WomenWatch - Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women

IFAD: Good Practice Example
Household-based Approaches to Training and Extension

Changing Traditional Gender Roles "From Within" Rather Than "From Without"

The distinctiveness of household-based approaches to training and extension is that they bring about changes in gender relations "from within", rather than being imposed "from without". Standard approaches to gender mainstreaming are based on the assumption that empowering women "outside" the household domain will automatically increase women's bargaining power within households. Women's enhanced social capital and agency at the community level can greatly contribute to strengthening women's position within the household. However, this correlation cannot be taken for granted. Promoting collective forms of women's agency, thereby cutting across households, does not necessarily challenge intra-household inequalities. Thus, initiatives that stimulate change from within households are promising options to bring about effective and tangible changes in gender relations which, in turn, contribute to increased productivity and enhanced sustainability.

The household mentoring approach, as it has been developed under the IFAD-supported District Livelihoods Support Programme, DLSP (2007-2014) in Uganda, is an innovative extension methodology used to work with poorer households. The specificity of this approach is that all adult members of a household, including both women and men farmers, are visited and assisted by a trained mentor selected from the local community. During these visits, men and women in a household learn how to better plan their livelihoods together, work together to improve their food security and income, and to share the benefits equally.

Similarly, the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) for gender-sensitive value chain development was also piloted in Uganda. GALS consists of a series of simple, pro-poor, visual diagrams that are used by a team of trained facilitators to help poor women and men farmers to critically reflect together on their livelihoods and identify what are the changes that need to be pushed forward in different spheres of their life — at the household, community and the market level — in order to increase production and income.

Impact and Results on Gender Relations, Family Well-being and Agricultural Production

The mentoring of poorer households has generated profound impacts at the household level, not only in terms of food security and increased incomes, but also in terms of gender equality and women's empowerment. Gender-based constraints are some of the most common constraints that undermine household food security and production for income. Women's involvement in the planning and management of farming activities together with men, together with developing the household's culture of self-help, has greatly improved their access to and control over household resources. Gender relations at the household level have improved and workloads are shared more equitably. Women have strengthened their self-esteem and decision-making capacities within the households as well as in the broader community. Improved resource sharing among household members has translated into increased agricultural output and income, which in turn has had a positive impact on household food security and asset-building. Through a multi-pronged agenda to address their development challenges, including one of self-help, these poorer households have been able to move towards the first rung of a market-orientated livelihood strategy.

The GALS project has brought about significant changes in gender relations, particularly with regards to land ownership and the gender division of labour. Some women reported that their husbands are now contributing more to farming activities and household-related tasks. Important changes have also been document in households with high domestic violence. Some women now exert major control over household assets and income. Joint and better management of household resources is increasing. There has been an improvement in production and quality of coffee, which is the main source of income for participant households. This in turn has led to increased income and improved trust between different value chain actors.

Disseminating and Scaling-up Household-based Approaches to Extension

The household mentoring approach was first implemented by IFAD under the District Livelihood Support Project, DLSP, in Uganda. The GALS project was also piloted in Uganda under the grant-funded project Gender Justice in Pro-poor Value-chain Development with Oxfam Novib.

Several knowledge-sharing initiatives have been organized by IFAD to replicate and scale-up these good practices in other IFAD-funded projects. In the case of GALS, there is a process of replication across neighbouring communities and cooperatives. A learning route for the GALS methodology was conducted in September 2010 and the methodology is currently being replicated in Nigeria and Rwanda with the support of IFAD grant funds. Overall, the interests of IFAD and other donors' support projects, as well as of local civil society organizations and governments demonstrate the sustainability of the practice.

With regard to the household mentoring approach, this is also being tested in Malawi and has been discussed in the context of the design of the new extension service in Uganda. A learning route is also being organized to disseminate the approach.

Key Factors for Success

Key successful activities include:

  • The involvement of all adult household members in training activities, which contributes to strengthen mutual learning and collaboration among women, ensuring at the same time that gender-specific needs and potential areas of conflicts are taken into account and addressed.
  • The formation of a team of well-trained locally selected facilitators alongside the building of a peer-learning structure.
  • The adoption of a bottom-up, demand-driven approach, whereby rural women and men are enabled to identify their needs and plan future actions accordingly, with minimal external intermediations.
  • The use of very simple, visual diagrams that can be easily used by poor illiterate women and men.
  • The adoption of an integrated livelihoods approach, which recognizes and values the multiple livelihoods strategies of poor rural households, including the distinctive and complementary roles women and men play in the household economy.
  • The development of a culture of self-help and linking households to other locally-based service providers.

Further Reading and Information