Economic empowerment of female farmers in Burkina Faso starts with a simple drawing of a tree

Gender Analysis Tree

The ProValAB gender team engaged with the local communities to investigate why women have smaller plots than men, why they obtain less income from their crops, and how they could improve their income.

By examining gender roles and benefits, a project aimed at improving sustainable management of water resources at small dams identifies ways to support women in the development of plots for income generation

Situated in the arid Sahel region of Africa, Burkina Faso faces severe water stress and has relatively poor soil making it difficult for the rural population – who are largely dependent on agriculture for their livelihood – to feed their families and earn income to meet their needs. The harsh environment notwithstanding, Burkina Faso is well known for putting the available water streams to productive use by building small dams and developing irrigated plots. A Sida-funded project has been working with local communities in six regions to build on this practice, particularly supporting women and youth with training to improve farming outputs and increase their earning potential.

 “The farmer business school has been a gamechanger for me,” says Mrs NANA Pendewendé Adéline, one of the women who participated in training courses educating female farmers about cropping calendars, crop budget calculation, marketing of harvested products, child and adult nutrition, and household economy. “Before, I was just planting without really knowing what I should do. But since the training, I know how to manage my horticulture garden, what are the best seeds to use and how much of fertiliser I need. I note all my expenses and after harvesting calculate how much I have spent. Then I know for what price I should sell my produce.”

Mrs NANA Pendewendé Adéline (Adéline to her friends) with her daughter.

Farmer business schools are an initiative of ProValAb, a three-year Swedish-funded project for the agricultural valorisation of small dams, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture with technical assistance from NIRAS. The current phase of the project, which is coming to a close in June 2021, aimed at ensuring sustainable management of water resources and the environment around 17 small dams and irrigated schemes, while increasing agricultural production and farmer earnings at the sites.

Mapping gender roles and benefits to understand where the inequalities lie

In rural Burkinabe households, all family members take an active part in cultivating the family-owned land, caring for livestock, collecting natural resources and processing and selling their products. In addition, individual family members often have access to plots of land, where they grow crops to cater for their own needs and those of their dependents. In most cases, the women-owned land plots are significantly smaller than their husbands’, and they have less access to local traders and markets where they can sell their harvested products. Younger family members mostly depend on the head of household to decide on what to produce and how to sell it.

ProValAb enhances the livelihoods of communities in the intervention areas by developing selected value chains connected to small dams. The project aims to deliver three key outcomes:

  • Sustainable management of infrastructure and water and scheme land resources;
  • Increased quantities of agro-silvo pastoral and fisheries productions;
  • Improved competitiveness of agri-food and fisheries products.

Emphasising the involvement of women and young people in all project activities, the ProValAB gender team engaged with the local communities to investigate why women have smaller plots than men, why they obtain less income from their crops, and how they could improve their income.

In four pilot sites, a group of women and men from the community worked with the team to draw a Gender Balance Tree of their community, which illustrates the distribution of productive and reproductive roles, assets, decisions and responsibilities between household members and the benefits each accrue. The tree trunk denotes activities carried out by women and men, respectively, both for the family and individually, and both paid and non-paid work. Leaves represent assets. Preparing the tree together and discussing the contributions made by each family member triggered important reflections on inequality between men and women both in the household and the community and how this might be improved.

Similarly, the community groups did exercises to identify differences in men and women’s ways of cultivating crops, and storing, processing and selling their products. Each participant defined their dream for the future and the five-year path they would follow to reach this dream, noting down potential constraints and enabling support along the way. These exercises gave rise to a lot of talk, open dialogue, consensus seeking and even laughter, and participants took with them food for thought and action after the sessions.

Gender Analysis Tree2
80 %

of the garden and scheme plots allocated to women were 2-4 times smaller than those of men at baseline. ProValAB’s new scheme infrastructure ensures plots of equal size will be built for women, men and youth

As a result of these discussions, the team prepared a gender profile to describe the most significant differences between men and women’s living conditions and practices in the ProValAb sites. Most notably, it documented a range of significant constraints women vegetable producers face trying to earn an income from their irrigated plots.

The farmer business school training courses were a direct outcome of these findings and an attempt to help women farmers overcome some of the obstacles they face. Like Adéline, most of the participating women were illiterate or had very short schooling, but images, storytelling, sketches, group work and practical exercises helped break the message down. After five days of intensive class room interaction, all participants went home to tell their families about their new learnings and started their quest to apply them.

I’ve used the money for medicines, school fees and buying food. What is left over, I reinvest in my horticulture plot for next season.

Mrs NANA Pendewendé Adéline

In a follow up discussion with ProValAb staff and field extension workers to put the learnings into practice and reflect on progress, Adéline explained how the training had helped her. Today she has a much better understanding of her farm business and has been able to invest in her family’s wellbeing.

Tine Breinholt

Tine Breinholt

Senior Consultant and Project Manager

København, Denmark

+45 6040 9188