Response to WOCAN report ‘Enhancing gender responsiveness in Putting Nitrogen to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa (N2Africa)’

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We appreciate the efforts made by the WOCAN consultants, Mary Njenga and Jeannette Gurung, in compiling the report on enhancing gender responsiveness in the N2Africa project. It made us reflect upon the way in which the project aims to act upon gender issues and made our position clear. In essence, the N2Africa project is mainly operating in a gender accommodative mode – rather than a gender transformative one. We acknowledge the role of gender norms and inequalities in society and seek to develop action that adjust to and often compensate for them, yet we do not have an active strategy to alter the norms and inequalities in society. Gender transformative interventions would focus much more on change of gender norms and challenge and address the distribution of resources and power relationships in society (between women and others in the community). Although it is not explicitly stated in the report, in many ways the consultant seems to suggest that N2Africa should be gender transformative in its actions (see for example gender indicator no. 23, 33, and 35).

In general, N2Africa aims for sustainable interventions and therefore it is inevitable that we seriously pay attention to gender. However, the project does not have the means nor objective to change society, instead we work to make a positive, sustainable change in farmers’ lives – men and women. 

Staff of both N2Africa and partnering organisations has sufficient experience and knowledge to be aware of the relevant issues around gender and act upon those. From the consultancy report it also became evident that oftentimes the project needs to be more explicit to highlight its efforts and approaches with regards to gender.

The project will not add indicators for monitoring and evaluation, we believe the existing indicators sufficiently cover gender aspects of the project and the M&E tools are gender sensitive. Additional information would have to be collected through a limited number of case studies. We will however report more on activities involving women, effect on women of particular interventions, and add a more explicit gender perspective to all reporting. The participatory evaluation of agronomy trials will be elaborated and students will be engaged for some studies on for example questions on increased legume production affect differently on livelihoods of men and women farmers and other household members. We will seek internally and locally for expertise to further increase the gender awareness in all dissemination materials developed. 

Judith de Wolf

(for the full response to the WOCAN report including a list of gender indicators see here)