The Economic Empowerment of Women in Agriculture in Africa and South Asia

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Solution Scenario Concept: The male bias in the gender mix in Africa’s agricultural institutions is sobering. In ten countries in Africa, 90 percent or more of the agricultural scientists are male (Figure 1). Moreover, the research and knowledge base on how to help increase the economic empowerment of women in Africa is patchy even though women are major producers of food crops, important traders in local markets and diligent workers in non farm employment. Part of this reason for the gender gap is a carry over from early gender research that focused on whether women worked longer hours than men and whether they gained or lost in the commercialization of farming. For example, when Ester Boserup published her path–breaking book Woman’s Role in Economic Development (1970), she charged that women “lose in the development process” because agricultural development projects can lead to an increase in women’s work load and a reduction in the workload of men. But Boserup’s assertion was not supported by rigorous empirical research. To test the Boserup hypothesis, Spencer (1976) carried out a study of an agricultural development project in Sierra Leone and found that the new technology increased women’s work load slightly but the increase was much less than the increase in the workload of adult males and children. Spencer rejected Boserup’s emphasis on the number of hours worked and called for research on the returns per hour of work and the profitability of farming. But after decades of research, there is a lack of understanding on how to help rural women gain economic empowerment through three pathways out of poverty: farming, rural nonfarm employment and migration to market towns and cities.

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WorldAgInfo Project Solution Scenario 6: Gender Issues. Based on the deliberations of participant groups in Workshop 1, the WorldAgInfo Design Team drafted a problems and solutions summary document (available within Section Three of the Final Report). This is one of several potential solution scenarios to emerge through that process. These were in turn used to inform proposed information projects generated by Workshop 2 participants in Livingstone, Zambia (available within Section Two of the Final Report).


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World Ag Info Project


Information Systems; Agriculture; ICT; Agricultural Development; International Development; Agricultural Education


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