what makes a “good farmer” to one that grows paddy in lines using modern inputs. However, this research shows that relatively marginalized farmers--those with poor understanding of Hindi, little formal education, or with the poorest landholdings--often have not benefited from these rice-promotion programs equitably. I argue they are thus well-poised to be leaders of NSA interventions, with the crucial barrier being that these actors oftentimes do not participate actively in NGO activities due to perceived inferiorities. NGO implementers are highly cognizant that the benefits of their efforts are inequitably distributed, yet report they do not have the time or resources to effectively engage more marginalized non-participants.

Conclusions:  This study suggests NSA projects might be more successful in both efficacy and in allaying rural inequities if they were to be explicitly focused on equity outcomes. An equity-led approach means, in addition to addressing production techniques and marketing linkages, programs might actively work to redress the cultural and material barriers to growing nutrition-rich crops for the most marginalized. This insight is as much for development funders as it is for implementing agencies, since a major barrier to more equity-oriented development is achieving quantitative targets in resource-constrained NGO environments.


Do gender inequities in agriculture affect food security and nutrition outcomes?

Hayaan Nur, Ministry of Finance Malawi

Introduction:  Women across the world face high but heterogeneous inequities in several forms, including access to food, ownership and use of land and other assets, and economic participation and workloads. It is often assumed that closing the gap in gender-based inequities in agriculture could simultaneously empower women and improve nutrition. But is this assumption justified? Most evidence in this field has focused on women’s empowerment, rather than gender inequities relative to men, and the evidence on gender inequity that does exist has not been systematically reviewed.

Methods:  We conducted a mixed-methods systematic review of literature from low- and middle-income countries on the causal and correlational relationships between gender-based structural inequities in agriculture (income, land and livestock, and work burdens) and health outcomes (nutritional status, diets, and household food security). We searched 18 databases and repositories using key search terms, hand-searched 11 relevant health, agriculture, and economics journals and reference lists of relevant papers, and contacted 27 experts, producing 19,788 results. After removing duplicates, two reviewers independently screened search results, identifying 33 studies for inclusion. We assessed quality of included studies (quality in reference to our research questions, rather than the authors’) using an adapted version of the ROBINS-I tool for quantitative results, and Lockwood, Munn & Porritt tool for qualitative literature. Each quality assessment was conducted independently by two reviewers per paper.

Findings:  There is a pattern of large gender inequities in agriculture, with women earning less, owning less land and livestock, and having heavier work burdens than men. We find a high risk of bias in quantitative results and mixed quality of quantitative results. In the highest quality studies we find that gender equity in income may have substantial effects on food security. We find weaker, less consistent effects on food security as the study quality decreases. Qualitative literature indicates that gender norms determining participation in income-generating activities may constrain these effects. Improvements in the relative distribution of land and livestock between men and women may increase food security and nutritional status, but results range from significantly positive, large effects, to null effects. Again, qualitative evidence indicates that increasing women’s relative control over land and livestock would need to be combined with changes in decision-making and norms across the value chain. Although there was only one quantitative study on work burdens, a clear theme from the qualitative literature was that women have heavy work burdens and lack domestic support from their husbands, and that this limits their time to prepare food, eat an adequate diet, and feed and care for their children.

Conclusions:  Our review shows that there are large gender-based inequities in agriculture, in low- and middle-income countries, with a common trend of female disadvantage. Improving gender equity may have positive impacts on household food security but there is paucity of evidence on diets and nutritional status of women and children. High quality research with stronger causal identification is needed to establish the impact of these exposures on intra-household allocation of food, nutrients and anthropometry. This would help us to better unpack how gender parity could simultaneously tackle multiple global goals to improve nutrition and empower women.


Impact of women’s empowerment policies on nutrition outcomes in Kenya 

Josiah Ateka, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology, Kenya

Introduction:  Malnutrition in its different forms remains widely present globally and the number of people affected stays stubbornly high. The empowerment of women is a pathway that carries special significance for household nutrition outcomes, and in particular for outcomes among the most vulnerable members of the household. Despite its importance, there is little understanding, not least in sub-Saharan Africa, on how women’s empowerment influences household nutritional outcomes. Additionally, women’s empowerment dimensions are often not rigorously measured in existing literature.The main research question in this study, thus, relates to the impact of women’s empowerment policies on nutrition outcomes in Kenya.

Methods:  The study employs pooled National Health Demographic Survey (KDHS) data sets (2003, 2008-2009, and 2014); a nationally-representative data set to investigate the impact of women’s empowerment policies on nutrition outcomes in Kenya. Women’s empowerment was measured using five key indicators: agency in terms of participation in the key household decisions, achievements and access to opportunities, access to or ownership of productive resources, self-worth, and indicators of social relations between spouses; while nutritional outcomes were based on household dietary diversity scores (HDDS), and anthropometric measurements for children under 5 years. The impact of women’s empowerment and nutrition was explored using various pooled cross-section regression models based on the different nutritional indicators.

Findings:  The results show that there was a general improvement in women’s empowerment across all the domains that the study considered over the study period. The results on nutrition outcomes revealed that while dietary patterns are rather diversified (8.73), consumption of Vitamin A (2.73) and iron-rich foods (0.92) is limited, implying high risk of micronutrient deficiency. The results further show that the proportion of stunted children reduced from 27.4 percent in 2003 to 25.2 percent in 2014; wasting of children under 5 reduced from 6.9 percent in 2003 to 5.2 percent in 2014, and the proportion of underweight children (low weight-for-age) reduced from 18.6 percent to 11.5 percent in 2014 (p=0.000). The econometric analysis shows that women’s empowerment has mixed impacts on various nutritional outcomes. While most indicators of empowerment had positive effects on dietary diversity, only those under achievement and access to opportunities had a positive influence on anthropometric measures. This might be because dietary diversity is a poor measure of dietary quality and is poorly correlated with children’s anthropometric measures.

Conclusions:  The paper provides evidence supporting the importance of achievement and access to opportunities for women on the nutritional status of the mothers and their children. The study also shows the benefit of reducing the gender gap and empowering women for improving the nutritional status of households. The paper reflects on the circumstances under which women’s empowerment policies can deliver on nutrition outcomes.


Understanding empowerment among informal milk traders in peri-urban Nairobi: Informing an adaptation of the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

Alessandra Galie, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Introduction:  Developing measures of women’s empowerment is critical for monitoring progress toward the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI) is a survey-based approach for measuring women’s empowerment in agricultural development projects. Herein, we describe how we use formative qualitative research with milk vendors in peri-urban Nairobi to understand empowerment at this node of the dairy value chain and adapt the pro-WEAI for the “MoreMilk: Making the Most of Milk” project, which intervenes with milk vendors in informal markets to improve the quality of milk and expects to empower female milk vendors.

Methods:  The research team conducted six single-sex focus group discussions, 49 semi-structured in-depth interviews, and four key informant interviews with both current and former milk vendors in peri-urban Nairobi, Kenya. Participants were purposefully sampled based on determinants of successful milk trading: having or not having a milk trading license; shop type; sourced milk from farmers or a middle-man. A field team of six bilingual Swahili-English speakers with previous qualitative data collection experience who were trained on the interview guides for this work facilitated the interviews and were notetakers. The interview and discussion guides were structured around known themes related to women’s empowerment and economic productivity: input into productive decisions, ownership of assets, access to financial services, control over use of income, group membership, and work load. Thematic coding of the interview transcripts and notes was conducted in NVivo using both deductive codes (predefined based on the literature and knowledge of the research team) and inductive codes (new themes that emerged during interviews and coding). Codes were then queried to identify patterns in the data across according to gender and other characteristics.

Findings:  We found that emic perceptions of empowerment among milk vendors in Nairobi emphasized success and growth in business endeavors, acquiring new assets to further one’s business and supporting families and communities. Markers of empowerment were often gender-specific and aligned with traditionally-gendered expectations. Only low-value assets are needed to enter the milk trading business, and lack of large assets often limited the growth of businesses, especially for women. Obtaining a license to sell milk is sometimes challenging, but licenses help vendors maintain control over assets, as authorities may seize assets for milk trading when vendors are found selling without a license. Small-scale credit is common for obtaining basic assets, but access to large-scale credit is difficult to obtain and limits the growth of women’s milk businesses. Business and household incomes are mostly maintained separately, which helps women maintain control of their income. Married women (compared to single women) can face more difficulty maintaining control of their income. Participation in savings and credit groups by milk vendors is common and facilitates acquisition of assets. Membership in dairy-traders groups specifically, however, is uncommon, and low involvement in these groups limits the potential for collective action among informal dairy traders.

Conclusions:  We used the findings of this formative research to inform an adaptation of the pro-WEAI specifically for milk vendors. This instrument will allow us to measure women’s empowerment and test the impact of an intervention on women’s empowerment in this sector in a way that allows the results to be compared with other agricultural development projects that use the pro-WEAI. Examples of the adaptations are including specific assets needed by milk vendors (including licenses), changing questions about productive decisions to focus on those related to the milk business, and adding a module on entrepreneurial psychology.


Role of women’s time in agriculture-nutrition linkages: Panel data evidence from rural India

Vidya Vemireddy, Cornell University, USA

Introduction:  Women are often involved in domestic work such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare. In regions such as South Asia and Africa, women play a significant role in agriculture by engaging in various activities such as weeding, transplanting, etc. These multiple roles of women at home and in agriculture translate into severe time burdens and constraints. For example, they have to trade off childcare time with time in agriculture. This study addresses the recent discourse regarding growing concerns that these constraints may have negative consequences for women and child’s nutrition by analyzing the role of women's time constraints on their nutrition.

Methods:  In this study, we use a unique ten-round panel data of 960 women from a primary survey in rural Maharashtra, India. Theoretically, we contribute by developing an economic model for analyzing the impact of women's opportunity cost of time for women on nutrient intake by using the utility maximization framework. Methodologically, we innovate in two ways: i) to get localized and precise estimates of nutrient intakes, we standardized 502 local recipes and ii) to our knowledge, this is the first study to collect detailed 24-hour recall time-use data covering all seasons and all activities: agricultural and non-agricultural. We use an individual fixed-effects methodology to capture the consequences of changing time spent in agriculture across seasons on women's nutrition. We control for seasonal effects, all time-invariant women-level variables, community-level variables, and time effects to identify the impact on nutritional outcomes. We also conduct a sub-sample analysis to see how cropping patterns, land-ownership, and women’s education is either enhancing or mitigating the effect of time on nutrition.

Findings:  Trends in time allocation of women: We find that women contribute to both agricultural and domestic activities. Their time spent in agriculture is significantly high during sowing and harvesting seasons; they cut back on time for domestic work and personal care activities. Impact on the nutrient intakes: After controlling for seasonal, community, and individual-level factors, the individual-level fixed-effects estimates show that an increase in wages (opportunity cost of time) decreases the intakes of calories, protein, fats, iron, zinc, and vitamin A. Specifically, it reflects that a 100-rupee increase in a woman’s agricultural wages (opportunity cost of time) a day leads to a decline in her calories by 112.3Kcal, 0.7 mg iron, 0.4 mg of zinc and 1.5 grams of protein. We conduct several robustness checks to confirm these results. Sub-sample analysis: We find evidence of similar effects in food crop system (paddy producing region) and mixed-crop systems and these negative consequences are much stronger if a woman belongs to a family with small land-holding size.

Conclusions:  In this study, we find that the rising opportunity cost of time for women has a negative effect on nutrient intake. We also conduct a sub-sample analysis to see how cropping patterns, land-ownership, and women’s education is either enhancing or mitigating the negative effects. Given that women already face major micronutrient deficiencies, further reduction in micronutrient intakes can be detrimental. This study suggests that future interventions in agriculture need to factor in the impact of women's time to mitigate any negative consequences on nutrition. This research also highlights the importance of and the need for labor-saving technologies and women’s empowerment.

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