Integrating Gender in Agricultural Development

Cover of Integrating Gender in Agricultural Development

Learnings from South Pacific Contexts



Table of contents

(13 chapters)

This chapter introduces gender-related issues in the context of the South Pacific and agricultural development and research for development initiatives. National governments and donor organisations commonly invest in improving rural livelihoods by addressing agriculture and food security issues, and increasingly prioritise and even mandate gender integration/mainstreaming objectives within such initiatives. Despite substantial investments, there are few accounts of how integrating gender and gender mainstreaming in agriculture has been approached in practice in the South Pacific. Additionally, there is scarce attention to the benefits that a gender perspective has secured for women and men.

We outline the ways in which agriculture continues to underpin South Pacific economies and livelihoods; discuss gender mainstreaming/integration in agricultural development activities and debates that define its theory and practice; and highlight how the concepts of custom and intersectionality are important considerations in this field. The final part of the chapter provides an overview of the book structure which includes two introductory and contextualising chapters, six case study chapters, and a synthesis chapter of the key learnings, commonalities and challenges identified across the six case studies.

Part I


This chapter provides an overview of the South Pacific states from geographic, environmental, cultural, political, economic and demographic perspectives. Topics covered include environments and hazards, climate change, cultural diversity, colonialism and late independence, economic development, population and migration, trade, and aid. The contribution of the most important industries of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and tourism are reviewed. In terms of the future, it is argued that the key challenge in the South Pacific states is that of creating sustainable development, alongside employment and growth, and coping with environmental change.


This chapter situates the South Pacific region’s engagement in progressing gender equality and women’s empowerment within broader gender and development (GAD) debates. It explores the international ‘gender agenda’ and how its associated frameworks, platforms, policies and metrics have diffused throughout the South Pacific. Limited progress in achieving gender equality and empowerment goals has been made, globally and regionally, with considerable challenges yet to be overcome. Complementing the book’s focus on the integration of gender into agricultural research and development projects, the chapter reviews rural women’s access to income and land in the South Pacific, and their contributions to agricultural production and marketing.

Part II


In recent years there has been a push from policymakers and the broader development arena on women’s economic empowerment (WEE). The drive to mainstream gender and strengthen focus on WEE in market systems programming took force in 2003; however, the approach to systematically integrate WEE into implementation, monitoring and results measurement is fairly recent. The Market Development Facility (MDF) programme is one such programme that has developed a WEE framework that is integrated into all aspects of project development across a range of different socio-economic contexts. It not only looks at addressing WEE constraints as relevant but also seeks to draw out and align the incentives of the private sector to do so. The Fiji Bula Coffee case study demonstrates this and highlights the findings on WEE, specifically on women’s access, agency and their influence on social norms in rural Fijian communities.

Qualitative and quantitative data were collected over consecutive field studies conducted over a four-year period beginning in 2015. In-depth interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were used to interview a total of 69 community members across five communities in the Sigatoka highlands. Findings reveal that women in rural coffee-supplying communities have equal access to income-generating activities and are able to make decisions on the income earned from coffee harvesting. Income is used for education and a portion is put aside as savings. ‘Women’s voice’ through collective action and decision-making is also discussed, where through a female champion, who in this case was the chief’s wife, women in the community were enabled to continue supplying coffee cherries and earning additional income for their families, despite the ban that was initially put in place by the chief.


In order to develop strategies to support the aquaculture industry in Samoa, an extensive gender analysis was undertaken collaboratively by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Government of Samoa through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry for Women, Community and Social Development. Data were collected via time use surveys, discussion focus groups and individual interviews to determine the type of roles, and forms of contribution to individual aquaculture farms undertaken by women and men. Our study found that both women and men contributed to aquaculture farming, although the value women assigned to their contribution, although time-consuming and extensive, was often lower relative to men. We have also found that by training and mentoring fisheries officers to conduct the research, these officers have become more aware of womens’ substantial contribution to the sector. There are now plans to adjust training programs to reflect this new knowledge.


Integrating gender equality objectives was one of the development objectives, along with economic development, food security and poverty/hardship alleviation of the featured rural community-based development project. In this case study, the rural development project was structured around women and men who were community leaders; those elected as town and village officers and those who held high positions in schools or within the government. In the first stage of the project, local committees were initiated by these leaders, which comprised equal numbers of women and men, to manage the project and facilitate training and skill development. Although there was much focus on creating the opportunity for women and men to equally contribute to leading and benefitting from the project, what was not considered was the gendered nature of the implementing partner institutions and the impact that would have on the project. By using gendered stakeholder analysis at two points in the project lifecycle, we take a closer look at the implementing organisations and view the turning over of power between actors on the project through a gender lens.


The predominate Western approach applied to agricultural research and development in Vanuatu is to focus on sector-specific or crop-by crop basis that is universally applied rather than designing context-specific research objectives. The findings from a gender livelihoods analysis conducted with 45 households in East Coast Santo, Vanuatu show that this sectorial focus inherently excludes women. Female smallholder livelihood activities were found to be centred around activities within the informal economy (traditional economy) and agricultural input is focused on harvesting of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and food crops for subsistence and local markets, while male smallholder farmers generally focus on cash crops and the formal commercial sector.

The strategies put forward by the Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, Nyeleni, Mali, 2007, recognise the central role of women in rural development, and align closely with the traditional economy and the political, economic and social foundations of Vanuatu. Therefore, it is recommended that research and development projects operating in this space consider the integration of agroecology and sustainable livelihoods into their project designs through frameworks such as the Agroecology and Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (ASRLF). The ASRLF approaches research through a critical lens that challenges and transforms structures of power in society and sees minority groups (such as women and youth) and their knowledge, values, vision and leadership as critical for moving forward. This chapter demonstrates the application of the ASRLF to a gender livelihoods analysis and the development of a strategy to engage and empower rural farming women.


The Papua New Guinea (PNG) LNG project had a direct impact on many rural villagers in the project area. A Livelihood Restoration (LR) program, and later a Community Livelihood Improvement Program (CLIP), was established to assist displaced villagers with food supply and entry into the cash economy. Here we use a case study of the food processing component to focus on gender and social issues addressed through the action research process.

Over the period from 2015 to 2017, over 9000 women and men had received some training during the CLIP program, of whom 77 per cent were women. In the food processing component, women and men were trained to produce a variety of dishes. Training was also conducted in preparation of tasty and nutritious meals for the households, basic human nutrition and hygiene.

Using the action research process, we modified the program as the situation changed and as we learnt from the successes and failures in the program. Overall, the LR and CLIP programs were very successful. Several positive social outcomes occurred, including improved financial independence of many women, raised status of women in their community and a reduction in domestic violence.

Contributions to the program’s success include a gender-balanced team of agricultural, food processing and community engagement specialists; the team learnt from mistakes and modified the program using the action research process; the program was well funded by the PNG LNG Project; and success in the early stages of the program led to ongoing funding once the construction phase ended.


Smallholder families in Papua New Guinea (PNG) feed the nation and produce income-generating cash crops such as coffee and cocoa. However, agricultural extension has not yet effectively reached many farming families in the country, and many families still work with semi-subsistence practices. As a result, the majority of farming families have insecure livelihoods, with many living below the poverty line. This chapter explores a collaborative research for development project that sought to address this issue.

Using data from two highlands sites in the Western Highlands and Jiwaka provinces, we outline the empowerment processes we developed in both our research and our learning activities. We illustrate how the experiential learning processes enabled women, especially those with low education, to confidently engage in this form of agricultural extension. Our work surfaced the knowledge of both women and men and supported families to determine how to work together in effective and equitable planned farming.

Part III


Progressing gender equality objectives in development and research for development activities can be an uneven process, and this is certainly the case in the South Pacific. In this chapter, we deconstruct the six case studies featured in this book to discuss the common stumbling points, obstructions and pathways to gender equality and equity observed across the case study projects, but additionally through our collective experiences of living and/or working extensively in the South Pacific. This chapter serves to synthesise these findings. The authors propose that situating gender equality into a broader framing of social equality, by drawing on the concept of intersectionality, provides a necessary context for the design and implementation of development projects – particularly where project participants are from communities with strong customary orientation. We additionally outline the fluid nature of changing gender roles and stereotypes as project teams and project participants simultaneously negotiate the tension created by modernity and tradition.


For many communities of the South Pacific, traditional customary hierarchies favour men over other genders. In rural settings, where the majority of women have little agency or voice, and where land and resources are controlled by community leaders; there can be significant barriers for development initiatives to meaningfully progress gender objectives. For this reason, the intersections between gender and other factors that determine social position are important to consider in the South Pacific context if gender equality or equity is to be sustainably progressed. In this final book chapter, I refer to the applied learnings of the book’s six case studies and synthesis chapter to reflect upon the current theoretical framings of gender mainstreaming, women’s empowerment and intersectionality. I argue that in situations where funding is limited, or gender equality is one of the funding objectives often in combination with food security and poverty alleviation objectives, gender integration as a component of a gender mainstreaming process can lead to a transformation in gender norms and stereotypes. Given strong leadership and sustained funding and commitment, transformative projects that move towards alleviating gendered power structures are achievable in the South Pacific.

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