What We Do

Gender Issues



AAAPD understands the central role of women in African agriculture. For any meaningful engagement or collaboration with smallholder farmers, it is vital for AAAPD to be cognizant of gender roles since they epitomize this important group of farmers. Our focus on women is based on the fact that they constitute the bulk of the nearly 200 million smallholder farmers across Africa and provide about half of the labor force (World Bank 2007). They typically cultivate no more than one hectare of land. The farm is largely a subsistence operation that may generate a small surplus that is often traded locally in good years. In fact most of the produce needs to be sold within a few weeks of harvest because often there are no local storage facilities or value-added processing infrastructure. The lack of storage is also compounded by a poor transportation and distribution system. The challenges faced by smallholder farmers are aggravated by the lack agricultural inputs required to support increased yield. Hence, in a nutshell, the family farm is entirely at the mercy of nature in which drought, environmental degradation, and crop diseases leave the family highly exposed to the risk of famine.  African rural women are faced with a precarious existence while being expected to raise a family, given that a majority of them are heads of their households. Past development efforts have obviously failed to pull African women farmers out of this predicament. Hence, AAAPD recognizes that men and women have different roles, responsibilities and resources, and therefore their needs are not identical. They differ in their capacity, authority or availability to participate in developmental activities. There are gender specific impacts of such activities. We also recognize that women’s experiences are not monolithic in African agriculture.

These characteristics are compounded by the nature of labor supply and its productivity. A recent study by the World Bank (2002) reports that labor productivity in the sector has been low and stagnant over most of the past two decades. Children are an essential component of the labor force on the typical family farm. This has clear implications for education since a majority of children are forced by these circumstances to devote a lot of time working on the family farms due to labor shortages. The work on the farm is laborious and long, which means children have little or no time for education: food and survival are a key priority for the family. The laborious nature of the work is also compounded by malnutrition and diseases, including malaria and AIDS, all of which represent threats to the survival of the family. This is a real vicious circle of poverty in which the lack of resources and disposable income means children do not get an education and are forced to engage in the same activities that their parents engaged in – toiling on a small piece of land for generation after generation.  In an economic sense, education, capital accumulation, productivity, and therefore output per worker are related. Unless there is a deliberate strategy to address these key components in the context of the family farm, it is difficult to see how African smallholder agriculture can be transformed.


Hence, AAAPD recognizes and understands these issues and the centrality of women in African agriculture. AAAPD also understands the cultural context in which development occurs.  AAAPD recognizes that smallholder farmers are precisely the place where science, innovation, and technology must begin in order to transform African agriculture to an economic engine of growth and development. AAAPD recognizes African women as a key collaborator, client, and pivotal target of our strategies to facilitate transformational change in African agriculture. AAAPD’s central focus on gender will be reflected in all aspects including organizational governance and management, member recruitment and engagement, partnerships and client engagement.

AAAPD’s Gender Specific Activities

We have established a directorate within AAAPD with a specific mandate to lead gender issues. This directorate will provide leadership in the review of all AAAPD programs and activities through a gender lens, including managing the design and conduct of specific gender analyses, in consultation with partners that have expertise in gender studies focusing on African women. AAAPD will employ tools such as Gender Checklist, Proposal and Review Templates, and the Necessary Project Components List. AAAPD will also work with gender experts to develop new approaches to enhancing the relevance and impact of its programming on women smallholder farmers and the rural economy. This directorate will be guided by the following key principles:

  • Optimal collaboration with organizations and institutions that foster women participation in agricultural development activities
  • Maximized participation of women in AAAPD projects targeting women smallholder farmers
  • Maximized participation of women professionals in AAAPD governance and decision-making processes
  • Design of programs within AAAPD general membership and the wider community aimed at increasing understanding of the importance of gender dynamics
  • Enhanced collaboration with gender experts in Africa who have expertise in appropriate gender strategies throughout the project design, implementation and evaluation phase of all AAAPD programs. 
  • Establishment of targets for measuring AAAPD’s responsiveness to the concerns and needs of women by defining specific milestones, processes, and  actions that engage women in consultation, project activities, and feedback loops.
  • Understanding and promoting gender-specific technologies that enable the transformation of smallholder agriculture and the development of value-chains integrating rural women smallholder farmers into a thriving rural economy.
  • Developing and championing AAAPD’s stated policies that guarantee an institutional environment that is free of sexual harassment and exploitation both for grantee staff and project beneficiaries.

At the moment, our organization has already developed a database possessing gender disaggregated quantitative information about African agricultural professionals in the Diaspora. This database will be expanded to include African agricultural professionals working in Africa in the next 12 months. The data base will also be expanded to include qualitative information for these professionals through a systematic review of existing gender studies as well as through planned gender analysis. Such studies will provide information on needs, constraints and ability for professionals to participate in agricultural development work in Africa. Such a comprehensive data base does not exist and it will therefore be a valuable resource for AAAPD and other agencies around the world that may need access to such information.   


Gender studies will be integral to AAAPD activities and the gender directorate will ensure that African women farmers are fully engaged in defining priorities, planning, implementation and evaluating agricultural developmental programs. From the outset it will be important to understand the stakeholder’s perception of success, and this may reflect gender differences and may in fact be different from the agricultural professional’s definition or prioritization of success indices. All programs and activities will be evaluated during the design phase to ensure that they reflect a full consideration of gender consequences along the entire project cycle. Projects will include gender sensitive indicators for input, output, process, and outcome. Gender analyses at the primary stakeholder/community level typically consider social relations (which dictate normative gender roles, duties and responsibilities); activities (gender division of labor in productive and reproductive work within the household and community); access and control over resources, services, institutions; and needs (to determine differences in needs between men and women).


AAAPD will also engage in analyzing gender aspects of policy and institutional arrangements to raise awareness monitor the differential impact of policy, and resource allocation on men and women. 

AAAPD Network Integrating Gender

The development of linkages with institutions that represent women smallholder farmers is a vital component of AAAPD’s strategy. These institutions include United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) program, National Associations of Smallholder Farmers, including Non-Governmental Organizations that support the development of rural-based women enterprise development projects, and the International Center for Research on Women. AAAPD will also link with the Africa Gender and Development Evaluators Network (AGDEN) (established by the African Evaluation Association [AfrEA] and UNIFEM to work on gender and human rights based monitoring and evaluation in Africa).  AGDEN’s objectives include: a) sharing gender evaluation tools and methodologies, and encouraging the implementation of gender-sensitive evaluations across the continent; b) strengthening the effectiveness and gender-responsiveness of development programs and projects in Africa through the use of rights based and results oriented participatory systems of monitoring and evaluation. We especially note the role of the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) program which forges a partnership between UNCDF, UNIFEM and UNDP, to support the improvement of women’s access to resources and services at the local level through gender-responsive planning, programming and budgeting. These linkages are fundamental not only to AAAPD’s relevance but also in serving as an active partner in mainstreaming the gender perspective on agricultural development and ensuring that women smallholder farmers at the grassroots are fully integrated in every strategy.



FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization. 1995. A synthesis report of the Africa Region - Women, agriculture and rural development. Prepared under FAO’s Program of Assistance in Support of Rural Women in Preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995, http: www.fao.org/docrep/X0250E/X0250E00.htm

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. 2002. The Least Developed Countries Report 2002. Prepared by The UNCTAD Secretariat. Geneva And New York.

United Nations Population Division. 2002.

World Bank. 2008. World Bank Assistance to Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington DC. World Bank.

World Bank. 2007. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. Washington, DC: World Bank.

World Bank. 2000. Can Africa claim the 21 century? Washington, DC: World Bank