Diverse Perspectives on Gender, Well-Being and Institutions in Agriculture and Food Systems 

Elisabeth Garner, Cornell University, USA


Farhan Majid, IMPAQ International, USA

Do “Beef Bans” Affect Women’s Health?
India has the highest number of anemic women globally. Progress to reduce anemia has been slow despite substantial economic growth and decades of programmatic efforts. This paper examines the impact of access to beef in India on women’s anemia. It investigates a cultural institution - the religious norm that bans cattle slaughter and beef sale/possession in much of India. We compile historical data on cattle slaughter ban legislation by state and harmonize it with household and individual level data on beef consumption (National Sample Surveys) and biomarkers (Demographic and Health Surveys). We study the state level rollout of beef bans over time and compare the effects on upper caste Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains (who traditionally don’t consume beef) with the effects on lower caste Hindus, Muslims, and Christians (who traditionally do consume beef) to estimate a triple difference in-differences model and an event study model. Our results show that beef bans significantly reduce beef consumption and reduce women’s hemoglobin in communities that traditionally eat beef. Our paper highlights the role of institutional/cultural factors in shaping anemia prevalence among women that may have potential intergenerational effects on future generations as well. As 11 Indian states don’t have these bans, and a few states have even rolled back these bans, there is room for public policy debate on these bans, to which this paper contributes. More broadly our paper highlights how culture, legislations and food systems can interact in complex ways to contribute to suboptimal diets and malnutrition among women.


Madu Galappaththi, University of Waterloo, Canada

Linking social wellbeing and intersectionality to understand gender relations in dried fish value chains 
This presentation aims to advance a comprehensive framework to integrate gender within the study of dried fish value chains toward better understanding the complexity of gendered value chain experiences. We do so by linking three complementary areas of scholarship: social wellbeing, intersectionality, and value chains. Social wellbeing literature emphasizes the range of benefits generated through dried fish value chains (e.g., social ties, cultural values, material goods). An intersectional perspective however brings attention to the relational structures (e.g., caste, ethnicity) that intersect with gender to uniquely position women and men within value chains in relation to the benefits they can generate. In developing this framework, a key point of departure from existing literature is the notion of relationality (i.e. the creation of experiences in relation to one another within a given context). The value chain analysis further reveals how such unique positions determine the wellbeing outcomes women can generate through their participation in value chains. We demonstrate the contribution of this novel framework by applying it within dried fish case examples from Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. In doing so, we systematically unpack how gender intersects with other structures of oppression and perpetuate gender inequity. Our framework thus results in a ‘thick description’ of gender relations operating in dried fish value chains. The insights that emerge can inform relevant policies, decision-making processes, and programs to ensure the creation of equitable wellbeing outcomes by those participating in dried fish value chains.


Lone Badstue, Independent researcher

Women Farmers and Agricultural Innovation: Marital Status and Normative Expectations in Rural Ethiopia 
Sustainable agricultural development depends on female and male smallholders being effective farmers. This includes the ability to access or control resources and make the best decisions possible agro-ecologically, economically, and socially. Traditionally, gendered studies on innovation practice focus on female- versus male headed households. In this paper, we focus on married women in acknowledged male-headed households and women heading their own households to examine how marital status influences women’s capacity to innovate in their rural livelihoods. Using data from eight community case studies in Ethiopia, we used variable-oriented and contextualized case-oriented analysis to understand factors which promote or constrain women’s innovative capacities. We use Kabeer’s Resources–Agency–Achievements framework to structure our findings. Single women are more likely to own land and experience control over their production decisions and expenditures than married women, but engage in considerable struggle to obtain resources that should be theirs according to the law. Even when land is secured, customary norms often hamper women’s effective use of land and their ability to innovate. Still, some single women do succeed. Married women can innovate successfully provided they are in a collaborative relationship with their husbands. Finally, we find that gender-based violence limits women’s achievements. The article concludes with recommendations.


Hagar El Didi, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Gender in Institutions and Governance: A Review of Tools
Gender, institutions, and governance are complex but crucial concepts; the tools and methods to address their interactions need to address this complexity. A wide range of tools have been used by different disciplines, for research and interventions. This paper provides guidance to researchers, practitioners and policymakers on the tools that are available, and points to gaps where methodological development is needed. Through an extensive search process, we identified 68 tools, encompassing frameworks, data collection instruments, implementation and participatory implementation guides, and M&E tools. Data collection tools and implementation guides emerged as the most common tool types. Most tools (73 percent) have a primary focus on gender, but others were included if they could be applied to gender research or practice. Reflecting the diversity of tools, there was a relatively even balance between qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. Two thirds of tools deal with community-level institutions or governance. A high prevalence of participatory tools may reflect concerns with enhancing women's agency and gender equality in power relationships. Natural resource management (NRM) and political engagement are the most common sectors covered, together comprising half of tools. NRM-focused tools span all tool types, with a large cluster in implementation guides, whereas most tools focused on political engagement are data collection instruments. Participation in groups is the most common outcome. Tools considering outcomes related to rights or tenure are usually frameworks or implementation guides. Overall, the review highlights the wealth of tools available, as well as tool gaps (e.g., climate change as a sector).


Louise Erskine and Emily Hillenbrand, Cornell University

More Than Soil, Seeds, and Water: True Cost Accounting and an Intersectional Sustainability Index for Gender Equity and Racial Justice
Our current food system does not sustain lives, livelihoods or our planet, in large part because we do not value much of the work, land or inputs required to create good food. A new tool, True Cost Accounting (TCA) can be used to incentivize new values in our food system. The accounting tool works to quantify the hidden costs and benefits created on a farm and then with aid from public policy supports good behaviours and disciplines harmful ones. Women and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities are at the heart of the food systems in Canada and the United States, whether it’s by providing uncompensated homecare or temporary foreign workers harvesting for long hours in difficult conditions. These farmers and farmworkers must be represented and compensated for the total of their work provided to food production and to have the power to do so without fear of discrimination or harm, and with dignity. A pilot survey (38 questions) was dispersed across North America (n=24) to capture inequities between farmers, employers, farmworkers, landlords and tenants across gender and racial lines. Phase two of project development will offer tangible equity-based solutions based on survey responses. To this day, no TCA farm tool has ever attempted to include the hidden human or social costs that are created by farms and felt by women or BIPOC.