Gender equality plays a pivotal role in food security, poverty reduction, and overall development. In a new project note, an ongoing project from IFPRI’s Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division looks at how women in Africa can be better integrated into emerging high-value cash crop production markets.
More smallholder farmers in developing countries have turned to the production of high-value cash crops. This cash cropping has been found to increase household income; however, men control the majority of this new income. In addition, although women provide labor for cash crops, men often perform all of the market-facing activities.
This imbalance can have several negative repercussions. Women may have fewer incentives to contribute to agricultural productivity if they have no say over the income generated by that work. In addition, researchers have found that men may be less likely to spend money on household food security, nutrition, and health services.
The Farm and Family Balance project has tested two approaches to increasing women’s integration into and returns from cash crop value chains in Uganda. The project partnered with Kakira Sugar Limited (KSL), the largest sugarcane processing company in Uganda, and with around 2,400 smallholder farming households that sell sugarcane to this processor. While the company has no specific policy regarding gender, the vast majority of its contracts are signed with men.
Households included in the interventions participated in a baseline survey in which the husband and wife were interviewed separately regarding household demographics and agriculture, including labor and non-labor inputs, employment and non-agricultural income, assets, savings, children’s health and nutrition, and women’s empowerment. Households were then randomly assigned to receive one, both, or neither of the project interventions.
The first intervention consisted of a couples-based Family Vision Workshop that focused on cooperation between spouses, gender sensitivity, and women’s participation in cash crop production. The second intervention encouraged male heads of household to transfer an existing sugarcane contract to their wife or to allow their wife to register a new contract in her own name. Women who hold contracts under their own name are more involved in market-facing activities and production decisions. They also can receive agricultural inputs on credit and directly receive cash advances and final payments from the sugarcane processor.
The project team found that households’ interest in the workshop was high. Seventy-four percent of invited couples attended at least two days of the three-day workshop.
In addition, take-up of the contract intervention was also high. Seventy-eight percent of households initially agreed to either transfer an existing contract or register a new contract to the wife’s name. In the end, 71 percent of the households offered the intervention formally completed the transfer and registration process. Of that 71 percent, 83 percent registered a new contract, 18 percent transferred an existing contract, and 5 percent registered or transferred more than one contract to the wife’s name. Take-up of the contract intervention was higher among households that also attended the workshop than among those that didn’t (74 percent vs. 68 percent).
As a result of the interventions, the number of women in the sample who directly own a contract has increased significantly. In addition, because registration of a contract requires a bank account, the interventions have also increased the number of women with bank accounts.
These initial results suggest that both the contract intervention model and the couples-based workshops could be effective approaches to increase gender equality and agricultural productivity among smallholder farmers.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI