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

Consultation Topic: Gender, Resilience, and Sustainability

This discussion will focus on research opportunities related to gender, resilience and sustainability in the context of food security and nutrition.  Meaningful knowledge generation on agriculture and food systems for nutrition, requires agreement on indicators to measure each step of change, but in many areas these measurement tools are lacking and a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be measured remains an unfinished agenda.  Likewise, though we recognize that gender plays a central role within the food systems to nutrition pathway, there is a need to better understand the causal relationships within the pathways and how we can better leverage gender to facilitate strong agriculture-nutrition linkages. Finally, climate change and population growth are of paramount importance for resilience and sustainability of food systems and nutrition. 

We encourage you to actively engage by sharing your experience and thoughts on additional areas for research. Your engagement will inform USAID as it shapes its priorities for nutrition and food systems investments into the future.

Click Add New Comment below to start or join the conversation. Please consider these questions as they relate to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab literature review (See Event Resources to the right): 

  • What interplays between gender dynamics and food systems do we still need to unpack and what knowledge needs to be generated to help development practitioners best design services that maximize both men and women’s contributions to family health?  
  • Are we missing any important research questions related to food systems, nutrition, healthy diets, resilience and sustainability? What gaps in the current research discussions have you found?  
  • What short-, medium-, and long-term outcome measures are missing to measure change in agriculture and food systems for nutrition?  
  • What is the outstanding research agenda for resilience and sustainable food systems and nutrition?     
  • What remains to be done to help guide the development of harmonized measurements for consumer outcomes (food-groups and dietary diversity indicators)? Are there other measurements we should be considering? 

This discussion will remain open from November 12-17 2019. Moderated discussions will take place:

  • November 15, 10-12 AM EST (UCT 15:00-17:00), Ina Schønberg, Director of Food Security and Resilience, USAID Advancing Nutrition
  • November 17, 10 pm -12 AM EST (November 16, UCT 3:00-5:00), Amanda Crump, Assistant Professor of Teaching in International Agricultural Development, UC Davis

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Welcome to the forum on gender, resilience, and sustainability. While we welcome comments at any time, please use the questions above to guide the conversation. Additonally, please join us for the following moderated discussions on this forum: 

  • November 15, 10-12 AM EST (UCT 15:00-17:00), moderated by Ina Schønberg, Director of Food Security and Resilience, USAID Advancing Nutrition
  • November 18, 10 pm -12 AM EST (UCT 3:00-5:00), moderated by Amanda Crump, Assistant Professor of Teaching in International Agricultural Development, UC Davis

Hi everyone! I’m Amanda Crump, professor at University of California, Davis and part of USAID Advancing Nutrition. My research group focuses on women, people living with disabilities, and displaced peoples. I’m really excited about this discussion. Welcome, welcome!

Please scroll to the bottom to comment!

Thank you for helping us. In this e-consultation, we will be focused on the literature review and the presentation. You will find the literature review here: https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00W5W7.pdf

Today we are validating the findings, identifying research that wasn’t captured, and learning from you about what would be helpful. We will be talking about gender, resiliency and sustainability today!

We'd like to remind everyone that the discussion will continue through next Monday November 18th, so please feel free to comment anytime, on any topic. Please note that you may need to refresh your web browser to see new comments. Additionally, please follow this link to watch a short 10-minute video focused on this topic: gender, resilience, and sustainability. 

Let's change our approach on climate change and work with nature rather than against it. Let’s explore and expand our mindset from climate emergency to climate opportunity. Moving the date could deliver wealth & wellbeing and nature can provide all that if we work collaboratively. For too long the approach has been fragmented and that has to end today if we have any chance of achieving climate mitigation.

Agricultural development is a complex process of interaction between the physical input - output relations of the agricultural system and the social and economic milieu of the national economy in a dynamic equilibrium. Land use planning and irrigation are strategic planning exercise to assess the future potential of the agricultural sector and achieve accelerated growth through judicious management of land and water resources.

Africa today is facing a critical situation in relation to land use planning. Since past 50 decades, Sub-Saharan countries have been recording shortage of food, shortages of pasture lands and fast depletion of the forest wealth are assuming serious proportions. As a consequence of various development endeavors ecological imbalances (e.g. soil erosion and water pollution, are growing adversely affecting the agricultural productivity). Unless special efforts are made towards preservation of the land, water and vegetative resources of the Sub-Saharan Countries and its long term sustainable use, the food grains and other basic needs of the country's population cannot be met, food security and self-reliance cannot be assured and enhanced livelihood security to the millions in  Sub-Saharan African cannot be ensured.

Long lasting solutions will require rethinking of rural development and smallholder agriculture towards structural transformations that include and benefit the poor. Improved farming systems and new technologies and business models that can create decent jobs, allow the overcoming of resource constraints, enable greater market participation, and also lessen physical hardships in agriculture, particularly for women and youth.

Sorry but I will be tied up during the discussions tomorrow, so please allow me to make my main comments in advance.

As I mentioned in the initial webinar, with all the work on women empowerment implying that most women are in an adversarial relationship with thier partners. That really makes for unpleasant living. Thus, my questions is what percent of women are in an adversarial relationship with thier partners vs. what percent are in a collaborative relationship. I think most are in a more collaborative relationship. 

Also, given womens taking the lead on domestic chores and unfortunately these take daily priority over economic activities, what percent of women time and energy are consume with domestic chore, leaving what percent of time available for economic efforts, either assisting their partners or independent of their partners? Again I expect most of their time and available caloric energy is consumed by the domestic drudgery leaving little time for economic activities.

Related to this is how much can we assist woment but addressing the domestic drudgery problems, will that lead to improved overall economic well being and less domestic conflict. As mentioned in the webinar I noted the initial mechanization in rural Africa was the maize mill that eliminated the heavy drudgery of maize pounding. It would be nice to have been able to determine the economic input of the maize mills in terms of improved agronomy as well as improved nutrition. Unfortunately, the opportunity is lost as the maize mill are fact accompli across the contenient and the only pounding is for speciality crops. This would also apply to improving domestic water supply, which is a major undertaking. Can we look at the economic impact of that as mentioned above.

Finally, if dietary energy is in short supply as I have harped upon over the e-consultation would the daily allocation of food be in proprotion to the expected level of individual family memebers exersion. Thus if the husband was expected to spend his limited energy on hoeing for land preparation & crop establishment, while the the wife was going to do domestic chores followed by some homestead weeding, shouldn't the husband receive a larger portion of the available food? How often does that senerio play out.

I know this isn't everyone's favorite answer, but "it depends." To your question, "what percent of women are in an adversarial relationship with thier partners vs. what percent are in a collaborative relationship," it depends. Ever household is different. I once sat at a table with three men from Bangladesh. We were discussing the management of household finances. And each one of them told me something different. 

Research is showing more and more that there are no hard and fast rules about how "gender works." A recent article dug into the nuances of household decision making, finding that knowledge of a topic plays a role as well as gender in Senegal. The article is found here

I don't think anyone would argue that if a person is hungry, it is more difficult to work. And it certainly doesn't help if a woman is pregnant. 

Kristi - These are excellent points. There are many projects now where NGOs are implementing various models of promoting and coaching 'couples' discussion and decision-making around a variety of topics - including budgeting, spending, farming/livelihood/investing decisions, and child care and schooling. I heard first-hand in Karamoja Uganda about how these had changed household dynamics and actions - especially where the men were being encouraged to be role models for their peers. Not everyone bought it -but it started to create change. Linking researchers with implementing agencies can help improve the quality of evidence in this area. 

My experience in Africa about the distribution of calories and nutrition in family diets was explained in the kinds of terms Richard has described... 'Men must be healthy for the family to survive because without their labour, there is no crop.' One horrible consequence of that has been the neglect of nutrition in young children’s' diets because 'they don't' contribute'. In a calorie insecure landscape, this might make some sense. One might also argue that this sort of distribution is a way males keep control over women and reproduction. Richard referred to levels of labour... It is not clear to me that carrying a large bag of grain on one's head to a distant mill, something women generally do, is easy compared to what men do. I have also observed tilling and planting where the male guides the plow being pulled by an animal while the spouse plants each seed in the fresh furrow. Which takes more energy? I don't know. So for a research perspective, maybe those roles across lots of systems need to be studied to separate the myth from the reality.

My organization, Farm Radio International, has a major project in West Africa called "Her Voice On Air" and our digital polling platform (Uliza) might help answer some of the important questions.

Cheers

David

 

Farm Radio is a great resource - here's their publications page - https://publications.farmradio.org/

Thank you Ina

David

Note to the organizers: Next time can you get a discussion apt with a comprehensive spell and grammer checker. It will make for easier reading. Some of us are not the best spellers and I appology for all my typos during the discussion. 

Thank for the clarification Richard, I second that.

We appreciate your feedback Richard, we will take it into account. Thank you for your continued participation! 

I noted the same challenge so for longer posts I have been copying them into a blank Word document, doing the spell correction and then pasting back into the discussion window.

You can also edit your post after it goes up !

Another angle to the gneder lens on food systems is women's market engagement - as sellers as well as consumers. Did specific ways to support this positive engagement come up in the literature review, or are there program examples?  

Welcome to this e-consultation session on Gender, Resilience and Sustainability! My name is Ina Schonberg, and I will be co-moderating this session. As the Director for Food Security and Nutrition with the USAID Advancing Nutrition Project, I am pleased to engage in the kind of cross-organizational and cross-continental dialgoue that this platform provides. 

The discussion will center on the literature review (see the document available at the top of the page under RESOURCES).  We hope to validate the findings, identify current research that was not captured in the literature, and seek your input on what kinds of research will be helpful to the work of people and organizations that design and implement nutrition programs in developing countries.

We'll outline a few key findings from the literature review, and together will share ideas and insights that will help to identify gaps and opportunities for research on food systems and nutrition. In particular, we'll focus on interplays between gender dynamics and food systems; consider measurement of outcomes and harmonization issues; and seek inputs on the research agenda on these topics.

The literature review identified that women's time and energy stresses can reduce their practice of optimal caregiving, and create stresses to their own health. This is well documented. However, there is an absence of indicators of time and resource allocation. Research opportunities exist to conduct qualitative studies on the interplays between gender dynamics, particularly to understand time burdens, access to credit and household budget and spending decisions, and men's engagement in child care and nutrition decisions.  Where do practitioners and researchers see convergence in learning opportunities?

The concept of resiliency and the sustainability of our food systems is crucial if we are to achieve food and nutrition security in the face of climate change and population growth. The literature review pointed out that a crucial dimension of food systems for resilience and nutrition is the diversity of agricultural production, which also contributes to sustainability. More diversity of production reduces the risks from pest outbreaks and pathogen transmission. When they can, small farmers everywhere often diversify their planting locations, crop varieties, and sometimes their crop choices, as a hedge against erratic weather. This is more important than ever in the face of climate change.  What research questions are key to understanding the nutritional links, opportunities and better practices, within the production, storage, distribution and processing aspects of the food system? 

The literature review cited evidence that linked short term changes to long term sustainability and socio-economic security. It also noted that 2/3 of the global dietary energy intake is from rice, maize and wheat alone. Meanwhile the global supply of pulses, fruits and vegetables falls short of recommended requirements. Where can evidence be built to identify whqt support systems can effectively incentivize more diverse cropping systems by small-holders? Would regional/climate sensitive modeling scenarios for optimal on-farm crop mixtures and rotations that are most beneficial for improved resiliency be helpful? Is it useful to assess trade-offs in investments to support healthy diets vs. promoting resilience and sustainability? At what level (household/market/system)? Can both be achieved? How can program experience better inform research agendas in this area? 

I think some critical information that we need to unpack around the interplay between gender dynamics and the food system relates to women’s physical mobility, agency, self-efficacy, and the ability to access nutrient dense foods. This information will be contextually dependent and should be well understood as we design and plan interventions promoting nutrient dense foods. In a paper from Bangladesh, Zongrone et al highlight that women’s self-efficacy is a potential determinate for feeding and care behaviors. However, there are divergent findings in specific feeding behaviors so that certain practices, such as feeding green leafy vegetables was more likely to be adopted than eggs. The point being that women cannot have self-efficacy for behaviors that are prohibited under the existing social constructs e.g. access to markets.

You are so right - social and behavior change (or 'demand creation' for the more private sector oriented) is as important as getting the supply side of the food system together. This means understanding what is feasible, not just what is desirable. I wonder whether another research opportunity is understanding better how these two sides of the equation fit together - and designing programs and approaches with greater nuance and partnership. To borrow from the behavior change community - we need to really understand what are small, incremental, do-able actions. Not just at the household level - but what incremental actions by market and public actors will make a difference at a system level.  

Measurement of food system characteristics for better nutrition is an area that is wide open. Looking at the pathways to change, what short-, medium, and long-term outcome measures remain to be developed to measure change in agirculture and food system for nutrition?  At the household level, dietary assessment methods are varied.  What guidance and research is needed to harmonize food group and dietary diversity indicators - looking across the spectrum from individual to household, to market and overall food systems?  Can standardized indices for evaluating market interventions be useful for and adapted for localized contexts, including affordability questions? 

Hello all, this is to inform you that we are currently piloting a project called CASCAPE Nutrition and Gender (CANAG) in Ethiopia. One of its components is increase women’s ability to contribute to nutrition security in two ways. (1) Reducing the labour burden of women through the introduction of labour saving technologies related to home garden production and processing. (2) Piloting an approach to work on intra-household dynamics. We are planning to organize a workshop soon and present our lessons to stakeholders. If you are interested, you can approach me by selamawit.benefit@gmail.com. 

Can you share here how you are documenting what you have learned?  Did you have specific learning or research questions? Or will your findings come out of a project evaluation process?  What questions remain?

New research into well-being is raising questions about longer term health outcomes for both children and adults. Beyond anthropometric measures of stunting and wasting, dialogue is turning to neuro-cognition, body composition, and head circumference. Learning around the impacts of and how to influence the gut biome are other longer term research topics. Which are the most practical questions of impact meaurement for practitioners and implementing agencies ?

 Which are more resilient and for whom, local food systems, regional foods systems, or global food systems?

This is a great question! The answer is so different depending on infrastructure, poverty levels, degree of engagement in the cash economy. Context is everything isn't it!  I'd love to see us all sufficiently disciplined to add qualifiers - local food system, regional food system, national/urban food system - because the variables, pathways, objectives and investment priorities are so very different. We need better contextual analysis in many instances. 

I agree. We need a kind of dictionary of terms used so we know what each one talks about.

Interesting and important question. I would add the measurement of women contribution to food system resilience. 

Gender plays an important role along food systems to nutrition pathways.  Women represent a large portion of the agricultural sector yet are often subject to barriers such as limited decision making and mobility/autonomy that constrain their income generation and food consumption choices for themselves and their families. 

Agricultural production, market commerce and agro-industry participation can empower women - moreso when credit access is facilitated and women have the power to make credit-related and financial decisions. Research indicates 'group membership' - which can facilitate this pathway - is often low amongst women. Services must be designed to engage with and be accessed by women.  Further action research may be helpful to enhance the evidence base around better program design to support women in this area.  What else is needed?

Gender plays an important role along food systems to nutrition pathways.  Women represent a large portion of the agricultural sector yet are often subject to barriers such as limited decision making and mobility/autonomy that constrain their income generation and food consumption choices for women and their families. 

Agricultural production and agro-industry participation can empower women - moreso when credit access is facilitated and women have the power to make credit related decisions. Research indicates 'group membership' which can facilitate this pathway - is often low amongst women.  Services must be designed to engage with and be accessed by women.  Further action research may be helpful to enhance the evidence base around better program design in this area.  What else is needed?

Another key issue in considering the resilience of food systems for good nutrition is the anticipated reduction in agricultural productivity, viable geographic range, and nutritional qualities of key food crops. Scientists and NGOs have documented these challenges from a researcher's and implementing agency's perspective.

One of many studies in this area (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49167-0) documents and models reduced productivity in West Africa. They identify opportunities for adaptation:  "Increasing crop tolerance to high temperatures during the flowering period and increasing cultivars’ thermal time requirement have been found to be the most promising technical options amongst a large variety of realistic adaptation options for the production of sorghum and millet (late sowing, increased planting density, fertilizer use and water harvesting and use of cultivars with larger thermal time requirements and greater resilience to heat stress). However, we lack knowledge on the crop production losses induced by climate change, which is a basis for exploring how much adaptation of production systems to specific crop costs, although some estimates of aggregated adaptation costs for agriculture at the continental or global level are available."  

Other studies have looked beyond production to declining nutrient content under hotter average temperatures, higher CO2 levels, and depleted soil quality. A wide variety of drought and flood tolerant varieties, and biofortified crops with higher than typical micro-nutrient values can help (see a variety of studies at:  https://www.harvestplus.org/). 

NGOs have heard from farmers around the world that farming is changing. For example, in Central America, the viable locations for bean production is projected to diminish significantly, with obvious implications for the local food system, and poor households that rely on localized production as well as the market. Predictions have been born out, with the 'dry corridor' in Central Amercia now a source of emigration. (https://www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/tortillas-on-the-roaster-full-report_0.pdf  , https://reliefweb.int/report/el-salvador/tortillas-roaster,  https://reliefweb.int/report/honduras/honduras-years-drought-pressure-farmers-leave-land )

How can these factors around declining productivity and quality be incorporated into localized food systems analysis, evidence development and program planning for inclusive, resilient food systems that deliver nutritious diets? 

We'd like to thank all who participated in this forum today, and encourage everyone to keep the conversation going! As a reminder, the discussions will continue through Monday, November 18th. Please see our e-consultation homepage for the full schedule of events.

Hi everyone! I’m Amanda Crump, professor at University of California, Davis and part of USAID Advancing Nutrition. My research group focuses on women, people living with disabilities, and displaced peoples. I’m really excited about this discussion. Welcome, welcome!

Thank you for helping us. In this e-consultation, we will be focused on the literature review and the presentation. You will find the literature review here: https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00W5W7.pdf

 

Today we are validating the findings, identifying research that wasn’t captured, and learning from you about what would be helpful. 

We will be talking about gender, resiliency and sustainability today!

First question for today: 

Gender plays an important role along the food systems to nutrition pathways. Women represent a large portion of the agricultural sector yet are often subject to barriers such as limited decision making and mobility/autonomy that constrain their income generation and food consumption choices for her and her family. 

What interplays between gender dynamics and food systems do we still need to unpack and what knowledge needs to be generated to help development practitioners best design services that maximize both men and women’s contributions to family health?

This is a great and very open question. I have not seen good, reliable data on womens' power/role in decision making. I suspect it varies. In cultures with more than a single partner to the male head of household, who really holds power? In more western "traditional" single, formal partner homes is decision making divided. E.g. are decisions about small children and their nutrition left to women but big decsions like land ownership and the major crops for cash left to men? As someone pointed out earlier in this discussion, "it depends". I once documented a CIAT project in Uganda (led at the time by Dr Sonia David) where women's groups were trained to become seed producers for bean varieties. I first met two such groups in 1996. One of the groups told me about how Dr Sonni had met with them under the mango tree to set up the group. I returned three years later to do a follow-up visit. The first group had been decimated by the Lord's Resistance Army and was not functioning at all. The second group, the one formed under the mango tree, was thriving. The only problem is, it was now dominated by men. Because that was where the money was, and they took control.

Power relations are very interesting to think about. Because they differ, like you say, depending on culture. But they also vary within each household, even among women. We did some research here at UC Davis in Uganda looking at power structures and traditional women's cropping systems that were now dominated by men. We found that if women could be regarded as experts, they could hold onto their cropping system longer. So, education but also empowerment was key, in that study. It was the womens' ability to negotiate a better situation for themselves because they held knowledge. I suspect that is the same thing with nutritional decisions. But, we need to ensure that the women are supported and never disempowered. Still so much to learn. 

I think, women in smallholder agriculture experience number of problems. One of the problems is lack of power to decide on the type of crop to grow. My experience in Africa RISING in Ethiopian Highlands project, a USAID Feed-the-Future funded research for development (R4D) project, when conducting nutrition assessment survey is worth mentioning here. We ask the husband to tell us the size of the land, the amount of crop harvested and estimated the income of the household, and then we aks the wife to tell us dietary consumption for the family, children under two and five. The need to empower women to have an equal decision and knowledge on the type of crop to produce both for consumption and market largely determine nutrition pathways through gender. The other institutional context we found was also related to the poor linkage between key organisations promoting nutrition and agriculture as we look at agriculture pathways to address nutrition. The ministry of health promotion health and nutrition and they have health extension workers advising women farmers to prepare nutritious food for their young children, while the ministry of agriculture promotes crop and livestock production and advice male farmers to produce food to achieve ood security. For me, the dynamics between gender, agriculture and health are key areas to explore further to inform policy that supports the integration and close collaboration of key organisations to work together to empower women to contribute to family nutrition. I can share two briefs from 240 household nutrition surveys that focussed on mothers and children under five.  

Thank you for this comment. And thank you in advance for sharing the briefs. I worked on INGENAES which looked at extension, gender and nutrition and we found similar things. We also learned that empowering men worked to actually further women's empowerment in some situations. 

Thank you. So much!

Thank you for sharing. 

I am also, totally happy to chat about anything. What kinds of things were missing from the literature review? What should we do next? 

Three pathways have been proposed through which gender mediates the relationship between agricultural production, livestock, diet diversity, and nutritional status; 1) agricultural production and agro industry participation can itself be a way of empowering women, 2) agricultural and food acquisition and preparation time requirements and labor can have trade-offs with childcare practices, and 3) risks associated with women’s agricultural and agro industry labor could contribute to intergenerational undernutrition.

However, I would like us to dive in deeper. If we take a more critical look at gender and nutrition, we have to consider the roles of society and policies in replicating these gender-mediated relationships. What strategies can we use to disrupt the status quo? What works where you live and work?

Are we missing any important research questions related to food systems, nutrition, healthy diets, resilience and sustainability? What gaps in the current research discussions have you found?  

One of the questions we have is: What short-, medium-, and long-term outcome measures remain to be developed to measure change in agriculture and food systems for nutrition? Here, I would like us to think also about measures of empowerment and equity and how they can be leveraged for nutrition. I am certain we need more research done to correlate the measures but I think it might be interesting. 

Our conversation is slowing so I'll wrap up this live version of our discussion. However, you can continue to add comments and we will check in over the next little bit. Thank you all! 

This is an interesting discussion on food system and gender.  I think there is the need to talk or discuss women's and technology to food production especially farming. Women in sub-Saharan Africa are contributing largely to food production using locally made implements or equipment.  What are the available technology out there that can support women in the agricultural business?  This will allow them to maximize the opportunity of the limited land resources often available to them.

 

To ease the already burdened women using locally made equipments, use of herbicides has proven to be effective, it saves time and women are able to work on other income generating activities than working in the fields for longer periods. Also the knowledge of interplanting the crop with those crops that provide ground cover has a greater contribution in suppression of weeds hence reducing labor demand from women involved in agriculture. The only challenge is the prices of the herbicides, they are not affordable by many, hence forcing them to work using the locally made tools. My experience working with women has shown that, the cost of production is largely high when compared to the revenue earned from the sales of the produce making it very difficult to sustain the technology that is less labor demand. So the question may be be that has there been any research that has looked in to the cost of production against what usually realised from the sales of the same so that sustainability is atainned in the women participating agriculture business

How much of the low price is the result of a suppressed economy in which 80% of income has to go for food. That places tremendous downward pressure on consumer prices so they are only 1/3rd to 1/5th the USA supermarket prices: 

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/financially-suppressed-economy-2/ 

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/consumer-price-comparisons-usa-vs-host-country/