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How do agricultural development projects aim to empower women?: Insights from an analysis of project strategies


  • Johnson, Nancy L.
  • Balagamwala, Mysbah
  • Pinkstaff, Crossley
  • Theis, Sophie
  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela
  • Quisumbing, Agnes R.


Increasing numbers of development agencies and individual projects espouse objectives of women’s empowerment, yet there has been little systematic work on mechanisms by which interventions can enhance women’s empowerment. This gap exists because of the lack of consensus on indicators as well as the lack of attention paid to measuring the effects of different types of interventions on empowerment. This paper identifies the types of strategies employed by 13 agricultural development projects within the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Gender, Agriculture, and Assets Project Phase 2 (GAAP2) that have explicit objectives of empowering women. We distinguish between reach, benefit, and empowerment as objectives of agricultural development projects. Simply including women does not necessarily benefit them, and even activities that benefit do not necessarily empower. To identify strategies to empower women, we build on the domains included in the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) and are working with the GAAP2 portfolio of projects to develop an empowerment metric that is applicable in the project setting (a project-level WEAI, or pro-WEAI). We have identified the following potential domains to be included in pro-WEAI: input into production decision making, control over resources, control over income, leadership, time, physical mobility, intrahousehold relationships, individual empowerment, reduction in gender-based violence, and decision making on nutrition. The GAAP2 projects address these domains through a wide variety of activities that can be grouped into four main types: (1) direct and indirect provision of goods and services; (2) forming or strengthening groups, organizations, or platforms and networks that involve women; (3) strengthening knowledge and capacity through agricultural extension, business and finance training, nutrition behavior change communication, and other training; and (4) changing gender norms through one-way awareness raising or two-way community conversations about gender issues and their implications. In general, projects with activities in more activity areas target more domains of empowerment, and most projects target a core set of six empowerment domains. With the exception of intrahousehold relationships, which is always targeted by activities designed to influence gender norms, projects target domains with different types of activities or combinations of activities. This setup suggests that there may be no one-to-one link between a specific activity and empowerment benefits, and that implementation modalities will determine whether and how an activity contributes to women’s empowerment. The effectiveness of these project strategies will be assessed using both quantitative and qualitative methods throughout the GAAP2 research project.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnson, Nancy L. & Balagamwala, Mysbah & Pinkstaff, Crossley & Theis, Sophie & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2017. "How do agricultural development projects aim to empower women?: Insights from an analysis of project strategies," IFPRI discussion papers 1609, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1609

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Esther Duflo, 2012. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1079, December.
    2. Das, Narayan & Yasmin, Rabeya & Ara, Jinnat & Kamruzzaman, Md. & Davis, Peter & Behrman, Julia A. & Roy, Shalini & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2013. "How do intrahousehold dynamics change when assets are transferred to women? Evidence from BRAC’s Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction—Targeting the Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh:," IFPRI discussion papers 1317, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Santos, Florence & Fletschner, Diana & Savath, Vivien & Peterman, Amber, 2014. "Can Government-Allocated Land Contribute to Food Security? Intrahousehold Analysis of West Bengal’s Microplot Allocation Program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 860-872.
    4. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Roy, Shalini & Njuki, Jemimah & Tanvin, Kakuly & Waithanji, Elizabeth, 2013. "Can dairy value-chain projects change gender norms in rural Bangladesh? Impacts on assets, gender norms, and time use:," IFPRI discussion papers 1311, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Johnson, Nancy L. & Kovarik, Chiara & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth & Njuki, Jemimah & Quisumbing, Agnes, 2016. "Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 295-311.
    6. Mara van den Bold & Andrew Dillon & Deanna Olney & Marcellin Ouedraogo & Abdoulaye Pedehombga & Agnes Quisumbing, 2015. "Can Integrated Agriculture-Nutrition Programmes Change Gender Norms on Land and Asset Ownership? Evidence from Burkina Faso," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(9), pages 1155-1174, September.
    7. Roy, Shalini & Ara, Jinnat & Das, Narayan & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2015. "“Flypaper effects” in transfers targeted to women: Evidence from BRAC's “Targeting the Ultra Poor” program in Bangladesh," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 1-19.
    8. Talip Kilic & Paul Winters & Calogero Carletto, 2015. "Gender and agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa: introduction to the special issue," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 46(3), pages 281-284, May.
    9. Johnston, Deborah & Stevano, Sara & Malapit, Hazel J. & Hull, Elizabeth & Kadiyala, Suneetha, 2015. "Agriculture, gendered time use, and nutritional outcomes: A systematic review:," IFPRI discussion papers 1456, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    10. van den Bold, Mara & Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Gillespie, Stuart, 2013. "Women’s empowerment and nutrition: An evidence review:," IFPRI discussion papers 1294, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    11. Malapit, Hazel Jean L. & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2015. "What dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture matter for nutrition in Ghana?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 54-63.
    12. Neha Kumar & Agnes Quisumbing, 2011. "Access, adoption, and diffusion: understanding the long-term impacts of improved vegetable and fish technologies in Bangladesh," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(2), pages 193-219.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sophie Theis & Nicole Lefore & Ruth Meinzen-Dick & Elizabeth Bryan, 2018. "What happens after technology adoption? Gendered aspects of small-scale irrigation technologies in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 35(3), pages 671-684, September.

    More about this item


    indicators; women; empowerment; agricultural development; strategies; monitoring; evaluation; gender; nutrition; capacity building; women’s empowerment; agricultural development projects; project strategies; monitoring and evaluation;

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