More than money: Setting up livestock investments for gender equity outcomes

Since 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has supported countries in Africa and Asia to develop Livestock Master Plans, articulating and prioritizing their needs for investments in livestock development. Now, scientists are testing new ways to ensure that such plans, and subsequent investments, yield not only economic outcomes but also gender equity.

Livestock plays an essential role in supporting the incomes, health, and food security of millions of people in the Global South. Livestock benefits women in particular by providing a rare opportunity for them to access and control resources, financial services and employment. Nonetheless, the livestock sector suffers from chronic under investments, which hampers progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

That’s why CGIAR scientists at ILRI have supported interested governments, including in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Bihar in India, to articulate and prioritize their livestock development investment objectives in so-called Livestock Master Plans.

However, with more governments setting out to develop such plans, including The Gambia, Kenya and Odisha in India, it is becoming increasingly urgent to address a significant shortcoming: So far, no reliable way to account for gender equity objectives or outcomes have been established for the Livestock Master Plans.

Evidence indicates that livestock intensification and commercialization tend to disadvantage women livestock keepers as compared to men. This means there is a risk that governments, when preparing their livestock investment plans, will focus on frequently prioritized economic objectives at the expense of progress on gender equity.

Integrating gender considerations in Livestock Master Plans

A typical Livestock Master Plan consists of a baseline analysis of the country’s livestock sector, a 15-year livestock sector strategy and 5-year investment plans and road map to implement the strategy, explained Dr Sirak Bahta, Senior Agricultural Economist working with the Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods (PIL) Program at ILRI.

Although these plans have an overall objective to improve livelihoods, they respond to the vision expressed by national or regional governments, which typically centres on increased food supply, more jobs and higher incomes from livestock. What’s more, because there is no consistent way to account for objectives related to women’s empowerment and gender equity, economic performance has dominated the analysis and been the primary criterion for investment prioritization and planning.

Dr Dolapo Enahoro, also of PIL, explained: ‘We use multi-market models to project how different livestock investments options will impact prices, trade and markets as well as system dynamic modeling to understand intervention priorities and potential impacts within specific livestock value chains, such as dairy and pigs. The problem is that gender has traditionally not been integrated in the analysis tools.’

The multi-market models, which operate at sector-wide level, can be used to inform investments for national production systems. However, prioritizing one livestock value chain over others will have impacts on the livelihood of those that depend on overlooked species. It is well documented that control over species is gendered, with women mostly owning smaller species, such as chicken and goats, and men larger ones, such as camels and cattle. 

‘Now we want to include gender considerations in the entire process, including in objectives, indicators, data collation, collection and analysis’, said Dr Isabelle Baltenweck, program leader of PIL. ‘We want to make sure that gender is considered in both the multi-market and system dynamic models, with our stakeholders and not least in the investments options identified and put forward.’

Integrating gender considerations can help ensure that governments using Livestock Master Plans will prioritize progress toward gender equity alongside other objectives, such as productivity increase and income growth.

Three essential questions for gender equity in livestock investments

To help governments determine which livestock sub-sectors to invest in—not only for economic outcomes, but for gender equity too—ILRI scientists have been adapting the multi-market models used for sector-level analysis in two ways.

‘First, using historical data, we have established relationships between livestock sector fundamentals, such as production and prices, and gender-differentiated welfare indicators. We then incorporate these as mathematical relationships into the multi-market models and that enables us to project how investments in the livestock sector will affect employment, incomes, poverty, and nutrition for women specifically’, explained Enahoro.

According to Enahoro, three broad questions must be addressed to integrate gender considerations in the multi-market models:

  • Compared to men, what do women get out of livestock, including ownership, control of assets, control of income, time use, labour and diet?
  • What resources, skills and abilities will be needed to engage with and benefit from Livestock Master Plan investments? Do women have, or can they easily attain, these?
  • How will women be impacted differently by the investments proposed by Livestock Master Plans?

Answering these questions demands intensive work retrieving and organizing secondary data, but it is otherwise a reasonably easy way to adapt the models to include gender considerations, and the plan is to test this approach in ongoing Livestock Master Plans, he said.

Projecting impacts on women at value chain and national levels

‘Progress on gender equity is important in its own right, and it is necessary for growth and achievement of other development outcomes’, said Dr Alessandra Galie, Team Leader for Gender at PIL.

To include women’s empowerment objectives in the value chain assessments, CGIAR scientists at ILRI are harnessing gender-disaggregated indicators from nationally representative and sector-level data to incorporate gender equity in value chain modelling.

‘We are also developing and adapting indicators that use nationally representative and sector-level data to understand how and how much women are currently engaged in livestock and how they might benefit from it. We will eventually be incorporating these indicators into assessments of how livestock sectors and sub-sectors compare in their potential for gender equity and women’s empowerment. This is the long-term ambition for future Livestock Master Plans’, explained Dr Immaculate Omondi, Gender Research Economist at ILRI.

Another longer-term ambition for the Livestock Master Plans is to be able to project not just livestock sector impacts on women, but the feedbacks from these impacts to national outcomes, such as food trade balances and economic growth. For example, one could model whether increased employment for women in the livestock sector could translate into national economic growth.

‘This implies a more challenging adaptation of the multi-market models, in which we would differentiate by gender the basic structure of livestock production systems as well as the input and food supply channels they are associated with’, conceded Enahoro.

This kind of adapted model will be available to future Livestock Master Plan development.

With gender explicitly integrated in the quantitative tools and analysis used to develop Livestock Master Plans, government planners will get reliable information on gender-related implications of the investments they are considering. They can deliberately select investments for their intended impacts on gender equity, and they can also better understand the trade-offs that exist for alternative investments.

Baltenweck: ‘Roughly speaking, updating these models and analytics tools will make clear the choices and trade-offs between, say, women’s employment and export earnings. In this way, national planners will in the future be able to account for women’s empowerment and gender equity in their prioritization of livestock sector investments.’

Photo: A woman holds an improved chicken breed. Credit: Apollo Habtamu/ILRI.