Assessing the Impact of Agroforestry on Inter-household Gender Equality – A Study of Male and Female Headed Households’ Livelihoods in Rwanda

Published on August 29, 2014 | Author: Emily Ellis

Agroforestry is an increasingly prevalent strategy in Africa to promote sustainable land management, climate resilience and improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers. However a growing body of literature shows that women’s participation in agroforestry is lacking and when they do participate lower investment and restricted activities severely limit their capacity to accrue the potential benefits of agroforestry. In an attempt to move the discussion on gender and agroforestry past the consideration of women as a homogenous group, this dissertation assessed the impact of agroforestry on female headed households – often considered to be a particularly vulnerable group of women. The aim was to compare the impact of an agroforestry intervention in rural Rwanda on the livelihoods of male and female headed households.

The sustainable livelihoods framework was applied to obtain a measure of households’ available livelihood resources and strategies, and how these changed as a result of the agroforestry intervention. Preliminary qualitative context analysis was followed by a quantitative survey of 98 household heads in two sectors of Gasabo district, Rwanda, where the intervention is implemented. The sample group included equal numbers of male and female household heads, control and treatment groups, and early and late stages of the intervention.

The analysis highlighted a number of findings that enhance our understanding of agroforestry’s impact on gender at the inter-household level. It found that female headed households are disadvantaged in fewer areas than the literature would suggest. In the control group, male headed households had significantly higher levels of education and greater labour capacity than female headed households; however no significant differences were found between the two groups’ indicators for natural, physical, financial or social resources, or the level of diversification of livelihoods. However the differences in access to education and labour between male and female headed households led to substantial differences in households’ ability to transform agroforestry practices into improved livelihoods.

The impacts of the agroforestry intervention were, unsurprisingly, gendered. The areas, direction and extent of change in livelihood resources and strategies resulting from the intervention were all dependent on the gender of the household head. In most cases male headed households accrued a greater degree of benefits from the agroforestry practices, and this exacerbated inter-household gender inequality. These results show a similar pattern to the limited impact on agroforestry found in previous research for women in male headed households.

In other areas, including income and health, agroforestry created significant inequalities between male and female headed households where none existed in the control group. This research demonstrates a clear need to specifically target the needs and capacities of female headed households into program design, lest agroforestry continue to exacerbate and create further gender inequality in rural communities.

Ellis, E. (2014). Assessing the Impact of Agroforestry on Inter-household Gender Equality – A Study of Male and Female Headed Households’ Livelihoods in Rwanda. Master’s Thesis. Trinity College Dublin & University College Dublin.

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