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

Tackling Time Constraints in Tanzania

This post was written by Megan Stalheim and Meredith Saggers of Land O’Lakes International Development and Mary Kay Gugerty, C. Leigh Anderson, and Pierre Biscaye of the University of Washington. It was edited by Krista Jacobs of USAID.

Women’s laborious workloads are a persistent challenge to agricultural productivity, nutrition and women’s empowerment throughout developing economies. Despite their labor in planting, weeding, harvesting, processing and marketing, women often are excluded from more commercial agricultural roles and have less control over household income than men.

In 2012 and 2013, USAID’s Bureau for Food Security launched six Innovation in Gender Equality (IGE) grants to encourage innovative practices for gender-equitable agriculture. The two IGE projects below took on the challenge to create new approaches to reducing women’s workloads in rural Tanzania. 

Locally-made Time-saving Technologies – Land O’Lakes International Development

(For more information see Land O’Lakes International Development’s IGE Impact Report.)

From 2013-2017, with $4.5 million in funding from USAID, Land O’Lakes International Development worked in Tanzania’s Morogoro, Mbeya and Iringa regions to develop and scale agricultural technologies that reduce women’s labor burdens. The project approached this in two ways: (1) supported existing innovators to scale business concepts through training and grant funding; and (2) empowered local farmers to identify agricultural challenges and brainstorm and build solutions, awarding grants to the best ideas. Thirty-one promising innovations were selected to support and scale for wider adoption.

The technologies selected helped ease arduous tasks that are typically done manually by women on small-scale farms. Interviews with innovators and users agreed that the time savings for women was the major benefit of these technologies, in addition to increased incomes, nutrition and safety. Below are a few examples:

  • Rice Winnower: The rice winnower sped up the process by a factor of five, from winnowing three bags per hour with traditional methods to 15 bags per hour using the new technology and reduced the loss through wind. Less winnowing time also had the unexpected result of women no longer sleeping outside, often with their breastfeeding infants, to guard their harvest overnight until winnowing was finished.
  • Energy Efficient Stove: The Jiko Bora Group from Mwanza developed an energy-efficient stove that halves firewood requirements and uses one-fifth of the charcoal compared with traditional cooking methods. Using the stove also reduces cooking time for daily meals.
  • Palm Oil Extractor: Farmer-innovator Mwanaharusi Goha's original extractor sped up processing by a factor of eight. To process 20 liters, the traditional method takes four hours, whereas Goha’s hand-crank innovation takes just 30 minutes. Goha went further to start her own small business and create several versions of the palm-oil extractor, each one more efficient. She even won external grant funding from the East Africa Impact Center to further develop her prototype. Her machine is now motorized and can process nearly 190 liters of palm oil per day. Her business employs 70 people.

Three key lessons highlight the power of local innovation:

  • Time and labor-saving technologies aid household gender balance. When innovations made work faster and easier, innovators observed that men started getting involved in what was previously termed “women’s work.” Cultural norms that previously discouraged men from helping with tedious tasks in the past no longer seemed to apply, and men and women shared the workload more evenly for these tasks.
  • Technologies that offer quick payback and need smaller initial investments are more readily adopted. Technologies with quick income-generating potential included a mushroom cultivation shelter (watch a video about the “Mushroom Lady”), an innovative approach to amaranth, fuel briquette production, and solar driers.
  • Design trainings sparked local innovation. Several other innovators who participated in the design trainings but who did not receive follow-up grants and assistance from the program continued developing their technologies on their own. Nine of these innovators went on to develop and sell their technologies independently, with overall sales revenue ranging from $54 to $1,021 USD. Even community members who did not attend project design trainings were inspired to create their own original technologies, including ox-drawn ploughs, oil extractors, innovative warehouses, liquid manure and avocado preservation.

Mwanaharusi Goha demonstrates the hand-crank palm oil extractor that she and her design group developed through the project [photo credit: Giselle Aris].

Photo: Mwanaharusi Goha demonstrates the hand-crank palm oil extractor that she and her design group developed through the project. Credit: Giselle Aris.

Farm Groups for Better Time Use – University of Washington, Farm Concern International

The Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington partnered with Farm Concern International (FCI), to test whether labor-sharing groups could ease women’s labor constraints and enable their participation in commercial cassava production and processing. 

FCI’s Extended Cassava Village Processing Project (ECVPP) worked with twelve rural villages in Kibaha District, Tanzania. Six of the twelve villages were randomly selected to receive additional training and support on adopting and using self-coordinated, rotating labor-sharing arrangements as part of their commercial producer farm groups.

These rotating labor groups (kibati kazi in Swahili or “KbK” for short) were modeled on traditional work groups and rotating savings groups that are familiar institutions in East Africa. The KbKs operate as rotating work groups, visiting each member’s home in turn. Farmers decide the composition of their groups, how often they will meet and the types of activities they work on. KbK members receive the benefits of others’ labor at their own home/farm but must also contribute labor at the homes/farms of fellow members. The net gain from participation comes from being able to accomplish tasks more efficiently or effectively together than alone. Farm groups readily adopted the KbK model; almost every commercial producer farm group in the six villages had at least one KbK, and most had several.

Figure 1 (below) shows that members mainly used KbKs for work on their own farms and group farms but also used KbKs for domestic tasks, housework and construction work, which may offer particular benefits to women who have a higher burden of household tasks and rely on male household members for construction tasks. Women were more likely to participate in KbKs than men, with 54 percent of eligible women participating, as compared to 35 percent of men.

Figure 1. Most Common KbK Activity Reported by Participants, by Respondent Gender

Figure 1. Most Common KbK Activity Reported by Participants, by Respondent Gender.

In theory, KbKs are not time savings, since members reallocate labor from their own households to those of others. In practice, since many KbKs focused on doing a particular task, many participants reported that the task could be accomplished more quickly through a KbK than alone, thereby saving everyone time. Preliminary analysis suggests that women KbK members tend to increase their labor time and decrease leisure time, as compared to male member or non-members. On average, women KbK members are working 45 minutes more and taking 33 minutes less of leisure time per day relative to women not in KbKs. However, when asked about changes in daily routine, over 97 percent reported that they reallocated time the saved through the KbKs to other priority activities.

Future analysis will examine whether expanded labor in turn affects women’s role and participation in household decision-making and agricultural production.

Farmers attend a training on KbK

Photo: Farmers attend a training on KbKs.

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