To better understand the roles played by rural women in the dual-purpose cattle value chain in Nicaragua, as well as the institutional context in the territory as it relates to the theme of gender, the Livestock and Fish team recently carried out a Characterization and Mapping of Organizations and Actors in the Dual-Purpose Cattle Value Chain in the municipalities of Camoapa and Matiguás (download report – in Spanish).
The process was developed through qualitative research methodologies such as observation, semi-structured open interviews, and focus groups, with the purpose of assessing participants’ knowledge and experiences as a fundamental element for cultural transformation seeking greater gender equity.
The study allowed the team to identify who is involved in the value chain, what kind of support they receive from local organizations, and the strengths, opportunities, and limitations faced by rural women in the value chain.
Women’s participation in the value chain
The study revealed that women in the territory are producers at small, medium, and large scale. They also participate in milk collection and processing through artisanal methods. This aspect gives way to unfavorable conditions for women, due to the limited support they can receive through development policy, credit, and technical assistance because of the informal nature of their activities.
Another significant limitation faced by women consists in their commitment to the care economy, due to social gender norms which encase them in a reproductive and domestic role. However, many women participate in farm and commercial activities during the time they are not dedicated to family and household chores. This generates tension and work overload in regards to the use of women’s time. For this reason, it is important to implement programs designed specifically for women producers, considering their specific needs.
Gender focus of local organizations
In the analysis conducted during the study regarding the gender focus of activities promoted by the organizations active in the region, the main initiatives which stand out are education and continuous training opportunities provided to women in the territory. Another important element is the implementation of farmer exchanges as part of sharing, learning, and innovation initiatives.
Seeking to strengthen the role played by women in the value chain, local organizations are conducting development programs regarding themes such as food security and increase of income through the sustainable management of natural and financial resources. There is also a strong participation of women in training workshops focused on the management of businesses linked to the farming sector.
Finally, local organizations are involved in research initiatives and the elaboration of gender-disaggregated diagnostics, resulting in a greater involvement of women in dairy production and commercialization processes. On the other hand, it is important to mention that the gender initiatives promoted by organizations in the territories have not been focused on transforming the gender relationships which sustain the current state of inequality. This means they have promoted activities aiming to improve the quality of life and autonomy of women, but do not approach inequality directly at its roots.
Development opportunities for women in the value chain
The women interviewed during the study consider they have a strong capacity for diversification, developed through their involvement in various economic activities to generate additional income. A strong collaboration opportunity for local institutions is the artisanal dairy industry, where women have a strong presence. Although this is one of the main sectors generating added value for rural families, deficient infrastructure and limited access to technical and financial assistance restricts women’s ability to develop their potential.
Another element considered of great importance by interviewed women is organizing within cooperatives for the economic development and autonomy of women. However, this inclusion must consider women’s specific needs regarding their interests, responsibilities, and workload.