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University of Amsterdam (2020)

Gender relations in the millet value chain in western Kenya

Wai-Leng Chon

Titre : Gender relations in the millet value chain in western Kenya

Auteur : Wai-Leng Chon

Université de soutenance : University of Amsterdam

Grade : MSc International Development Studies 2020

Undernutrition continues to be a prevalent issue in western Kenya, and despite research into gender- and nutrition-sensitive value chains (NSVC), there is a research gap concerning gender relations in value chains extending beyond the economic impacts of agricultural production. This is significant because women are important stakeholders in agricultural value chains, playing a vital role at the nexus of agriculture and nutrition. Therefore, in collaboration with the EaTSANE project (Education and Training for Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition in East Africa), this research aims to examine the gender relations in the finger millet value chain in Teso South, western Kenya. This study considers how nutrition-sensitive programmes like EaTSANE can leverage these findings in order to improve nutrition outcomes. It builds upon existing theory regarding women in agriculture to consider how gender relations shape participation in the value chain and the implications for strengthening NSVCs. It also contributes to the social debate surrounding whether models of gender-and nutrition-sensitive value chains can address undernutrition, particularly in scenarios shaped by local culture, religion and tradition. The research used qualitative methods, predominantly semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with male and female millet value chain actors and experts. Results show that millet is an inherently gendered crop : cultural norms favour men in terms of land inheritance ; the size of the land allotted to growing millet dictates who manages the crop ; and who manages the crop impacts how the benefits (financial and non-financial) are generated and shared. Gender relations impact the value chain directly : women conduct labour-intensive productive and reproductive roles, lack access to resources and benefits and have limited intra-household bargaining power, which collectively weaken their productive and decision-making capacity, dampening the potential for participation in the millet value chain to translate into nutrition improvements. There exists a ‘can-do’ gap between what participants profess women are able to do, and what they actually do. These gender relations contribute to broader value chain phenomena of asymmetric information and a lack of coordination resulting in missed opportunities to enhance economic and nutritional impact, such as institutional markets and value addition products. To address this, EaTSANE should collaborate with extension services, research institutions and NGOs to 1) Improve the efficiency of the NSVC to increase availability and accessibility of diversified nutrient-dense foods ; 2) Empower women to integrate in value chains ; and 3) Improve nutrition- and gender-sensitive education to encourage behavioural change. EaTSANE should also be aware of the limitations of their ability to address this issue, given wide-ranging and deep-rooted socio-cultural norms. Nutrition-sensitive programmes such as EaTSANE are in prime position to engage with stakeholders and deliver interventions that improve women’s situations and increase nutrition, which is all the more important in the increasingly fragile, post-COVID world.


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