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Newcastle University (2019)

Women’s empowerment in Agriculture :a case of Northeast Brazil

Do Amaral Valèrio, Erika

Titre : Women’s empowerment in Agriculture :a case of Northeast Brazil

Auteur : Do Amaral Valèrio, Erika

Université de soutenance : Newcastle University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2019

In rural areas, strategies for promoting women’s empowerment should account for periods of drought, since droughts heighten existing gender-based inequalities and place women in an even more socially and economically vulnerable situation. Scores of efforts and resources have been targeted to promote rural women’s empowerment, but there is little to no understanding of the elements and conditions associated with this process when it comes to crises stemming from natural hazards. In this mixed-methods research project, I examine the conditions and factors associated with women’s empowerment in agriculture during periods of severe drought. In the quantitative element, I examine sexdisaggregated data from 173 households in Chapada do Apodi—a region located within the so-called “drought polygon” in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazilian Northeast. Moreover, the qualitative component of this study aims to provide a better understanding of the regional context. This study’s results show that even under the circumstances of severe drought, the women from Chapada do Apodi were empowered in agriculture. The qualitative results suggest two central conditions contributed to this result : (1) the presence of the rural women’s policy agency, with its resources and connections to the women’s movement ; and, (2) the technical assistance and female farmers group-related interventions that were delivered using gender awareness methodologies. Moreover, this study suggests that women’s access to credit and technical assistance are associated with empowerment in agriculture, and that membership in women-only farmer groups and access to technical assistance are related to gender parity in agriculture. These results suggest that in drought-prone areas, the institutional conditions and gender awareness methodologies tied to rural development policies could help sustain women’s empowerment in agriculture even in the face of prolonged periods of drought.


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