While women in Burkina Faso are active in the agricultural sector, few own land, instead working on family farms owned and managed by their husbands or male relatives. Because of this, women reap few of the financial benefits of their labour. Further, the additional burden of household chores—placed solely on women in most homes—limits the time they can work on whatever small amounts of land they may control. The buy-in of community leaders and involving men is vital to remedying these issues and supporting the increased economic gains of women farmers.
Farmers’ organizations leading change
P4P and partners carried out a campaign to empower rural women in the North and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, reaching some 37,500 smallholder farmers and their communities. Training activities promoted women’s access to productive resources and their equal participation in decision-making at household, farmers’ organization and community levels. As respected and credible actors in their communities, P4P-supported farmers’ organizations provided an important point of entry.
Leaders of these organizations took ownership of the gender campaign, working alongside trainers from local NGOs to conduct public meetings and organize theatre presentations on gender issues. Farmers’ organization leaders also met with cultural and religious leaders in their communities to mobilize their support for the project, and created action plans to promote gender equity. Men and women members were identified to become community focal points and role models. These individuals are responsible for ensuring the ongoing discussion of gender issues and responding to questions within organizations and the community at large. The gender campaign was carried out in collaboration with the government’s Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Gender and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Men’s participation shifting cultural norms
[photo:643654] Ali Ouattara, head of agricultural programmes at the Association Formation Développement Ruralité (AFDR), a P4P-supported farmers’ organization comprised of village-level farmers’ groups, notes that both behaviors and mentalities have changed since the gender campaign began. He observes that increased dialogue and autonomy have allowed women members of AFDR to triple their cowpea production during the 2013 agricultural season. Acquiring the support of men such as Ali has been vital in achieving the gains made by women farmers. Today, many husbands and male family members are sharing farming inputs with women and providing them with more land to farm. According to data gathered by P4P, 70 to 80 percent of women in participating communities have expanded the size of their plots. This is in part thanks to training which has given women the confidence to ask for more land, as well as men’s understanding of the benefits of doing so.
In Burkina Faso, P4P’s ambitious goal of reaching 50 percent female participants in farmers’ organizations has been reached. In the CAP-Yako farmers’ organization, female membership rose from 33 to 55 percent after the initiative began. Male and female members of farmers’ organizations note the difference made by increased gender awareness, with women speaking more in meetings and their suggestions being taken into consideration more often than before.
These efforts have also had an impact at the household level. Both men and women report better communication, empowering women to take part in decision-making where their voice was often unheard previously. For example, decisions on when and where to send children to school—not to mention how to pay for schooling—are more frequently being made together. At the community level, traditional practices have been nuanced towards ensuring the well-being of women and their families.
Men in the North region worked with religious authorities to ban a practice called mondodin, in which men close grain reserves to avoid depleting the family’s reserves during the lean season, leaving their wives to feed themselves and their children. This practice has many negative impacts on families, frequently leaving women unable to adequately provide for their children’s nutrition. After raising awareness about the harmful effects of this practice, women confirm they now have access to granaries and family stocks all year. Elsewhere, women have been put in charge of community grain reserves. This has reduced waste, as women are often best placed to assess household needs since they are in charge of preparing meals for their families.
Despite these gains, many women require additional support to increase their productivity, and are still limited by a lack of equipment. Martine Sawadogo, a member of AFDR and president of the Nabonswindé women’s group, has tripled her acreage and nearly quadrupled her production over the past three years of association with P4P. However, without access to animal traction or money to pay for labor, she is unable to continue increasing her production and sales.
In 2014 and beyond, WFP will continue supporting the Government of Burkina Faso to build on progress made. A continued focus will be placed on increasing the participation of women in the agricultural sector, both as producers and as leaders in their farmers’ organizations and communities.
Article by Eliza Warren-Shriner, P4P, Burkina Faso