International Day of Rural Women—Preserving Women Farmers’ Benefits From the Crops They Produce
In rural Zambia, groundnuts are considered a female-controlled crop. When a crop is commercialized, the resulting higher profits often attract men to the extent that they take over the crop and women lose control over its production and/or profits. However, a recent impact evaluation in Eastern Province, Zambia, found that increased commercialization of groundnut did not necessarily lead women to lose control over the crop.
The evaluation tested the hypothesis that gender interventions would protect women’s interests even as the projects sought to foster commercialization of groundnuts. The two projects evaluated—Production, Finance & Improving Technology Plus (PROFIT+) and Better Life Alliance (BLA)—were funded by Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. These projects promoted commercialization of the groundnut value chain by demonstrating conservation agricultural practices and linking smallholders to inputs (primarily improved seed) and markets. At the same time, the projects promoted messages of shared work between husbands and wives, joint household decision making and joint budgeting, and encouraged participation in savings & internal lending communities (SILCs). These integrated gender interventions aimed to increase empowerment and inclusion of women in agriculture. SILCs also aimed to increase access to finance and credit for women. The evaluation included a baseline (2014) and endline (2017) quantitative, population-based longitudinal household survey and a qualitative study to compare pre- and post-intervention differences in production, sales and decision-making roles for households in the project areas with households in comparison areas.
Between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 agricultural seasons, the quantity of groundnuts that seller households sold or bartered increased in both project and comparison areas, and the increase was significantly higher for project areas. Women’s participation was maintained even as efforts to commercialize groundnuts expanded. Findings indicate that many couples work together to maximize benefits of increased sales. Beneficiaries of PROFIT+ and BLA perceived that participation in SILCs and applying the gender messages the projects promoted contributed to women’s empowerment and continued control of production, marketing and use of proceeds from groundnut farming. This finding was supported by quantitative analysis that showed women’s participation in production and marketing decisions was maintained as sales of groundnuts increased.
Although the context is complex, with many factors affecting crop production, the evaluation findings suggest that increased commercialization of a traditionally female-controlled crop does not necessarily lead to loss of female control and that many couples work together to maximize benefits for the household. However, it’s important to note that changes in production and sales were not large, so it is possible that the structure of the groundnut market did not change enough to measurably shift gender power dynamics. The findings underscore the need to integrate gender considerations fully into the design, implementation and evaluation of projects that aim to increase commercialization of value chains.
The impact evaluation was conducted by MEASURE Evaluation, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).