Gender in Agroforestry: Implications for Action-Research
Women in sub-Saharan Africa are major contributors to the agricultural economy, but their lower access than men to productive resources and opportunities, limits them from achieving optimal production. This paper gives a snapshot of issues surrounding women’s participation in and benefits from agroforestry, challenges that women face and examples of opportunities to enhance their involvement. First and foremost, we acknowledge that women’s decision making and management power related to production systems is complex and highly context-specific. Despite their active involvement in diverse agroforestry practices (e.g. management of nitrogen-fixing and fodder trees, domestication of indigenous fruit trees), their level of participation and benefits are often constrained by cultural norms and limited resources. Agroforestry value chains are particularly important for women’s income, but again low access to capital, technology and information, constrains women from developing their enterprises further. Moreover, women’s roles in value chains are often poorly supported by policymakers (in the design as well as in the implementation of policies) and service providers. Interventions to help smallholders improve the marketing of tree and agricultural products have not always had positive effects on women, because when the business becomes more profitable, men often tend to take over. One of the major challenges for agricultural development, however, remains women’s low access to extension services. Profound reforms in African extension systems from a centrally-controlled, top-down approach to a more participatory and pluralistic system, are expected to improve women’s access to agricultural information and services. The paper ends with some recommendations in the field of technology, policy and institutions, to enhance women’s participation in and benefits from agroforestry, and agriculture in general.