Into the 'black box': Methods and evidence for understanding intra-household decision-making

Beyond household headship: Examining the decision-making process among wheat growers in Bihar, India

Hom N. Gartaula

Agricultural decisions among smallholders are made within the households where, in most cases, husband and wife discuss, contest, negotiate or consent to the decisions they make. Comparing men and women-led households misses these important dynamics of decision-making that are happening inside the households. Likewise, comparing household heads does not consider the role of women who live in men-led households. This study looks beyond who makes which decisions and the binaries of yes and no responses as a measure for gender dynamics. It disentangles the intrahousehold aspect of the decision-making process itself and helps understand the “why” behind decisions among wheat growers in two districts of Bihar—Madhepura and Darbhanga. It uses vignettes, or stories, to survey 420 women and men farmers (210 households) to identify the decision patterns across six key activities of wheat farming covering strategic, operational and financial decisions. The vignettes describe five possible household scenarios by narrating five short stories to individual respondents and showing corresponding graphics for visual aid. Preliminary analysis indicates that patterns between households and gender are not uniform. There are divergent patterns across five vignettes among households for women and men’s roles. Further, they are found to have different patterns of responses to the same agricultural activities, adding more complexity in the mix. Understanding these dynamics will help design more comprehensive, effective and actionable approaches to gender-intentional interventions in wheat crop management, including breeding and inclusive seed system development, as it feeds to identify entry points for women’s role in agricultural decisions.

Intrahousehold decision-making and sustained use of agricultural crop technologies: Evidence from smallholder women farmers in rural Uganda

Losira Nasirumbi Sanya

This research used a mixed-method approach to examine how intrahousehold decision-making patterns shape sustained use of crop technologies among agricultural rural households in eastern Uganda. We estimate how empowerment in decision-making, measured using indicators drawn from the project-level Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index, mediates sustained use of improved crop varieties. Further, spousal differences in decision-making power and technology use are examined. The results indicate that both women and men use diverse improved crop varieties for different purposes. Overall, we observe differential patterns of use of improved crop varieties with a high proportion of women reporting sustained use of food-related crops, while a high proportion of men report income crops. There was a significant association between level of decision-making power and sustained use of improved crops by women and men. Women with higher levels of participation in decision-making power have more sustained use of improved varieties for the main crops grown. Note that a gender gap still exists in access to improved varieties with men having six years of use on average, as compared to five years for women. We also find significant differences between women and men in the same household in their rating of the distribution and extent of involvement in key decisions, with less agreement (and misattribution) observed among women and men in decision-making scores. Women decision-makers tend to allocate themselves higher scores than was assigned to them by their counterparts. We conclude that women's empowerment in decision-making has potential to contribute to closing the gender gap in sustained use of agricultural technologies. We therefore need to be more intentional about women’s participation, decision-making and agency in development interventions if we are to achieve greater impacts in sustained use of agricultural technologies toward better livelihoods.

A mixed-method research tool for improving measurement and understanding of intrahousehold decision-making

Devis Mwakanyamale

A key aspect of women’s empowerment is participation in important intrahousehold decisions. This paper describes a new mixed-methods emic-informed approach that we developed involving multiple stakeholders to explore intrahousehold decision-making on agriculture- and expenditure-related matters. The tool was piloted in cassava-producing districts in the Kagera and Kigoma Regions of Tanzania. It first comprises a qualitative guide that was used to interview 40 dyads (mostly married couples) who grow, process, and/or trade cassava. We conducted thematic content analysis of these interviews and identified seven distinct patterns that dyads used to make decisions. These included: husband shares idea, discusses with wife, then (1) husband makes the final decision; (2) wife makes the final decision; or (3) they make a joint final decision. Alternatively, (4) husband shares idea with his wife before he makes the final decision; or wife shares idea, discusses with husband, then (5) husband makes the final decision; (6) wife makes the final decision; or (7) they make a joint final decision. These patterns informed the development of vignettes that describe intrahousehold decision-making, along with survey questions asking respondents which decision-making vignettes they most identify with and additional questions on why and how decisions are made in their households. Finally, these new modules were included in a multi-topic survey that was administered to around 1300 couples to validate the new decision-making modules. Our approach aims to help us better measure and understand intrahousehold decision-making and its links to household-level economic, food and nutrition security outcomes.

Can I speak to the manager? Gender dynamics of maize plot management in Kenya

Rachel Voss

Research looking at the gender gap in uptake of agricultural technologies often assumes that women and men make farm management decisions as individuals. In fact, relatively little is understood about the dynamics of agricultural decision-making for plot management within dual-adult households. This study used vignettes to examine decision-making structures related to maize production in over 600 spousal-couple households in Kenya. The results indicate a high degree of joint management of maize plots (55%), although some management decisions—notably those related to purchased inputs—are more often controlled by men, while other decisions—including those related to hiring of labor and deciding how harvested maize will be used—are disproportionately controlled by women. The high prevalence of joint decision-making underscores the importance of ensuring that both men’s and women’s priorities, needs and constraints are reflected in design and marketing of interventions to support maize production, including those related to breeding, seed systems, capacity building and agricultural extension. Furthermore, evidence that men disproportionately control the decisions that most directly impact maize production potential, and that the rationales behind decision-making structures differ according to respondent gender, point to the relevance of gender-transformative approaches that increase respect for women’s knowledge and build their influence over decisions that directly impact production potential.