“There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole – women and men alike – than the one which involves women as central players.” – Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Thirty-five key actors of the CARE Pathways program, including members of the country and global core teams, gathered in Accra, Ghana between November 11th and 15th, 2013 for the Annual Pathways Review and Planning Meeting. The objectives of the meeting were to share key results and reflect on the lessons learned from the first year of implementation as well as review and finalize the implementation plans for year two of the program.
Using the five change levers from the Pathways Theory of Change (capacity, access, productivity, household influence, and enabling environment), each of the six Pathways country teams highlighted their achievements during the first year of the program. It was a general consensus among the participants that the first year was a great success. Below are the highlighted achievements for each of the six Pathways countries:
In India, orientation training was organized for 30 Community Resource Persons and other stakeholders on topics ranging from sustainable agriculture, kitchen garden, pre-sowing, and sowing techniques to enhance the capacity of the different stakeholders. Impact group members’ capacities have been further enhanced through the use of demonstration plots with key agricultural crops. There is wide adoption of improved agriculture practices and skills on post harvest losses in paddy and maize. Basic farm inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides were acquired through local suppliers and the program also supplied some inputs to demonstration farmers. Implementation of collectives’ strengthening strategies through training on issues such as savings and credit, government schemes, and record maintenance have provided more space for women in male-dominated resource-based collectives. In the words of Rheka Panigrahi, the Pathways program Institution Building expert for CARE India, “these represent a huge achievement and the impact is already been felt among the women smallholders.” She concluded that the program has “created more space for women’s participation in value chain activities and improved their decision-making capacity.”
In Tanzania, 42 paraprofessionals from the Masasi and Nachingwea districts were trained in improved agronomic practices for the Pathways crops: cassava and sesame. Additionally, seven gender training tools were used and women’s capacity was enhanced through the introduction of market orientation strategy tools during the year. According to Aswani Adams, the program manager, these interventions have led to increased in sesame and cassava yields and higher confidence in contributing to household income and decision-making among Pathways impact group members. Additionally, attitudinal and behavioural changes, especially among male members of the impact group, have been widely reported; there is a rise among men in the group who are serving as role models to others in the community. According to Aswani, chiefs and leaders from Masasi and Nachingwea districts are now taking active roles in the Gender and Agriculture Learning Alliance meeting, a forum for interaction among key stakeholders. An immediate impact is the gradual increase in awareness about the negative effect of gender stereotypes such as bushoke, a derogatory term used to label a man that provides assistance and support to his wife.
In Bangladesh, the EKATA (Empowerment, Knowledge, and Transformative Action) group members’ capacity has been strengthened on facilitation skills and record keeping. Different training topics targeted at 1,445 women smallholders on crop management techniques have improved production of indigo, chili, and vegetable crops. Nural Amin Sidiquee of CARE Bangladesh highlighted the fact that the training on savings management and wage analysis has led to improvement in the savings culture of women farmers and economic empowerment to increase their contribution to household decision making.
In Ghana, 85 Community Based Extension Agents (CBEAs), of which 80% are women, have been trained to deliver Pathways extension services. According to Agnes Loriba, the Pathways Program Manager in Ghana, the demonstration soybean and groundnut plots on 13 Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) sites have increased learning opportunities, especially for women farmers who serve as lead farmers for six out of the 13 FFBS sites in the country. The program has further benefited from constructive engagement of traditional leaders in local communities. According to Issahaku Hardi, the Ghana Pathways Project Officer, the increased participation of traditional authorities in community events has led to women’s empowerment and facilitated access to productive land for cultivation. For example, the Chief of Tankpasi community provided land for women to use for FFBS demonstration plots, which has seved as an effective learning platform for the communities.
Aside from direct capacity building interventions on the use of certified seed and inputs in Malawi, Pathways implementation in the country has also benefitted immensely from strong collaborations with partners, particulary with seed companies and government institutions. One example of a strong partnership between CARE Malawi and ICRISAT provided technical support while farmers were linked to presidential initiative on legumes value chain for alternative sources of seed. These linkages, according to the Malawi Pathways Team Leader Salome Mhango, have increased the confidence of women smallholder farmers in engaging with markets, private sector operatives and community leaders.
In Mali, one of the major intervention strategies is to increase farmers’ awareness on how to utilize beneficial government laws, such as Farm Bill provisions for the benefit of women. Community dialogue techniques have been used to engage key stakeholders, especially community leaders, to expand the capacity of farmers. About thirty such dialogues have been implemented in Mali. The impact of Pathways interventions is being felt in different households and the community at large, as more community leaders have demonstrated their support of women’s land access and publicly allocated land for women’s groups.
Impressed by the achievements of the Pathways in the first year of its implementation, Faheem Khan, the Director of the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) team, expressed the hope that the program will serve as a global model for implementing development interventions. Recognizing the pioneer efforts of the former Pathways Team Leader, Jemimah Njuki, he encouraged the acting team leader, Maureen Miruka, to continue in her giant strides. Maureen was delighted about the success recorded in the first implementation year of the program and is optimistic that with the current pace, the program will exceed the expectations at the end of the 5-year implementation cycle.
Contributors: Jumoke Adeyeye, Lauren Theis, and Justine Jensen