Category Archives: food security

Women’s voices, gender equity champions and a gender lens all matter – converging messages from GAF6

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A Thai woman gets ready to process threadfin salmon for the market. Photo: Supaporn Anuchiracheeva, the Small-scale Fishers and Organic Fisheries Products Project.

In bold outline, the take home messages from the GAF6 full report – Engendering Security in Fisheries and Aquaculture – converge on the following: women’s voices and gender equity champions  can make a real difference; and a gender lens lets us see inequalities and how to remedy them. These points were woven through the 68 rich and varied presentations, panels, posters and workshops of GAF6. Read the full report here, see the take home messages below.

  • Participants were urged to focus on gender relationships, not simply roles, and on intersectionality, as women’s and men’s lives were interconnected and gender interacted with other systems in society, e.g., cultural, political and economic structures.
  • The 2014 Small-Scale Fisheries Voluntary Guidelines are opening up new policy space on gender equality. Yet, in implementing the Guidelines, women have been deterred from taking part in decision-making, are invisible in most fisheries statistics and their interests excluded from national policies – unless NGOs and women’s groups have advocated for inclusion. Even when women’s needs are recognized, money and expertise may not have been allocated. In a hopeful sign, some recent projects are committed to gender equality.
  • Aquaculture is gendered. Gender roles and relationships in aquaculture follow typical social patterns of ownership, rights and power. Unless they break out as entrepreneurs, women are positioned in small-scale, near-home, and low technology aquaculture, or as low-paid labour in medium and industrial scale operations. Nevertheless, small-scale household aquaculture can fulfill important subsistence roles and be improved to better satisfy food security and nutrition.
  • A persistent thread on fair livelihoods in fish value chains was that gender equality and equity must be fought for, and protected by active measures, rather than expecting it to happen through a sense of natural justice.
  • Using a gender lens brings deeper understanding of climate and disaster adaptation. Flexibility, versatility and agency are keys to people’s resilience. Gender-blind efforts to help people adapt should always be challenged.
  • Real progress in securing gender equality will not be achieved unless social norms are transformed.

Read the whole GAF6 report here – Link

Social development in seafood production

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Panel at the Seafood Industry and Social Development Conference, September 2015, Maryland, USA. Arlene Nietes Satapornvanit is second from left.

Brief report on the Proceedings of the Seafood Industry and Social Development Conference
21-22 September 2015, Annapolis, Maryland, USA
By Arlene Nietes Satapornvanit

In early 2015, NACA (Network for Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific) was invited by Oxfam/SFP/UNDP to participate in the Seafood Industry and Social Development Conference to present the work we are doing on gender in aquaculture, and the results of the USAID/MARKET Gender project. The conference was aimed to promote and encourage further work towards social development in seafood production. The Conference was held on 21-22 September 2015 at The Loews Hotel, Annapolis, Maryland, USA. It was attended by various actors along the seafood value chain, mainly from the US and Europe.

The conference was convened by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), Oxfam and the UNDP, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). The representative of the RF emphasized during the opening remarks, that the industry has to ensure the social and economic well-being of those who depend on the industry for their lives. There is an intersection between human livelihoods and natural ecosystems to meet food security and economic growth. The need for sustainable approaches to meet the demand for fish in the future as emphasized, considering that only 150 M tons could be produced but 230-250 M tons are needed to meet the demand for fish. The challenge is how to meet this difference. Small-scale fisheries was mentioned several times, in terms of livelihoods, diversified livelihoods and social safety nets. Efforts should focus on them, and it was suggested to promote financial innovations, with efforts having meaningful economic impacts and strengthened safety net. The Rockefeller Foundation recognizes the human development challenge, and they are willing to work with everyone to meet these challenges and achieve solutions.

Keynote speakers emphasized the role of the seafood industry in advancing social development. Gender equality and women empowerment were mentioned as key aspects to achieve social development. Dr Christophe Bene (CIAT/CGIAR) suggested that we should focus on the contribution of fish to food security and nutrition. The importance of women needs to be considered, as they are half of the labor force, especially in processing, factories, fish trading, and informal sectors. However, their contribution and involvement are oftentimes unrecorded, undervalued, and invisible in national statistics. There is gender bias both in and outside the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. It is time to create a positive narrative food security and nutrition. One of his recommendations was to consider women as a key entry point, and collecting gender disaggregated data is necessary to provide policy makers relevant information on the importance of women in the seafood industry. In addition to this, he also recommended the promotion and defense of labor rights, looking beyond the fish farmers. The fisheries and aquaculture sector needs to change our narrative, moving away from ‘crisis’ narrative to emphasizing the positive contribution of fish to nutrition. This will result in a new image of fish based on food security and nutrition and impact on health.

Other keynote speakers also made suggestion on how the industry can contribute to social development. One suggestion was to find ways to ensure that benefits are widely shared across the industry, especially among small scale producers and suppliers, women and marginalized groups. The UN Guiding Principles were also cited, wherein human rights in seafood industry concerns include forced labor, and impacts on women and children, consumer health, transportation, etc. In addition, a rights based approached is necessary to achieve a socially responsible seafood industry to end poverty and injustice. For Oxfam, their vision for change is to have synergies with other stakeholders, and to develop a more sustainable and socially responsible seafood sector. Producers need to have a role and a voice. Social concerns can be matched with environmental and economic concerns.

Gender focus, and women as half of the workforce was mentioned in some of the presentations, especially those from international organizations such as World Bank, and also by the various NGOs working among the small scale fisheries in developing countries. The Voluntary Guidelines for Small-Scale Fisheries was also presented, and the section of Gender Equality was pointed out, considered a first in a fisheries instrument.

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Arlene Nietes Satapornvanit presenting on NACA’s gender work at the Seafood Industry and Social Development Conference.

NACA’s presentation was on its gender programme, the newly launched Women, Youth and Aquaculture Development, and the results and recommendations from the recently concluded project on Thematic Studies on Gender in Aquaculture in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. This was a project implemented by NACA under the USAID supported Maximizing Agricultural Revenue through Knowledge, Enterprise Development and Trade (MARKET) project. Participants were encouraged to work in partnership with NACA to reach the various groups of small scale producers and stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The remaining other sessions consisted of speakers from various organizations and companies involved in seafood production, trade, marketing, certification, and social development, presenting their activities and how they are involved or plan to involve in promoting social development. There is a high intention to be involved in social development and an interest in promoting gender equality throughout the value chain. However it is clear that much still needs to be done in equipping those interested with tools and mechanisms for them to apply a more gender sensitive and responsive approach in their activities.

Practical examples given by FAO included providing direct support of women to women’s organizations for example in the processing sector and in developing their capacities and skills. The Global Environmental Facility promotes equality across genders, promotes livelihoods and opportunities for women, and strengthening business skills to empower women’s organizations. World Bank tries to disaggregate gender data, looking for opportunities along the value chains to improve efficiency and make more money for those in the value chains, especially deficiencies in post-harvest where mainly the workers are women.

In conclusion, on the gender aspect part, it was recommended to not use the term “fisherman” as there are also women fishers, so it was suggested to use fisher folks instead. Governance is recognized as needed to have an enabling environment and the private sector is also a key actor in advancing social development in the seafood industry. The gender dimension was not really mentioned much in this conference so it was suggested to put women at the center of social development. Working in partnerships with others is also essential, including investing in the empowerment of small scale fisheries and labor industry, and promoting gender inclusiveness as it benefits business.

The majority of the presentations for the 2 day conference can be found here:

New rural technologies and gender

Women in Lake Pulicat building crab fattening cages. Photo: Dr. B. Shanthi, CIBA (ICAR), India.

Women in Lake Pulicat building crab fattening cages. Photo: Dr. B. Shanthi, CIBA (ICAR), India.

A tremendous emphasis in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture research is given to developing new, more efficient and profitable technologies for farmers and fishers.  Governments all around the world support research and extension institutes, and the private sector also has a huge influence. But how are women faring in having a say in what their priorities are and in getting access to the innovations? Most especially in the agriculture sector, a considerable amount of research has gone into evaluating these questions. Catherine Ragasa and Debdatta Sengupta from IFPRI, and Martha Osorio, Nora OurabahHaddad, and Kirsten Mathieson from FAO recently reviewed what has been learned. Their report – Gender-specific approaches, rural institutions and technological innovations: Identifying demand- and supply-side constraints and opportunities in access, adoption and impact of agricultural technological innovations – is well worth reading. It puts together key findings and good recommendations for integrated and stand-alone action. The integrated actions are particularly important as they stitch together the issues of gender and technology needs, its generation, and its dissemination. In the process, they weave together the central importance of gender in the workforces of research and extension institutions.

Here are key messages

  • Female heads of households and plot-managers are less likely to adopt a wide range of agricultural and rural technologies than male heads and plot-managers. The most commonly-cited reasons are greater time and labor constraints; relatively less access to funds and credit; more limited information, education and training; more limited capacity and opportunity for participation in innovation and decision-making processes; and more limited access to accompanying inputs and services. These are influenced by weak legislation that protect rights and promotes equality and by persistent social biases and cultural norms.
  • Although various labor-saving and energy-saving technologies have huge potential, empirical studies show that their use and adoption among rural women is often low and usually much lower than men. Three reasons for gender differences are common: (1) cultural-appropriateness; (2) physical accessibility; and (3) affordability. In some cases, the adoption of improved productivity-enhancing technologies has increased women’s time burdens. The most common reason is the weaker participation and engagement of women farmers and stakeholders than men in priority-setting and research processes, limiting the opportunity to influence the development of new technologies.
  • In ICT, men are more likely to use the Internet and to have an email address than women. There is a more promising pattern of rural women accessing and using radios for agricultural information, although men still are more likely to own and control their use. The gap between men’s and women’s access use of mobile phones is diminishing, although in rural areas, men are more likely to own and have access to phones than women, who have greater levels of illiteracy, cultural barriers, and less available cash and access to credit.
  • There is increasing attention in the literature that women and men farmers are innovators and doing their own farm experimentation. Innovation funds can provide incentives for farm experimentation for women and men. Rural institutions and innovative producer organizations can succeed in using collective action to address access and liquidity and to reduce gender gaps in technology adoption. Farmer-innovators benefit more if they are linked with research and extension institutes, a conducive rural business climate and are linked to lucrative markets.
  • Most support organizations, including research organizations and their staff have weak capacity and incentives to be more effective and responsive to the needs of both women and men farmers. Numerous attempts of participatory and consultative approaches failed to deliver significant broad-based impact on technology adoption and gender-equitable outcomes. But, women are overwhelmingly under-represented as scientists, educators, graduates, managers and extension agents. Initiatives to increase more women graduates, scientists and extension agents are being implemented, but more need to be done.

Recommendations (in summary)

o Strengthening capacity of women and men farmers as innovators, evaluators of technologies, and key partners in innovation processes.

o Build measurable targets and strengthening the monitoring and evaluation to ensure that (1) planning and innovation processes addresses women and men’s needs, preferences and opportunities; (2) women and men can access and use these technologies; and (3) women and men benefit from these technologies.

o Holistic and integrated approach of looking at constraints to production and marketing and paying close attention to the complementarities of inputs and services.

o Promoting equal playing field:  strengthen women’s land, property and water rights. Affirmative action to ensure that more girls are going to school and more women professionals are getting equal opportunities as men in the area of research, extension, and education systems. Quota systems, focal points, and gender-balanced staffing in research, extension and education organizations do not often work without genuine empowerment among women professionals including confidence-building, greater mobility, decreasing time burden, training and capacity strengthening.

o More attention in research to gender-disaggregated data and gender analysis in mainstream research is needed. More studies are needed that provide nuanced categorization and analysis on gender and addresses the diversity and typologies of women and men farmers.

Download the report.

Going all the way: gender-just food security

Children in Cité Soleil (Haiti) receive meals Photographer: UN Photo/Marco Dormino via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) From the BRIDGE report.

Children in Cité Soleil (Haiti) receive meals
Photographer: UN Photo/Marco Dormino via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) From the BRIDGE report.

Food security is often presented as a gender-neutral problem, but unequal access to food affects women and girls disproportionately and so gender-sensitive solutions are needed. The UK-based BRIDGE gender and development initiative has just released a policy brief and report on gender, food security and nutrition exploring the evidence and providing a new vision of gender-justice with implementing principles. The Gender and Food Security: towards gender-just food and nutrition security draft vision is comprehensive, bringing together elements where their analysis indicates transformation is needed:

Gender-just food and nutrition security means a world without hunger, where women, men, girls and boys have equal access to nutritious, healthy food, and access to the means to produce, sell and purchase food. It is a world where the right to food for all is realised. Importantly it is a world free of gender-based violence, where the roles, responsibilities, opportunities and choices available to women and men – including unpaid caregiving and food provision – are not predetermined at birth but can, where possible, be developed in line with individual capacities and aspirations. Finally, it is a world where countries are equipped to produce enough food for their own populations through environmentally sound processes, while also being able to participate in (gender-) equitable global and regional food trading systems.

In short, the recommended five core principles are:

  1.  A commitment to rights, including the right to adequate food for all
  2. People-centred solutions, giving voice to the women and men who are producing and consuming food.
  3. Gender-transformative solutions, promoting gender justice and women’s empowerment and the transformation of unequal gender power relations, as a route to food and nutrition security and as goals in their own right.
  4. Supporting gender-equitable trade and investment policies that promote the local sustainable production of culturally appropriate food.
  5. Ecologically sustainable solutions that respect local knowledge and rights, moving beyond market-based solutions

The report’s recommendations for translating these principles into practice, paraphrased, are:

  • Strategies and instruments for protecting, recognising and realising rights: Formal legislation provides a vital mechanism for claiming rights to food and resources such as land, but to put these laws into practice, all people – especially women – must be informed about their rights and how to claim them.
  • Gender-aware programming that goes beyond ‘instrumentalising’ women: Move towards more comprehensive, contextualised gender analyses that revolve around understandings of power relations and socio-cultural dynamics, to facilitate the subtle shift in thinking and action. Address the invisible issues of women’s unpaid care work and gender-based violence.
  • Recognise and evaluate the multiple dimensions of women’s empowerment in food security programming: Develop appropriate indicators of empowerment that are more able to capture the quality of women’s lives, including the material, social, cultural and human dimensions.
  • Engage men and boys in promoting gender-just food security: There is a transformative potential of engaging men and boys towards both understanding and challenging gender norms around food and also changing norms and behaviours that may result in violence or prevent men from sharing care responsibilities.
  • Support women’s collective action as a lever of change: Creating and supporting women-only groups of producers can provide a means to strengthen women’s bargaining power in both producing and selling goods, and strengthen women’s empowerment more broadly.
  • Invest in gender-aware agro-ecological approaches as an important means to prioritise women’s existing knowledge and to promote increases in yield with low input and at no cost to the environment.
  • Access to information and appropriate technologies for ensuring improved nutrition outcomes within households and for empowering women through knowledge and tools.
  • More coherent, well-funded gender-aware policies, processes and institutions: Move beyond policy silos towards more connected, multisectoral approaches to ensure that positive, equitable actions in one policy area are not undermined by inequalities created by another. Gender-responsive budgeting.
  • Gender-just governance of food and nutrition security solutions: Address the unacceptable gender imbalance in decision-making around food and nutrition security in policy spaces through targeted strategies that include challenging the ‘deep structures’ of organisations that perpetuate exclusionary practices.

The report and the accompanying policy brief can be downloaded.

Although the BRIDGE report only lightly touches on fisheries and aquaculture, more on the links to gender and food security in the fish sectors can be found in the recent report on fish, food security and nutrition published by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition. See the HLPE report.