Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Assessment of EAS and Approaches to Reach Rural Women: Examples from Kenya

Kenya has over the years embraced extension services as a means through which information is passed on to farmers. Historically, crop-based or livestock extension services have been advanced through the Ministry of Agriculture. There are now many types of extension service providers, which include commodity-based organizations targeting specific crops like tea, sugar, coffee etc., church or religious based organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and cooperative societies. The issue of whether the extension approaches employed have been mindful of the different gender roles and needs is considered in this review.

Through an analysis of peer-reviewed literature, a number of key extension approaches were identified as being used in Kenya. The main ones are focal area approach (FAA), common interest group, farmer field schools (FFS), ICTs, farmer-farmer extension, training, value chains, and community groups.  Of these, the ones used to reach rural women are mainly targeted courses, FFS and FAAs. In terms of successes of these approaches, the ones that advocate social mobilization, group identity and empowering women to be able to make decisions are documented as success factors.  Despite these successful approaches, there are still many constraints in reaching rural women. These are documented as those approaches that lack focus on the poorest farmers, exclusion of women with no land or lower social status from group activities, inadequate institutional support for women, complexities of ICTs which do not address the illiterate sector, many of which are rural women farmers, lack of recognition of women as agricultural producers, and male extension agents having bias against women farmers. 

An analysis of grey literature confirmed what was written in the peer-reviewed literature.  The most common extension approaches being used in Kenya are field days, demonstrations, farmer visits, ICTs, trails, FAAs, tours, and FFS. Out of these, the ones that promote social mobilization are used to target women (SHGs, demonstrations, groups, courses).

In terms of constraints, recurring themes in the grey literature are the high levels of illiteracy, especially among the poorest, to be able to make use of extension services as well as the high cost associated with access; e.g., of internet access, which makes services out of reach, especially by the poorest.  These are highlighted below:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Extension in Kenya is delivered via knowledge-sharing forums or participatory-based methodologies. However, knowledge integration generally occurs at the farm or household level.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Low literacy skills, management ability, negotiating capacity, and financial facility by small-scale farmers, especially in adoption of high value enterprises.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Gender inequalities in ownership of resources like land, which reduce women’s access to extension services, credit, information, etc.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->In some cases, women are not regarded as “economically active” farmers; hence they tend to be excluded from membership of farmer groups and cooperatives. This makes it very difficult to access or demand public extension services.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Extension services are mostly designed for commercial farmers who grow cash crops, but most women farmers are smallholders who grow subsistence food crops.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Extension service providers usually expect women to find them in the extension spaces/venues, but there may be social, cultural, or religious constraints. Moreover, limiting factors like educational opportunities, cultural and discriminatory practices, and lack of capacity constrain women’s equal participation in extension-related endeavors.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Women’s multiple roles constrain their time and mobility, and consequently their availability to participate in different extension activities.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Higher proportions of them are illiterate, engage in subsistence agriculture and are not up to date with current technologies.

Despite these constraints a number of success factors were identified in the grey literature.  Field days and demonstrations were found to be effective by both farmers and extension agents. This may be linked to the ability to reach many farmers as well as stakeholders. Farmers, on the other hand, preferred individual farm visits, because they tend to be farmer demands driven and extension agents tend to provide personalized attention to their specific needs. The new ICT-related methods of extension are also becoming popular but are constrained by infrastructural challenges.

The focal area approach (FAA) has been extensively linked to the success of the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Program (NALEP). In addition, other community-based approaches - namely farmers field schools (FFS) and common interest groups (CIGs) - have been found to be positively impacting farmers and, in some cases, women. These approaches focus on taking local contexts into account, understanding the social setup, learning from local indigenous knowledge, and using multiple social networks as entry points into farming communities.

The common interest groups (CIGs) approach was found to be the most effective because of its ability to mobilize women due to its social nature and the multiple entry points for extension agents.

The case studies confirmed what was written in the literature.  The case studies have demonstrated that rural women do benefit from rural extension and advisory services even if the approaches are not targeting them directly.  Where deliberate efforts are made to target women the impacts of extension are considerable. Rural extension services and technologies that are sensitive and responsive to women move household dynamics (e.g., the gender division of labor) in favor of women. The case studies demonstrate that appropriate targeting and providing them with knowledge greatly enhances women’s ability to make informed social and economic decisions.

The case studies also indicate that no single extension method is sufficient by itself.  A combination of different extension and advisory methods that complement each other yield better results. Selecting the methods that fit the social setting and context is critical. The packaging of extension messages must be sensitive to community practices and beliefs for ease of adoption and uptake. Combing extension services with grants/financing for procurement of resources for the implementation of activities facilitates quicker adoption of technology and scaling up rural enterprises that mostly benefit women.  It was also clear from the case studies that women require follow-up support on a continuous basis to see any long-term benefits and change. Above all, reaching rural women requires time, energy, resources, commitment, and a political will to drive behavioral change.