Gendering Agricultural Aid?

A recent paper published in Gender and Society by Liz Ransom and Carmen Bain shows that efforts to "mainstream gender" into agricultural aid projects have been mixed, at best, and that in recent years the percentage of projects and dollars targeting women has actually declined.

Ransom and Bain used AidData to identify the universe of agricultural projects allocated to developing countries between 1978 and 2003. Then they independently coded a sample of these projects in order to identify the type of agricultural aid and whether the projects directly or indirectly targeted women. The Figure below shows the percentage of agricultural projects that fell into one of six broad categories in a given year (white bar) and the percentage of projects within that sub-sector that targeted women/gender (shaded bar). Across all six types of agriculture aid the pattern looks similar -- no targeting at the beginning of the time series, a surge in the 1990s, and then drop off in 2002-2003.  The figure below shows one of the six categories (Ag Infrastructure).

It turns out that while the discourse about mainstreaming gender and targeting vulnerable female populations has continued to increase over time, dollars for this purpose have not. Ransom and Bain conclude on a pessimistic note: "Our findings suggest that the rhetoric of gender mainstreaming outstrips efforts to develop projects aimed at women and gender inequality and that the concept may be being used to legitimize a decline in focusing explicitly on women." For the whole paper click here.

Their findings are similar to Powers et al who compare actual budgets of World Bank projects to the rhetoric of environmental mainstreaming within the Bank and show that rhetoric often outstrips funding reality in that sector as well.