On 21-22 January 2014 the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program conducted a gender workshop in Managua, Nicaragua to share methodologies and approaches to incorporate gender in the program’s work in the dual purpose cattle value chain in Nicaragua.
The workshop was an opportunity for current and potential partners to reflect on basic concepts and perceptions regarding gender equity, from both personal and organizational perspectives, taking into consideration gender statistics and opportunity gaps between men and women in the Nicaraguan livestock sector. It also provided participants with new knowledge and information on what it means to apply a gender focus within the value chain, particularly methodologies, gender focus in value chain assessment tools, and gender development indicators.
Why focus on gender?
Highlighting gender equity and female empowerment in value chain development work is essential to reduce poverty and improve food security. Projects that focus on gender equity and empowering women have a higher probability of improving rural families’ livelihoods and general wellbeing, since women tend to spend more of their income on food and child health expenses.
Gender inequality is inefficient and has high economic costs, failing to take full advantage of available human resources and innovation opportunities. However, rural women’s contributions in the dual purpose value chain in Nicaragua are not fully recognized.
Where are women in the Nicaragua dual purpose livestock value chain?
Women participate in every level of the value chain. As members of a family production unit, they are usually involved in farm work, but don’t have a say in the decision-making process and lack control over the benefits generated.
Women also take part in processing and local commerce, as small scale business owners using artisanal methods and technologies. However, this is done in unfavourable conditions, lacking technical assistance and policy and financial support. This condition is directly linked to issues regarding ownership of land and means of production. Furthermore, many women own livestock, although this is usually not made visible in male-dominated environments.
There are few productive spaces focused on empowering women in a largely male-dominated livestock sector, and their interests are not well represented in farmer associations. Exacerbating the issue is the concept of farmers as individual producers, which distorts the reality that livestock farming is often a family activity, requiring work and contributions from the entire household. Women don’t recognize themselves as actors in the value chain, and work division based on traditional gender roles limit many women to their domestic chores, restricting their time and mobility to become involved in other activities.
Gender methodologies and changing paradigms
Bringing a gender focus into value chain development is crucial to repositioning the work women are contributing to every level of the value chain, recognizing the importance of artisanal work and their local identity.
Promoting a new perspective in viewing families as economic units, strengthening women’s presence within family businesses and productive organizations, and advancing in women’s economic rights will help facilitate access to markets, positioning women in male-dominated value chains and empowering them in the process.
Expectations from the application of the tools and methodologies discussed in the workshop include improving women’s access to training and capacity development, promoting changes in attitudes and behaviours, the mainstreaming of gender elements in research and development organizations, enhancing leadership and participation skills, and greater female presence in political and economic spaces, such as farmer associations and markets.