by Patrick Bell
“We don’t have power. Men have power over everything in the home. You can work hard in his garden but he won’t pay you anything.” – A woman farmer, and member of NAMUBUKA
In August, Vasudha Pangare spent two weeks in eastern Uganda. Vasudha is a gender consultant who does gender analyses and leads training on gender integration tools. LWR staff and our partner organization, NAMUBUKA, participated in this training as part of a two-year project that seeks to strengthen gender integration throughout our international programming.
What is Gender Integration?
Gender integration means looking at the different experiences of men and women and then identifying and responding to the gaps that exist between them. For example, we may be working on a project that is intended to provide better quality seeds and training in improved farming techniques for men and women farmers. But in many places women have inferior land to grow their crops on, or they are so burdened with domestic work that they do not have time to put the improved farming techniques into practice. When this happens there is a clear gap between men and women in terms of their opportunity to benefit from the project. A gender integrated approached to project planning attempts to close those gaps.
Assessing the Differences
With support from Vasudha, LWR Uganda staff, Evelyn Nassuna and Geoffrey Mabirizi, led a workshop on gender integration with 25 men and women from NAMUBUKA in the town of Iganga, 120 kilometers east of Kampala. The farmers listed the different stages it a farmer must go through to get maize from a seed to a profitable crop (the maize “value chain”). This entire value chain includes everything from the purchase of seeds, through the planting and harvesting process, to the marketing and selling of their produce. They then split into separate groups of men and women and wrote down the degree of involvement of men and women at each stage in the chain.
The differences between their answers were quite revealing. As the charts above show, men and women had vastly different perceptions of how they share their work loads. The contrasting answers led to an open discussion of these gaps and the men acknowledged that there are key stages in the value chain that they monopolize. The analysis of these findings is an important step in the gender integration process.
After this, they did a similar exercise to explore the quality of relationships between farmers and other value chain actors, again identifying the differences for men and women. Each group wrote out the stages in the value chain on separate cards and gave the cards to different members in the group. The person holding the card identifying them as the farmer stood at one end of the room and then the other actors were spaced out along the length of the room. The distance between the actors and the farmer reflected the quality of the relationship the farmer has with that actor. By doing this in separate groups, the men and women farmers were able to see quite graphically how their experiences within the same activity are quite different.
This activity revealed that women farmers feel that they have a weak relationship with the choices and negotiations around the type of seeds and fertilizers they can use and the land they are able to farm on. This is because women traditionally have little control over the family’s financial assets because men have much greater access to credit than and men have far greater mobility than women. Men often use bicycles to travel, but cycling is seen as a taboo for women among Ugandan farmer communities. It is also commonly the case that within the same families, men generally take the larger, better plots of land to farm on, leaving smaller, less fertile plots to their wives. They then expect their wives to work for them for free (which is another reason why men often have several wives) and expect any money made from the women’s produce to be used to cover the expenses of raising their children.
Another area where the differences are marked – and one where both groups agree that men hold a monopoly – is marketing. The process of market research and linkage, taking the produce to the market, price negotiation, and the receiving of cash, is dominated by men, largely due to their access to transport. There are also underlying beliefs that women are ill-equipped to negotiate sales because they do not understand the use of weighing scales, and they are less educated than men.
Now that NAMABUKA, Evelyn and Geoffrey have first-hand information about the challenges Ugandan maize farmers experience, they will be able to better address the needs of men and women individually. The next step for LWR Uganda will be to design a program that allows both men and women to benefit equally. Watch for our updates as this process develops.
The LGI 4 project continues, with gender integration training for LWR and partner staff in India in September, and Nicaragua in October.