Closing the Gender Asset Gap: Learning from value chain development in Africa and Asia

The past few years have seen a growing interest in strengthening the abilities of smallholder farmers, particularly women farmers, to produce for both home and the market. Although value chain analysis has increasingly come to address gender issues, there has been minimal focus on the intersection between women’s asset endowments and their participation in market-oriented agriculture. This paper brings out the initial findings on changes in gender relations supported by the GAAP projects and explores the types of adaptive measures projects are taking to encourage more gender-equitable value project implementation. This paper builds on that research on value chain-linked projects in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, horticultural crops in Burkina, and the expansion of orange-flesh sweet potato production in Uganda. Qualitative and quantitative data from each of these projects is used to measure men’s and women’s access to, control over, and ownership of key productive assets and explores the linkages between women’s level of control over these assets and their ability to engage in emerging value chains.

Each of these studies emphasizes the role of investments in human and social capital—through training programs and the formation and management of different types of farmer associations— as facilitating the accumulation of other types of physical and natural assets. The findings suggest that the successful development and operation of a value chain influences the way that people are both able to accumulate assets and the specific assets in which they are able to invest. The types of assets people have also influence the node at which they can participate in the chain. Preliminary findings also suggest that the agricultural interventions studied have successfully increased the stock of both men’s and/or women’s s tangible assets, but particularly those assets they own jointly. The projects have also increased the stock of social and human capital, particularly for women. But while increases in financial, human, and social capital are clearly an important first step, other targeted support to the farmers’ groups may be needed to translate these gains into avenues for the acquisition of the physical assets required to expand agribusinesses and to enter the non-production nodes of the value chain.

Agnes R. Quisumbing, Deborah Rubin, Cristina Manfre, Elizabeth Waithanji, Mara van den Bold, Deanna Olney, and Ruth Meinzen-Dick (2013). Closing the Gender Asset Gap: Learning from value chain development in Africa and Asia. Paper developed for the UN Foundation and ExxonMobil Foundation research collaboration on “Building a Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment”. Unpublished manuscript, International Food Policy Research Institute.

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