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Gender: A key dimension linking agricultural programs to improved nutrition and health

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R Meinzen-Dick
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Empirical evidence shows that increasing women’s control over land, physical assets, and financial assets serves to raise agricultural productivity, improve child health and nutrition, and increase expenditures on education, as women are more likely than men to spend income on food, healthcare and the education of their children. This book chapter focuses on three agricultural development strategies 1) linking smallholders to markets, 2) large-scale agriculture, and 3) homestead food production, to illustrate the significance of the gender dimension and how women’s increased access over resources can occur. For example, a recurring problem for market-oriented smallholder strategies is for women to maintain control of their income. In Kenyan tea production, women’s bargaining power is greater in households where women’s labour is indispensable than in households that rely on hired labour. Where women are less able to transport produce to market, men generally make the financial transactions and retain the income. New methods of payment now make it easier for payments for women’s production go directly to women through microfinance groups or producer groups (such as milk unions). Payment systems via mobile phones further expand the options for women to receive payments directly. Equally, innovations are occurring in homestead food production. An example of this is a Bangladeshi NGO that hires female livestock workers and modifies bicycles so women can use them to collect milk. Moving the focus of the dairy value chain from the market to the homestead helped increase women’s participation, and linked the homestead to the market.

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