Digging deeper into gender and equity at ANH Academy Week
By Elena Martinez,
Research Analyst, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)
At this year’s ANH Academy Week conference in Hyderabad, India, 350 representatives from 33 countries came together to discuss the challenges of improving agriculture, nutrition, and health around the world. Gender and equity were persistent themes across the conference’s oral presentations, posters, learning labs, and side events. A set of empowerment-focused learning labs focused on tools for measuring women’s empowerment in agriculture and nutrition. Several presentations delved into the associations between gender, diets, and nutrition. Pushing beyond gender, both side events and conference presentations dug deeper into the many aspects of equity that play into the success of agriculture, nutrition, and health research and interventions.
Measuring women’s empowerment in agriculture and nutrition
Many agricultural development projects aim to empower women – but how do we know which strategies work best to reach this goal? If we aim to empower women – to improve their ability to make strategic life choices – we need indicators that can measure the many dimensions of empowerment. Agnes Quisumbing and Elena Martinez of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Alessandra Galiè of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) introduced the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI) and Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Index (WELI), two sets of qualitative and quantitative tools for assessing women’s empowerment in agricultural development projects. The project-level WEAI is being developed through a portfolio of 13 crop- and livestock-focused projects in South Asia and Africa. The WELI allows projects with a livestock focus to take a detailed look at decision-making about livestock production. Later, Galiè also presented her team’s work using qualitative methods to inform adaptations of the pro-WEAI survey to measure empowerment among milk traders in peri-urban Nairobi.
Erin Lentz of the University of Texas and Sudha Narayanan of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) described the process of developing and validating the Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index (WENI), a tool for measuring nutritional empowerment, or the process by which individuals gain the capacity to be well fed and healthy. The WENI focuses on women’s knowledge, resources, agency, and achievements related to nutrition, and was developed and refined based on qualitative and quantitative work in the Indian context.
Assessing connections between gender and nutrition
In several presentations, researchers took different approaches to examining the role of gender in the pathways between agriculture and nutrition. Josiah Ateka of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology looked at trends in and associations between women’s empowerment and nutrition outcomes in Kenya using Demographic and Health Survey data from 2003-14. Vidya S.R. Vemireddy of Cornell University used panel data from eastern Maharashtra to examine the links between women’s time use and nutrition. She found that women’s time was severely constrained during peak agricultural seasons, which can lead to decreased nutrient intake. Gianna Bonis-Profumo of Charles Darwin University combined qualitative and quantitative methods, including the Abbreviated Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (A-WEAI), to examine gender norms related to livestock, income, and diets in households in rural Timor-Leste. Hayaan Nur of the Malawi Ministry of Finance carried out a systematic review of how gender inequities affect food nutrition outcomes. He found that, based on the current evidence, it is difficult to draw strong conclusions about how gender inequities influence agriculture, nutrition, and food security, so high quality research and policy efforts are needed in these areas.
Examining inequities in agriculture, nutrition, and health
Gender is just one of many social dimensions that can influence nutrition and health outcomes. Other aspects of equity – like race, class, caste, ethnicity, and life stage – also play a role. In a side session on equity in agriculture, nutrition, and health research, Jody Harris of the Institute of Development Studies presented preliminary results from a scoping review of how agriculture, nutrition, and health research addresses equity in low- and middle-income countries. Harris and her team found that equity research has been produced in many facets of the field, from crop breeding to undernutrition to markets and trade.
Carly Nichols of the University of Arizona and the University of Iowa presented an in-depth examination of how a nutrition-sensitive agriculture program in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, India, was implemented and received by the community. One reason that the program was not very successful in getting people to grow kitchen gardens was that it lacked an equity focus and thus did not benefit marginalized people in the community such as those who did not speak Hindi or lacked entrepreneurial skills.
Originally written for CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).