The ILRI 2018 Annual Report> In the lab

ILRI/Stevie Mann
Woman herding goats in Rajasthan, India

Novel index developed to measure women’s empowerment in livestock production

Index will improve the targeting of interventions in livestock to benefit women

By Judi Kimani

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Emory University developed the Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Index (WELI), a tool to measure the impact of women’s empowerment in agriculture with a focus on key areas of livestock production. ‘Empowerment’ is defined as ‘the process by which an individual acquires the capacity for self-determination, living the life that she or he has reason to value’. WELI helps donors, governments, researchers, communities and other stakeholders develop livestock interventions that effectively support women’s empowerment. WELI also improves the targeting, prioritization and implementation of interventions to better respond to gendered needs, priorities and dynamics, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of these interventions.

Developed in 2015, WELI is based on studies conducted in east Africa to understand local concepts of empowerment, consultations with ILRI livestock experts and an earlier tool—the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)—developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute in 2012. The WEAI measures the empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in agriculture in an effort to identify ways to overcome the obstacles and constraints they face. Recognizing the importance of the livestock sector for rural communities in east Africa, the team from ILRI and Emory built upon WEAI, giving more attention to livestock issues in WELI.

‘Empowerment’ is defined as ‘the process by which an individual acquires the capacity for self-determination, living the life that she or he has reason to value’.

Gender matters

Alessandra Galiè, a senior gender scientist at ILRI and the lead researcher on the WELI tool development, notes that ‘empowering rural women involved in livestock production contributes to gender equality and enhances livelihoods in livestock-dependent households. Livestock provide key opportunities for women’s empowerment because they are more easily controlled by women than other immobile assets. Also, livestock provide nutritious foods that are key for women’s role in securing household nutrition. We are hoping this tool establishes the basis for a global conversation about the kinds of interventions that work best for women as well as men involved in livestock around the world’.

A dairy advisor cleaning her cow's udder in preparation for milking in Siaya County, Kenya (Credit: FIPS/Raymond Jumah)

Women make up the majority of livestock keepers and their empowerment is necessary for the sector to develop sustainably and for the women themselves to have a voice in their future. Despite the fact that women’s contributions to livestock are substantial, the benefits they accrue from the sector are often limited because of various cultural and gender norms. For example, women often feed and tend to livestock but generally do not own the livestock or control the finances that accrue from them. Additionally, women often have limited access to technological advancements and market opportunities even in cases where they own livestock. Finally, livestock interventions are often designed without taking into account how gender dynamics affect the preferences women and men may have for a technology (what livestock breeds and traits to raise), and their ability to participate in and benefit from an intervention.

Empowering rural women involved in livestock production contributes to gender equality and enhances livelihoods in livestock-dependent households.

Various strategies and interventions have been developed and implemented to empower women in the livestock sector. Investors and governments, for example, have sought to provide women with the ability to access markets for their produce. However, it is difficult to effectively prioritize interventions without a reliable and accepted means to measure empowerment. By facilitating assessments that determine what livestock interventions work best to impact women’s empowerment, the WELI tool can guide the formulation and implementation of policies and interventions geared towards women’s empowerment in livestock. Ultimately, such evidence can form a library of best practices for interventions that empower women livestock keepers that can be tapped into and built upon in specific contexts.

A Swiss army knife of tools

WELI uses both quantitative and qualitative components to provide information on key areas of livestock production including animal health, breeding and feeding, animal-source food processing and marketing. WELI includes key domains of women’s empowerment such as decisions about agricultural production, access to and control over resources, control and use of income, access to and control of opportunities, workload and control over their own time.

Implementation of the WELI tool has affected women’s empowerment. When WELI was piloted in Tanzania, the researchers noted that discussions within households and communities regarding gender dynamics and its effect on the empowerment of women and men opened a space for individuals, households, researchers and communities to think about what empowerment means to them, who has access to more opportunities in livestock production, and how social and gender norms affect their ability to succeed. These discussions helped communities and researchers understand how interventions in livestock production affect change in their context and then apply that knowledge, as well as advise other stakeholders about crucial decisions that hone empowerment efforts.

Better lives through Livestock

The Human Face of Sustainable
Livestock Development

International Livestock Research Institute2018 Annual Report

Ethiopian girl drinking milk produced by the family cow
ILRI/Apollo Habtamu


Jimmy Smith (l) received a doctorate with honoris causa and gave the commencement speech at the University of Melbourne, Australia, on 6 Dec 2018, with Lindsay Falvey (r).
University of Melbourne

2018 was a year of continuing progress and solid achievement for ILRI—and for that we remain both grateful and proud. Thanks to our staff, our partners, our donors and the governments with whom we work, ILRI is helping countless farmers and other stakeholders in the livestock sector in the developing world live better lives through livestock. It is helping to raise household incomes, improve human nutrition and health, fight devastating livestock diseases, breed more productive and drought-resistant animals, redress gender imbalances, enhance biodiversity and develop livestockrelated policies that will address, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

In past reports, we’ve noted that the global demand for animal-source foods continues to grow rapidly in developing and emerging countries, a phenomenon we’ve dubbed the “livestock revolution.” In Africa, for example, the demand for livestock-derived foods is projected to increase by 80% from 2010 to 2030, mostly because of population growth. Asia, already the largest consumer of livestock-derived foods, will see a nearly 60% jump in consumption—and much of that will be due to rising incomes and greater urbanization.

The breadth of the opportunities these figures represent requires new science and new research results that are taken to scale. This report highlights just a few of the many activities ILRI staff have undertaken in the past year.

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