Gender Analysis: Guidelines for Project Planners

Land ownership and control of natural resources are among the most important issues for women farmers. Agricultural development projects that address women's needs may find that the women they work with have neither ownership nor control of resources. Projects that do not address gender in their design and implementation may consequently be less effective than intended. Identifying and including all potential participants and target populations in agricultural development projects will improve project design and implementation and ensure that projects do not adversely affect a significant portion of the population.

Begin at the Beginning

The following guidelines for incorporating gender analysis into agricultural projects concentrate on the design phase. Incorporating gender at later stages is difficult and often ineffective. Including women on the project design team often facilitates gender incorporation, especially when the women are from the project area.

Activity Analysis

When designing a project that deals with land and other resource tenure issues, it is tempting to start with an analysis of who has access to and control over resources. Tenure relations, however, are often not visible. The activities people engage in, particularly work activities, are easier to observe. Analyzing these activities shows how resources are allocated and managed. This approach is justified because there is a close relationship between resource use and labor; in many cases tenure relations are used to control labor.

Project designers should analyze women's work both in the fields and at home, by asking three questions about activities of household members: who (gender and age), when (time needed/seasonal or daily) and where (at home, around the house, in the field, in the village, away from the village).

Dividing work activities into six categories facilitates analysis. These categories are agriculture, livestock, household production, gathering of natural resources, off-farm work and community work. After analyzing these activities project designers should ask themselves: How will the project affect these activities and the people involved?

Rights and Rules

Next, project designers should ask the following questions about the interactions between the project population and resources.

  • What rights do different households have to land, water, trees and other resources?

  • What rights do individual women and men in the household have to these resources?

  • What rights do specific community groups (single women, junior males, etc.) have to different resources?

  • Are these communal, household or individual rights?

  • Are these use or ownership rights, temporary or permanent access rights, seasonal or year-round rights?

  • Are these rights dependent on someone else, and whom?

  • How are resources obtained? Are they purchased, exchanged for goods and services, or free for the taking?

  • How do these rights affect project implementation and impact on the target population?

    Other resources affecting a household's production ability that are as important as natural resources include inputs for agricultural production (e.g. seeds, tools and draught animals), capital and/or credit, extension services and technical assistance.

    External Factors

    External political, socioeconomic and cultural factors influence labor allocation and resources access. These factors cannot be ignored. If they are, projects that include gender analysis and attempt to improve women's access to resources may remain unsuccessful. There are several reasons for this.

  • Women may not have time for project activities due to time-consuming household responsibilities.

  • Even though a project may help women to acquire resources, women may not be able to maintain this control; they may face family pressure to sell, lease or lend land to a male relative.

  • Women may find it difficult to cultivate resources if men control productive factors, such as labor and tools.

  • Women may not be able to initiate or maintain contact with public agencies, markets or other outside entities due to restrictions on travel outside the home or community.

  • Local officials may not support new legislation or programs that target women.

  • In areas where a European language is widely spoken, rural women who speak only the local language will have difficulties acquiring education, skills and contacts with governmental and non-governmental agencies.

  • In many areas women have a lower status than men, making them even more reluctant to engage in contacts with outside persons or agencies.

    One way to avoid some of these pitfalls, or to minimize their impact, is to work with women's groups. Women's groups may be groups gathered around particular resources, labor groups, cooperatives, or educational/skill improvement groups. Working with women's groups allows project planners and implementors to identify the limitatitions that women face and to design programs that address women's needs.

    Susana Lastarria-Cornhiel. 1993. Incorporating Gender in Natural Resource Tenure Projects. Unpublished Paper.


    Susana Lastarria-Cornhiel
    Land Tenure Center
    University of Wisconsin
    1357 University Ave
    Madison, WI 53715
    Tel: (608) 262-3657
    Fax: (608) 262-2141