Assessment of EAS and Approaches to Reach Rural Women: Examples from Bangladesh
Very few peer-reviewed journal papers are available on agricultural extension in general. Of the papers that are available, they are focused on holistic approaches that are being used such as villages, groups, whole family training, and farmer field schools (FFS). These few documents discuss approaches that are being used specifically to reach women. The only information we were able to find was on the group approach, such as farmer field schools, thrift and credit, and use of ICTs and training. However, none of these were focused on women farmers. Entrepreneurship was also mentioned as an approach to reaching women.
Some of the literature did identify success factors for reaching women. The main ones use a bottom-up approach, which focuses on building groups, e.g., FFSs. The sustainability of these groups depends on financial, institutional, human, and social capital. Combining extension with an economic activity is also highlighted. From a gender perspective, making women’s work visible is highlighted as significant to achieving family cooperation by working with whole family approaches, as this will go some way towards raising the profile of women.
In terms of constraints, there is a need to change the existing picture of gender inequality. Women are seen as beneficiaries rather than as participants in the development process. There was also some evidence suggesting that there is a need to address culture and local context in extension processes.
The grey literature reviewed highlighted three types of extension approaches being used in Bangladesh: FFSs, T&V, and ICTs. Out of these, only one paper mentioned the need to modify the FFS approach as a way of reaching rural women. A few papers identified factors for success of the FFS approach, including the need for appropriate training and monitoring FFS facilitators, as well as synchronizing activities with the cropping season. The only evidence on constraints noted was on the T&V system, namely lack of resources, poor flow of information, poor monitoring system, weak attempts at developing capacities of staff and frequent transfers. Further evidence on approaches to reaching women was identified from a range of NGOs working in Bangladesh. Of this information, five approaches to reaching rural women were identified. These are: creating a social infrastructure (e.g., union federations), value chain development, SHGs (e.g., for thrift and credit), ICTs, and women extension workers.
The case studies conducted support what was identified in the literature. The creation of strong social organizations is central to reaching rural women, e.g., through the formation of union federations and using groups approaches like FFS for training and building entrepreneurial skills. This approach seems to have a degree of flexibility and is participatory. There is also evidence to suggest that ICTs have the potential to reach rural women. The case studies highlight that reaching rural women effectively requires long-term presence, commitment in terms of human and financial resources, and the engagement of a number of stakeholders. The case studies also show that much of the initiatives being implemented via these approaches heavily depend on the resources and ability of women farmers to adapt.