A recent desk study assesses the aim for, and extent of, gender integration in policy documents of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP) and the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS). It proposes recommendations to strengthen gender integration in AFAAS documents to enhance the attainment of the organisation’s goals and strategic objectives for the continent.
The overall goal of the CAADP is “accelerated African agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.” Strategic objectives to facilitate the attainment of the CAADP goal are structured under four pillars, with the fourth pillar (Pillar IV) focusing on agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption. AFAAS is an umbrella organisation of agricultural advisory services in Africa with a mandate to spearhead the delivery and development of agricultural extension and advisory services (AEAS) at national, regional, and continental levels within the framework of Pillar IV of the CAADP. The development goal of AFAAS is “Enhanced utilisation of improved knowledge, skills and technologies by agriculture value chain actors to catalyse sustainable inclusive agricultural development and create prosperity in Africa.” In its current organisation strategy, AFAAS would like to see “Agricultural extension and advisory services that effectively and efficiently contribute to sustained productivity, profitability and inclusive growth of agriculture for food, nutrition, income security, job and wealth creation in Africa.”
Recognising the importance of gender integration in AEAS
Despite advancements in gender equality over the years, wide academic and grey literature affirms that women in Africa and in most of the developing world have remained disproportionately disadvantaged regarding access to extension and advisory services, which has led to gender gaps in information about new technologies and improved technology adoption among women compared to men women (Kosek, Doss & Slavchevska, 2020; Balasubramanya, 2019). The gender gap in extension and advisory services is widely attributed to deeply rooted gender relations at household, community, and society levels, which determine critical factors such as access to education and information, land use and property rights, access to agricultural inputs, access to credit, financial services, business development services, agro processing; as well as decision-making power and control over incomes earned (Christoplos, 2010, Meinzen-Dick, 2019). Mismatches are noted between women’s capabilities and agricultural priorities, on the one hand, and national priorities for commercialisation of agriculture and research and technology development, as well as the methods and approaches used for extension delivery, which have excluded women’s effective participation and uptake of improved technologies (Achandi et al., 2018; Manfre et al., 2013). Gender-responsive agricultural extension and advisory services therefore remain crucial for the continent because they are the predominant source of delivery of knowledge and information and innovation of new technologies that address the needs of resource-poor farmers.
Why focus on youth engagement in agriculture?
The African continent, compared to other continents, has the youngest population in the world. According to United Nations estimates, 70 percent of the total population in Sub Saharan Africa is below the age of 30 years. Twenty three percent of youth (ages 15-24) are illiterate, while the dependence of many African countries on commodity exports for economic growth implies that several well-educated youths are not absorbed in formal employment. In absence of social protection mechanisms for youth, many youths are engaged in the informal sector operating businesses that do not meet the UN sustainable development goal standards of decent work. Female youth are more disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts because of social norms and practices that dictate aspects such as whether young females attend and/or complete formal school; whether and how they join the labour force market; when they get married and fertility choices; childcare responsibilities; as well as restrictions on mobility and association beyond the homestead. The agriculture sector presents enormous potential for solving youth unemployment and underemployment through economic opportunities at various nodes of agriculture value chains as producers, dealers, marketers, traders, transporters, afro-processors, developers of information and communication technologies and innovations in agricultural technologies, among others. AEAS is well positioned to play a role in enhancing youth’s access to relevant information, technical skills, and technologies, as well as brokering partnerships and linkages between youth groups and other actors such as private sector investors, agro processors, social entrepreneurs, financiers, research institutions and government departments and agencies, among others.
Scrutinizing gender integration in policy documents
The desk research had five main objectives, namely to: 1) understand the goal, objectives and strategic actions for CAADP Pillar IV for the decade 2015-2025; 2) establish the aim for, and extent of, gender integration in CAADP Pillar IV, FAAP and AFAAS documents; 3) examine the coherence of AFAAS goal, strategies and actions relating to women and youth with CAADP Pillar IV and FAAP goals and objectives; 4) validate the relevance and appropriateness of gender-related objectives, strategies and actions in AFAAS documents to current challenges facing women and youth in agriculture; and 5) suggest recommendations to enhance the integration of a gender (especially women and youth) perspective in AFAAS documents for better results and added impact.
The study examined 12 policy documents (2 CAADP documents, 2 FAAP documents and 8 AFAAS documents) across five criteria to assess gender integration. The gender integration framework that was used for the assessment was an adaptation of three existing frameworks, including a framework by Howland and colleagues (2021) which assesses policy integration, policy mix and policy translation; the Gender Integration Continuum by FHI 360 (2012); and the Gender and Rural Advisory Services Assessment Tool by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Table 1 presents the conceptual framework that was used in the assessment of policy documents for gender integration.
Highlights of main findings
Although detailed findings may be found in the full study report, the following are highlights of the key findings from the assessment.
- Gender and youth dimensions are explicit or alluded to in sections of the CAADP Implementation Strategy and Roadmap; CAADP Results Framework 2015-2025; and the FAAP, 2006 respectively. The focus on women and youth in CAADP directly relates to one of the seven commitments of the Malabo Declaration on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods of halving poverty by 2025 through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation. The FAAP, which is a guide for stakeholders involved in agricultural research and development to harness interventions at national, regional, and continental levels to meet the CAADP objectives for the continent, specifies principles to enhance the success of Africa’s agricultural productivity efforts. The ninth principle explicitly stipulates the “integration of gender considerations at all levels, including farmers and farmer organisations, the private sector, public institutions and extension staff.” There is coherence between AFAAS vision, goal, and objectives with CAADP and FAAP goals and objectives for the Africa continent.
- The AFAAS Strategic Plan 2011-2015 explicitly acknowledges the need for targeting women and youth who are most actively and intensively involved in agriculture and whose livelihoods are critically dependent on agriculture. The foregoing strategy recognises practical and strategic gender issues affecting the agriculture sector and suggest the need for pro-poor interventions such as employment generation and microfinance, as well as increasing decision-making power of women in agriculture.
- In the AFAAS Strategy 2018-2027, revisions were proposed to the vision, development goal and purpose of AFAAS to underline the dimension of inclusiveness, which encompasses gender integration in accordance with FAAP Guiding Principles. The strategy puts emphasis on the recognition and targeting of youth as potential actors in AEAS provision and as beneficiaries who consume AEAS information to become entrepreneurs in agriculture value chains. Although the strategy does not highlight specific objectives, sub-strategies and key performance indicators that are gender-specific, it acknowledges the existing opportunities for the development of programs with focuses on links between agriculture and youth employment (among others).
- Whereas the AFAAS Partnership Strategy 2011 does not mention specific objectives relating to gender integration in partnerships, acknowledges that partnerships are important avenues through which agricultural advisory services can provide advice across entire value chains and incorporate emerging issues such as climate change, gender, HIV and poverty in agricultural service delivery, among others.
- The Gender Mainstreaming Strategy 2016-2019 extensively acknowledges gender roles and inequalities in agriculture and their implications for productivity of female and male farmers, as well as access to and adoption of agricultural new technologies, especially among female farmers. It considers intersectionality by underlining how gender mainstreaming in agricultural extension and advisory services should ensure that women, men and youth and socially disadvantaged groups have access to and control over development benefits and decision making; and the need for the identification of opportunities (“accommodative” approaches) to increase access to production resources and improve rural livelihoods. The AFAAS Gender Strategy has four strategic objectives that contribute to the overall goal of ensuring that “AFAAS achieves gender equality at all levels of the institutional framework and all stages of the programme cycle of its agricultural extension and advisory services mandate.”
- The AFAAS Constitutive Convention and AFAAS Constitution 2019 mainstream a gender perspective in the organisational and governance structure with provisions for one man and women as representatives from each Country Fora to the General Assembly – the supreme governing body of AFAAS. Women may also be nominated by the board and selected by Country Fora representatives to hold the positions of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the General Assembly, indicating gender sensitivity. The Constitutive Convention also demonstrates affirmative action by ensuring that at least 30 percent (5 out of the 15 members) of the board a female. The Revised Human Resources Manual for the Secretariat 2017 integrates specific actions to address gender sensitivity at the workplace, including non-discriminatory recruitment and selection processes; equitable opportunities for personal challenge, development, and recognition for all staff; fair and equitable compensation to employees commensurate with their position and responsibilities and in accordance with the staff salary structure; medical insurance that covers employees, a spouse and 3 dependent children under 21 years of age; group and personal accident insurance and worker’s compensation; travel insurance; insurance of personal effects; travel expenses; weekly rest and sick pay. Other issues addressed by the manual include leave management, promotion and career advancements, harassment at work and employee communication.
- The integration of a gender and youth perspective is not consistent across all the CAADP and AFAAS documents reviewed. Some of the statements made in the documents relating to gender integration are also broad and may not offer sufficient guidance to practitioners and hold them accountable for gender equality actions. Gender is also treated as a cross-cutting issue alongside other attributes, which may affect its explicit recognition during planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation processes.
- Whereas the Gender Strategy addresses most of the gender integration gaps identified in other AFAAS documents, it does not sufficiently mainstream a youth perspective as evidenced by the lack of emphasis on age-disaggregated information. The proposed strategies and actions in the Gender Strategy also appear to be largely gender accommodating (i.e., acknowledge the role of gender norms and inequalities and develop actions that adjust to and often compensate them), although intent is expressed for the adoption of gender transformative approaches that will especially empower women.
Recommendations for policy makers and AFAAS stakeholders
The study makes some recommendations for consideration to enhance the attainment of AFAAS goals and objectives regarding gender in AEAS.
- Mainstreaming gender (including youth) in the overarching strategy documents ensures the systematic consideration and integration of a gender perspective in all lower-level policies and strategies and in the design, implementation, monitoring, reporting and accountability for gender-responsive agricultural extension and advisory service interventions. Programme design should include specific activities, outputs, outcomes, and related indicators that address gender equality and contribute to the development objectives.
- The update of the Gender Strategy should utilise more information from the continental gender analysis to enrich the mainstreaming of a youth perspective in strategic objectives and activities. An emphasis on the consideration of intersectionality (e.g. age, location, economic status, marital status, education level, etc) in gender integration across all programmes and actions will enhance the design and implementation of gender-responsive programmes/projects that address the challenges and needs of specific target groups, which may increase the chances of success. It may also guide the development of specific interventions with the potential of increasing women’s and youth’s agency and participation in agricultural value chains, as well as in relevant leadership and decision-making positions.
- The progression from gender accommodative towards gender transformative approaches to gender equality in agricultural extension and advisory systems may be enhanced through partnerships or collaborations with academia, research institutes and civil society organisations that are actively engaged in research and advocacy for women’s rights and women and youth empowerment in agriculture. A clause that emphasises the mobilisation and enrolment of such organisations as members of all Country Fora, coupled with the establishment of thematic working groups on gender and youth among Country Fora and a Gender Community of Practice at continental level, would facilitate discussions; innovation and design of context-specific gender transformative actions; and knowledge and information sharing of good and successful practices that may be scaled-up to similar contexts for added impact on the continent and beyond. Additionally, the fair inclusion of women and youth representation on Country Fora, coupled with strategies to ensure effective participation would strengthen their voice and ownership of interventions.
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Manfre, C., Rubin, D., Allen, A., Summerfield, G., Colverson, K., & Akeredolu, M. (2013). Reducing the Gender Gap in Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services: How to Find the Best Fit for Men and Women Farmers. Mordernising Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Discussion Paper .
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