Types of Research
Land tenure refers to a set of land rights and land governance institutions which can be informal (customary, traditional) or formal (legally recognized), that define relationships between people and land and natural resources (FAO, 2002). These land relationships may include, but are not limited to, rights to use land for cultivation and production, rights to control how land should be used including for cultivation, resource extraction, conservation, or construction, and rights to transfer – through sale, gift, or inheritance – those land use and control rights (FAO, 2002). Land tenure security – i.e., the level of confidence landholders have in their land rights – depends on the ability of informal and formal institutions to enforce those land rights and prevent others from challenging them (Feder & Feeny, 1991). In low and middle income countries land tenure security has been linked to improved land management including greater investments to improve land and agricultural productivity (Deininger & Jun, 2006; Deininger, Ali, & Alemu, 2011; Ali, Deininger, & Goldstein, 2014; Lawry et al., 2017). Having legal documentation in particular has been associated with a greater sense of ownership over land, increases in land productivity and capital investments associated with land, and in some cases additional financial opportunities such as access to credit for landholders with formal land titles (Deininger, Ali, & Alemu, 2011). But in spite of the widely recognized benefits of land tenure security more than 70 percent of the world’s population – and in particular many poor and vulnerable populations including ethnic minorities, smallholder farmers, and women – still lack access to formal systems to register their property and receive legally recognized land titles (Place, 2009; Enemark et al., 2014; Mitchell et al. 2016).
A growing body of evidence suggests that empowering women may lead to economic benefits (The World Bank, 2011; Duflo, 2012; Kabeer & Natali, 2013). Little work, however, focuses specifically on the potential impacts of women’s empowerment in agricultural settings. Through a comprehensive review of literature this report considers how prioritizing women’s empowerment in agriculture might lead to economic benefits. With an intentionally narrow focus on economic empowerment, we draw on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)’s indicators of women’s empowerment in agriculture to consider the potential economic rewards to increasing women’s control over agricultural productive resources (including their own time and labor), over agricultural production decisions, and over agricultural income. While we recognize that there may be quantifiable benefits of improving women’s empowerment in and of itself, we focus on potential longer-term economic benefits of improvements in these empowerment measures.
We consider the case for spending the marginal dollar on empowering female farmers as a means of increasing household productivity, either prioritizing women for new investments or re-allocating existing resources. The literature suggests at least two distinct avenues via which economic benefits from investing in women’s empowerment in agriculture might arise. The first is by equalizing access to productive resources (including access to and control over land, labor, and other inputs) between men and women, and the second by leveraging differences between men and women that might lead to improved household outcomes. For the first avenue, we consider two theorized pathways to economic benefits from women’s empowerment in agriculture that posit reducing female farmers’ constraints would allow them to be as productive as equivalent male farmers. Pathway 1 focuses on empowering women through increasing their access to and control over agricultural inputs, thereby increasing overall agricultural productivity by reducing gender productivity gaps. Pathway 2 focuses on women’s control over their own time and labor, hypothesizing that removing constraints to women’s mobility would increase overall household labor productivity.
In the second avenue, we consider three further theorized pathways from increasing women’s decision-making power over agricultural decisions to economically beneficial individual and household outcomes, given assumed male-female differences in decision-making under similar circumstances. Pathway 3 connects differences in men’s and women’s decisions of what crops to grow with household nutrition outcomes. Pathway 4 hypothesizes that differences in plot management between men and women, specifically women’s greater likelihood of intercropping, influence farm soil quality and long-term household agricultural productivity. Finally, Pathway 5 draws a connection between differences in how men and women spend income from agriculture to impacts on household nutrition and education outcomes. We note that any measured benefits from leveraging male-female differences in the resource choices they make may dissipate as women gain more access and control if the differences are not due to being a woman per se, but rather stem from being disempowered - since this would change the circumstances in which evidence of these differences in decision-making have been observed.
This review of the literature ultimately shows some - but not conclusive - support for portions of all five theorized causal pathways between women’s economic empowerment in agriculture and economic returns. The literature also provides some dissenting evidence surrounding women’s constraints and preferences, most notably highlighting that results surrounding returns to empowerment can be context specific. We also note some inconsistencies in published methods and findings, and several key data gaps. First, published estimates of economic returns to empowering women in agriculture are still relatively rare, are mostly non-experimental, and are often limited in terms of data quality. Second, while published estimates provide some indication that, in many contexts, economic returns to women’s empowerment might be substantial, differences in measurement and reporting impede readily comparing benefits across contexts. Third, key variables necessary for extrapolating study findings to broader estimates of the benefits of economic empowerment – including basic variables such as land area managed by women – are not readily available. Finally, data on the costs of interventions addressing (eliminating or leveraging) the male-female differences in the five pathways are limited, making calculations of potential returns per dollar of investment difficult.
Previous research has shown that men and women, on average, have different risk attitudes and social preferences and may therefore see different value propositions in response to new economic opportunities. We use data from smallholder farm households in Mali to test whether risk perceptions differ by gender in this setting and across risk domains. We model the association between gender and perception or expression of concern across six risks (work injury, extreme weather, community relationships, debt, lack of buyers at market, and conflict) while controlling for demographic (age, education, health, wealth, time poverty, number of children) and attitudinal (social orientation, access to information, worldview, optimism, and beliefs about self-efficacy) characteristics. Factor analysis highlights extreme weather and conflict as eliciting the most distinct patterns of participant response. Regression analysis reveals an association between gender and risk perception, with women expressing more concern across all risks studied except for extreme weather. Also, we find lower risk perception associated with an individualistic and/or fatalistic worldview, a risk-seeking outlook, and optimism, while education, better health, a social orientation, self-efficacy and access to information are generally associated with more frequent worry – with some inconsistency for extreme weather, debt, and conflict risk. Further, income, wealth, and time poverty exhibit important, and complex, association patterns. Understanding if, and how, men’s and women’s risk preferences differ could help development organizations to shape interventions targeting women, to increase the likelihood of adoption, and to avoid inadvertently making certain sub-populations worse off by increasing the potential for negative outcomes.
We use OLS and logistic regression to investigate variation in husband and wife perspectives on the division of authority over agriculture-related decisions within households in rural Tanzania. Using original data from husbands and wives (interviewed separately) in 1,851 Tanzanian households, the analysis examines differences in the wife’s authority over 13 household and farming decisions. The study finds that the level of decision-making authority allocated to wives by their husbands, and the authority allocated by wives to themselves, both vary significantly across households. In addition to commonly considered assets such as women’s age and education, in rural agricultural households women’s health and labour activities also appear to matter for perceptions of authority. We also find husbands and wives interviewed separately frequently disagree with each other over who holds authority over key farming, family, and livelihood decisions. Further, the results of OLS and logistic regression suggest that even after controlling for various individual, household, and regional characteristics, husband and wife claims to decision-making authority continue to vary systematically by decision – suggesting decision characteristics themselves also matter. The absence of spousal agreement over the allocation of authority (i.e., a lack of “intrahousehold accord”) over different farm and household decisions is problematic for interventions seeking to use survey data to develop and inform strategies for reducing gender inequalities or empowering women in rural agricultural households. Findings provide policy and program insights into when studies interviewing only a single spouse or considering only a single decision may inaccurately characterize intra-household decision-making dynamics.
This brief presents an overview of EPAR’s previous research related to gender. We first present our key takeaways related to labor and time use, technology adoption, agricultural production, control over income and assets, health and nutrition, and data collection. We then provide a brief overview of each previous research project related to gender along with gender-related findings, starting with the most recent project. Many of the gender-related findings draw from other sources; please see the full documents for references. Reports available on EPAR’s website are hyperlinked in the full brief.
This brief presents an overview of EPAR’s previous research on nutrition and food security and outlines summaries and key findings from 15 technical reports and research briefs. Key findings are drawn from our own original analyses as well as from other sources, which are cited in the individual reports. We also include appendices briefly summarizing EPAR’s research on health and climate change, topics somewhat related to nutrition and food security, and EPAR’s confidential work on nutrition and food security.
Labor is one of the most productive assets for many rural households in developing countries. Despite the importance of labor—and time use more generally—little research has empirically examined the quality of time-use data in household surveys. Many household surveys rely on respondent recall, the reliability of which may decrease as recall length increases. In addition, respondents often report on time allocation for the entire household, which they may not know or recall as clearly as their own time allocation. Finally, simultaneous activities such as tending children while preparing dinner, may lead to the systematic underestimation of certain activities, particularly those that tend to be performed by women. This paper examines whether the identity of the survey respondent affects estimates of time allocation within the household. Drawing on the Ugandan LSMS-ISA household survey, we find that individuals responding for themselves report higher levels of time use over the previous week than when responding for other household members. Moreover, male respondents tend to underreport time allocation for females over the age of 15 as compared to female respondents, especially time spent on domestic activities. In addition, an analysis of the effects of two economics shocks—having a baby and floods or droughts—suggests that the identity of the respondent can affect substantive conclusions about the effects of shocks on household time use.
Relative to chronic hunger, seasonal hunger in rural and urban areas of Africa is poorly understood. No estimates are compiled, and limited evidence exists on prevalence, causes, and impacts. This paper contributes to the body of evidence by examining the extent and potential drivers of seasonal hunger using panel data from the Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS). Farmers are commonly thought to use various strategies to smooth consumption, including planting “off-season” crops, investing in post-harvest storage technologies, or generally diversifying farm portfolios including livestock products and/or wild crops. Similarly, when markets are available, farmers may diversify through off-farm income sources in order to purchase food in lean seasons. We investigate whether seasonal hunger – distinct from chronic hunger – exists in Malawi, drawing on two waves of panel data from the LSMS-ISA series. We examine the extent of seasonal hunger, factors associated with variation in seasonal hunger, and how recurring and longer-term seasonal hunger might be associated with various household welfare measures. We find that both urban and rural households report experiencing seasonal hunger in the pre-harvest months, with descriptive evidence suggesting male gender, age, and education of household head, livestock ownership, and storage of crops are associated with lower levels of seasonal hunger. In addition, we find that Malawian households with seasonal hunger harvest crops earlier than average – a short-term coping mechanism that can reduce the crop’s yield and nutritional value, possibly perpetuating hunger.
A large and growing body of scholarship now suggests that many household outcomes, including children’s education and nutrition, are associated with a wife’s bargaining power and control over household decision-making. In turn, bargaining power in a household is theorized to be driven by a wife’s financial and human capital assets – in particular the degree to which these assets contribute to household productivity and/or to the wife’s exit options. This paper draws on the detailed Farmer First dataset in Tanzania and Mali to examine husband and wife reports of a wife’s share of decision-making authority in polygamous households, where multiple wives jointly contribute to household productivity, and where exit options for any single wife may be less credible. We find that both husbands and wives assign less authority to the wife in polygamous households relative to monogamous households. We also find that a wife’s assets are not as strongly associated with decision-making authority in polygamous versus monogamous contexts. Finally, we find that responses to questions on spousal authority vary significantly by spouse in both polygamous and monogamous households, suggesting interventions based on the response of a single spouse may incorrectly inform policies and programs.
The vast literature on poverty in developing countries offers a variety of explanations for why poverty persists in some areas, while in others poor individuals and households are able to escape it. The challenges in identifying precise pathways out of poverty are compounded by a lack of consensus on the most appropriate empirical methods to measure poverty, and to determine causality in cross-country studies of the impacts of financial access on poverty outcomes. Even in studies within countries using survey or panel data, household level evidence on pathways out of poverty is difficult to generalize to different demographic groups or geographic areas that are outside of the specific area studied. In addition, comparing effect sizes across interventions targeting poverty can be complicated, making it difficult to identify any one pathway as more or less effective than others. In this report, we set aside the broad and ongoing debate over what matters most to poverty reduction in order to focus on a single set of possible pathways out of poverty via improved and expanded access to financial services, focusing on South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and considering empirical evidence from Bangladesh and Tanzania. A brief background review of finance and poverty reduction evidence at the country, household, and individual level emphasizes the importance of a functioning financial system and the need to remove individual and household barriers to capital accumulation. We follow with an in-depth literature review on studies that link poverty reduction in Bangladesh or Tanzania with one or more of five financial intervention categories: remittances; government subsidies; conditional and unconditional cash transfers; credit; and combination programs. The resulting empirical evidence from these sources reveal a high share (61%) of positive reported associations between a financial intervention and outcome measure related to our five chosen financial interventions. The remaining studies found insignificant or mixed associations, but very few (3 out of 56) indicate that access to a financial mechanism was associated with worsened poverty. The heterogeneity of study types and interventions makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of one intervention over another, and more research is needed on whether such approaches constitute a durable, long-term exit from poverty.