Participating in conference sessions to share our research and learn of others’ projects provides spaces to reflect on gender research for development initiatives. It allows us to compare results across contexts, countries, institutional settings, or partnership modalities, which is key to advance research on gender and intersectional issues in agricultural value chains, and from the Alliance we are contributing to theoretical and empirical reflections.
“While there has been a multiplication of studies analyzing gender issues along agricultural value chains, few studies have taken a comparative approach, with the aim to analyze how the influence of gender norms and other social differences varies not only between different nodes of a value chain, but also between different value chains or between different program modalities”, stated Renata Serra to introduce the panel, Where are the Women? Gender & Social Differences in Agricultural Value Chains, at the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) 29th Annual Conference that took place from June 22 to 25, 2021. And there we were sharing what we have learned during the last year in the framework of the HEO project.
HEO means Helpers, Employees or Owners: Opportunities for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Agricultural Value Chains. Women, in agricultural settings, often identify themselves as “helpers” supporting their husbands, especially with on-farm production – but, what opportunities and barriers exist for women in terms of economic opportunities and/or assuming different roles such as employee, manager, or owner? The main objective of this study, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), is to explore women's empowerment in cashew and dairy value chains (of the Gulf of Fonseca in Honduras) in order to identify opportunities and barriers that women face to be involved as employees, owners, and/or managers in the production and processing nodes. From there, we shared indicators, categorization, qualitative findings, and conclusions with other colleagues from Africa and Latin America.
As a main result, we found that the women of the 4 nodes were empowered in decision-making related to agricultural production and the use of household income. Also, we found that women in cashew production are more empowered than women in other nodes. The differences between nodes and the barriers that women face is mainly in the use of time or workload and group membership. Women in cashew production are likely to have more flexible workloads and more opportunities to participate in groups/organizations, allowing them to be managers in their households over the production of cashew.
While the quantitative results indicate that women in the cashew and dairy value chains in the dry corridor of Honduras are quite empowered, qualitative results based on the stories that women told us are different. They are still seeking greater recognition of their contributions to productive work at home and in the community. Many times, this search translates into greater workloads, and less time to participate in organizations. In the end, this means women are seen as "helpers" rather than key actors in value chains, creating a barrier for them in their search for economic opportunities.
Participating in this conference panel allowed us to present this on-going research project exploring women’s empowerment. While we don’t have the final results to report yet, we are finding interesting differences (and some similarities) across the 4 sectors. By sharing our research and listening to the other presentations, we got new ideas to explore. We expect that further analysis will help us address which types of value chains, or nodes of the value chains provide the best opportunities for women’s empowerment. Furthermore, we expect the final results to help guide agricultural value chain projects on how they can support women’s empowerment.