Gender access and control of resources in rural Gambia

Theme: Gender differentiated control of resources does not change easily in response to external interventions.

In December 2000, on request from IFAD the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) conducted a rapid impact assessment of the IFAD supported Lowlands Agricultural Development Programme (LADEP) in The Gambia. At the time of the field data collection, the programme had been operating for three and a half years. The approach of the evaluation was participatory, involving all stakeholders. The evaluation identified issues to be covered during a brainstorming session with project staff. Among these issues was project impact on gender access to and control of resources.

The LADEP focus is on improvement of traditional rice production in different rice ecologies along the river Gambia. The rice growers are mainly women. The long-term development objective is household food security for impoverished rural households.

Review of impact found that the programme had resulted in considerable incremental rice production. It is having a positive impact on household food security, income, and in most villages, on asset ownership. But the findings do not show much change in gender division of labour or in control over resources.

The assessment had community members rank access to and control over a total of twenty different resources. The below pattern emerged:

  • Resources mainly controlled by men farmers:

    cattle, donkey cart, draught animals, plough, land, money, house, upland crops, rice fields

  • Resources mainly controlled by women farmers:

    Harvested rice, kamanyango rice crop (grown by individual men and women on personal plots as an own-account income-earning activity), maruo rice crop (grown usually by women for feeding the household consumption unit), rice crop in the field, rice hoes, rice seeds, small ruminants, and vegetables.

In comparing the "with" and "without" project situations, the impact assessment found no change in 92% of cases in gender control of resources. But there have been isolated small changes in male access to rice-production related resources. Prior to the project, men had been primarily involved in growing upland crops (coarse grains and groundnuts). However, among some ethnic groups, the men did cultivate rice in the backswamp together with their wives during dry years, when upland crops had little potential. The promising opportunities offered by the programme have led to a more systematic entry of some men into rice production, particularly from ethnic groups without a rice-growing tradition. In three villages where this is happening, the study found that men were beginning to have access to and control of rice hoes, rice seeds and rice land. Although women still control these items, they no longer had exclusive control.

There were also a few instances of women's increased access and control over resources. One village reported an increase in women's access to and control over fertilizer, which they themselves purchased. Formerly women had never used it. Another noted an increase in women's control over unclaimed swamp rice in their own name.

Overall, the assessment found relatively little change in access to and control over resources. This is probably due to the fact that the project itself did not introduce major changes in people's traditional practices. No new crops were introduced, and there was no attempt to alter the balance of gender relations. On the contrary, there was a conscious attempt to ensure that the project did not undermine women's traditional access and control over rice and the resources needed to grow it (as had occurred in previous IFAD-financed rice projects such as Jahaly/Pacharr Support Project and Small-scale Water Control Project in spite of conscious efforts on IFAD's part to prevent this from happening).

Adapted from:

FAO Investment Centre, February 2001, THE GAMBIA: Lowlands Agricultural Development Programme - Rapid Participatory Impact Assessment. Rome.