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UNDCP - United Nations International Drug Control Programme: 
Alternative Development Work in Peru

1. Background

Alternative development programmes were established by UNDCP in Peru in the 1980s to provide other viable sources of income than coca growing to peasant farmers. Four major thrusts characterize the 'Peru model': the creation or strengthening of local organizations; the improvement of production through technical assistance and extension; the development of agroindustry; and the marketing of final products. The sustainability of the model depends on local organizations taking charge of each of these functions. UNDCP worked with the oil-palm farmers of Ucayali and focused on the revival of Peruvian coffee in the Convención y Lares Valley.

In Ucayali the UNDCP support included construction of a palm-oil extraction plant and support to farmers, organized in a non-profit association, with the maintenance of their plantations to keep up yields. The project benefited 270 families which have shifted from subsistence farming to reliable cash-crop production. The palm-oil plant has created jobs and generated other occupations in the areas of food services, lodging and trade. In the Convención y Lares Valley UNDCP identified coffee as the crop which could best counter coca expansion. Although coffee was a traditional crop in the area there were serious problems related to the age of the groves, their susceptibility to disease, the low density of trees and the limited technical knowledge of growers. In addition, the coffee cooperatives were weak and middlemen had control over bulking and marketing. UNDCP introduced rotating credit funds, strengthened small-farmer organizations and democratized local cooperatives to enable them to control the bulking, processing, marketing and export of coffee. After 10 years of work, Peruvian farmers organized in small cooperatives and using modern technology have found a place in the world market for coffee.

2. The rationale for changes in relation to gender equality in the projects

In the creation and strengthening of producer organizations, and the producer committees associated with them at micro-level, UNDCP had until 1993 focused its efforts entirely on men as members of these groups. Women were grouped in separate committees or Associations of Rural Women which developed small enterprises linked to local markets, such as production of fruit nectars, packaging of roasted tea and coffee, bread-making, processing of chicken feed, raising of small livestock and cultivation of home vegetable gardens. First aid stations and health education programmes for women were also introduced.

However, after some years it became evident that this approach was neither sufficient nor sustainable. In the long term most of the projects established for women were not economically feasible. It had also become apparent that not incorporating women into the main beneficiary and recipient farmer organizations had led to conflicts of interest and an 'artificial' division of beneficiaries into males and females. And, most importantly, the approach had ignored the crucial economic role of women in agricultural production in Peru. At the small farm level agriculture is the product of joint family efforts based on a specific gender division of labour. The alternative development projects had ignored women's responsibilities and contributions, resulting in wastage of resources and loss of impact.

3. Objective of the effort to mainstream attention to women as well as men

The objective was to recognize the contributions and responsibilities of women in agriculture in Peru and involve them more actively as participants and beneficiaries in the main alternative development activities, rather than developing separate activities for them. This was deemed necessary to achieve social justice for women as well as men, and to ensure more successful outcomes of the alternative development interventions.

4. The strategy adopted to achieve gender mainstreaming

The existing alternative development approach was adapted at two levels. Firstly, by improving the access of women to training as rural promoters in areas where women have traditional roles in agriculture. Secondly, approaches were developed to allow increased participation of women in the farmers' associations, both at grassroots and at managerial levels.

5. The outcome of the gender mainstreaming efforts

The increased access of women to training was seen to have contributed directly to the greater economic impact in Alternative Development production. Between 1996 and 1999 approximately 6,500 women became members of farmer organizations. It is anticipated that this new approach will eventually lead to positive change in existing gender relations in rural society as well as to greater impact of the Alternative Development interventions.

6. Factors contributing to / hindering the success of the mainstreaming efforts

In the prevailing male-dominated rural society making women members of farmers' organizations has not always been straightforward. Among the main issues which needed to be addressed was the right of women to become members of these organizations, with the same rights, obligations and benefits as men. Support to leadership training for women to support them in undertaking new roles was also required.

7. Summary of the main lessons learned

This project provides an excellent example of a United Nations entity coming to an understanding that achievement of the goals set (in this particular case alternative development strategies) is not possible if women are left outside the process. On the basis of analysis of the economic roles and contributions of both women and men, it became clear in the course of implementation of the project that real success could only be achieved if women were involved alongside men in an equitable manner. Integration of gender perspectives was thus integral to the success of the project and achievement of the goals of alternative development.

Source: UNDCP. UNDCP Alternative Development Work in Peru: A Success Story in Progress, 1999

 
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