Gender SWOT Analysis1

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis can be a useful tool in the assessment of the gender dimension of development programmes. In March 2001, IFAD organized a workshop for the Fund’s project and programme coordinators in Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. During this workshop, a SWOT exercise was conducted with the participants in order to identify the gender strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within several ongoing IFAD-supported projects in these countries.

The SWOT analysis was applied to gender issues as follows:

  • strengths: internal features of a project that have proved effective in addressing gender issues (e.g. project components, methods and techniques for implementation, monitoring and evaluation techniques, project staff and management);
  • weaknesses: internal features of a project that have not proved effective in addressing gender issues;
  • opportunities: external factors that may assist in overcoming the weaknesses and building on the strengths; and
  • threats: external constraints that restrict the range of opportunities for change.

Although the above operational definitions for opportunities and threats specify a focus on ‘external factors’ and ‘external constraints’, the workshop participants highlighted both internal (to the project) and external factors and constraints in practice (see SWOT illustrations below). This is appropriate for ongoing projects and programmes since both the internal and external factors in opportunities and threats are relevant. What this shows, at a general level, is the need to adjust tools such as the SWOT analysis to the situation in which they are being used.

The following sections illustrate the results of the analysis at that point in time2 in six projects:

  • the Smallholder Flood Plains Development Programme in Malawi;
  • the Northern Regions Livestock Development Project in Namibia;
  • the Smallholder Irrigation and Water Use Programme in Zambia;
  • the Smallholder Enterprise and Marketing Programme in Zambia;
  • the Southern Province Household Food Security Programme in Zambia; and
  • the Forest Resource Management Project in Zambia.

Illustrations of Gender SWOT analysis at Project and Programme Level

SWOT Analysis #1:

Smallholder Flood Plains Development Programme, Malawi (1998-2005)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • high rate of women’s participation during programme formulation
  • good participation by other stakeholders (e.g. Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services)
  • project addresses the most vulnerable woman-headed households and marginalized women
  • water users associations formed in which both women and men participate
  • women participate in irrigation scheme activities
  • equal opportunity for women and men to access credit and markets through water users associations
  • no provision in project design for conducting a baseline study (household and community participatory rural appraisals or PRAs) to act as a foundation for addressing food security, nutrition and income enhancement
  • lack of training on gender issues
  • cultural values: women tend to be shy during group meetings
  • women have no access to modern machines and other technology (e.g. ploughs, tractors)
Opportunities
Threats
  • conduct a baseline study
  • strengthen the linkage with the gender mainstreaming efforts coordinated by the extension services of the Department of Agriculture
  • support the development of labour-saving technologies
  • the problem of the sustainability of women’s empowerment, given the relatively short period of the programme, coupled with lack of training
  • programme affected by the displacement of people due to droughts and floods
  • programme affected by HIV/AIDS and other diseases
  • limited funds

SWOT Analysis #2:

Northern Regions Livestock Development Project, Namibia (1995-2003)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • availability of gender focal points in regions
  • some field staff trained in gender concepts and methods
  • gender officer in Ministry of Agriculture
  • small livestock credit fund targeting men, women-headed households without livestock or regular off-farm incomes (goats, donkeys)
  • microprojects: milling machines, tailoring, bakery, wood carving, small irrigation units, women’s training centre, kindergartens, and threshing services
  • community needs established through PRAs
  • national gender policy in place
  • project design originally biased towards rich farmers and men because oriented to livestock
  • neither beneficiaries, nor project staff adequately trained in gender concepts
  • project limited to certain areas (regions) of country
Opportunities
Threats
  • awareness created and many women’s groups coming up with proposals for funding
  • Phase I ends 2003; project follow-up phase four-five years
  • further training of gender focal points
  • further training of beneficiaries
  • introduce participatory impact assessment
  • use gender-specific indicators during monitoring and evaluation
  • capacity-building (empowerment and leadership) for field staff and beneficiaries
  • the contribution of beneficiaries to project activities is slow
  • droughts threaten livestock programme
  • impact of HIV/AIDS
  • limited funds

SWOT Analysis #3:

Smallholder Irrigation and Water Use Programme, Zambia (1996-2002)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • staff and farmer training in gender concepts and methods
  • number of women participating in farmer training is increasing
  • technology (treadle pumps) reduces time required for irrigation, leaving more time for men and women to do other jobs
  • technology has increased area under cultivation, thereby providing more food at the household level and reducing the burdens of women in food gathering
  • women have emerged in leadership positions in water users associations
  • some women have been allocated land of their own
  • collaboration with other projects has empowered women and women’s groups to access credit and grants, thereby enabling women to generate their own incomes
  • gender training is still very weak
  • some technologies (e.g. pressure pumps) very laborious to operate, or, design is not appropriate for women
  • programme has not managed fully to capture gender issues and concerns due to lack of PRAs
Opportunities
Threats
  • modifications under way to make technology more gender friendly
  • opportunities for conducting PRAs in place
  • funding for more focused gender training available
  • more land and plots can still be allocated to women
  • limited time remaining in project (closes in June 2002)
  • recommendations of supervision missions have been inconsistent
  • poorer members of the communities unable to pay subscriptions to water users associations and therefore left out
  • acquisition of farm inputs and marketing of produce remain difficult

SWOT Analysis #4:

Smallholder Enterprise and Marketing Programme, Zambia (2000-2007)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • project targets resource-poor smallholders, the majority of whom are women
  • women’s participation at all levels of programme planning and implementation is encouraged
  • women-focused market-linkage initiatives (e.g. outgrower schemes dealing in crops grown by women)
  • gender considerations were not adequately addressed in programme design
  • gender considerations have been addressed as an attachment to the programme rather than becoming mainstreamed
  • there are no gender-sensitive performance indicators
  • staff not trained in gender analysis skills
  • no gender focal point in the programme
  • no provision in programme for the creation of gender awareness among beneficiaries
  • expected programme outputs are not presented in gender terms
Opportunities
Threats
  • overwhelming interest by women to participate in the programme’s interventions
  • the programme has just started and hence has a lot of room for gender reorientation
  • programme staff willing to be trained in gender analysis
  • the existence of a national gender policy
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries gender focal point for backstopping support
  • gender mainstreaming experiences from other IFAD-supported projects in Zambia
  • women-focused marketing interventions
  • gender mainstreaming diagnostic survey in local areas would be a grand opportunity to determine entry points as part of the baseline surveys
  • low literacy levels among women
  • HIV/AIDS pandemic
  • political interference
  • poor performance of the economy

SWOT Analysis #5:

Southern Province Household Food Security Programme, Zambia
(1996-2002)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • six year old programme with two-year extension assured
  • basic resources available
  • community willing to spearhead implementation
  • 80% of staff trained in participatory extension methods
  • some support on gender from German Agency for Technical Cooperation
  • the project has done PRAs in 40 villages
  • community action plans in place
  • existence of women’s groups
  • staff weak in gender analysis
  • limited funds to support projects identified by community
  • weak monitoring and evaluation of gender aspects of programme
  • gender-blind budget
  • lack of gender focal point at the provincial level
  • weak business skills among women
  • exclusion of most vulnerable households from programme activities because they lack resources to participate
Opportunities
Threats
  • communities and farmers keen to participate because they have faced stresses and shocks (e.g. droughts, cattle deaths), and their livelihoods have deteriorated from acceptable levels to poor levels
  • liberalized economy encouraging self-reliance at household level
  • farmers have basic agricultural skills
  • trained community agricultural workers
  • support to women’s group for income-generating activities
  • national gender policy and gender focal points in place
  • limited funding
  • HIV/AIDS pandemic
  • conflicting traditional values
  • donor dependency

SWOT Analysis #6:

Forest Resource Management Project, Zambia (2001-2007)
Strengths
Weaknesses
  • availability of forest resources
  • targets are to improve the livelihoods of women-headed households that are experiencing high levels of malnutrition
  • promotion of income-generating activities among both women and men
  • multisectoral approach
  • infrastructural improvement (e.g. feeder roads)
  • gender unawareness/blindness at the beginning of the project
  • weak linkage between consultants and implementation phase
  • unavailability of staff with gender training
  • possibility of disadvantaging women currently earning income from honey, beer brewing
  • lack of similar projects for reference
  • lack of technology for processing (e.g. honey, timber, bamboo)
  • absence of storage facilities results in poor-quality honey
Opportunities
Threats
  • diagnostic studies and impact assessments to be undertaken
  • willingness of people to commercialize forest products
  • certification of forest products for international market
  • opportunities to add value through processing
  • gender training for project staff, local communities
  • sustainability of certain project activities is questionable (e.g. possibility that women will not participate in bee-keeping component)
  • political interference



1/ This note is based on one section of IFAD’s Gender Strengthening Programme for Eastern and Southern Africa, preparatory meeting for project coordinators from Malawi, Namibia and Zambia, 8-9 March 2001.

2/ Since these were ongoing projects, the situation may now have been changed through, for instance, the adoption of corrective measures or the appearance of new weaknesses or threats. Therefore, the results of these SWOT analyses should be viewed as illustrations rather than as findings.

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