Many Zambians rely on wetlands, lakes, and rivers for their livelihoods. Social norms and power relations restrict access to natural resources provided by these aquatic agricultural systems for certain social groups, thus differentially impacting livelihood security (especially for women). A gender transformative lens and the concept of the “masculine rural” helps exploring poverty in the Barotse Floodplain in western Zambia.
The gender transformative approach (GTA) being pursued by the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) seeks to address the causes and consequences of gender inequalities. Aquatic agricultural systems are those in which production in natural freshwater and/ or coastal ecosystems contribute substantially to people’s food, nutrition and economic security. This CRP is implemented by WorldFish, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Bioversity International and a wide range of research and development partners.
In the developing world, more than 1 billion people depend on fish for most of their animal protein, and another 1 billion people depend on livestock. Poor people, especially women and children, typically eat very little meat, milk and fish. This contributes to nutrient deficiencies and poor physical and cognitive development for children and poor health and livelihood outcomes for adults.
The CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) has developed its Gender Research in Development Strategy centered on a transformative approach. Translating this strategy into actual research and development practice poses a considerable challenge, as not much (documented) experience exists in the agricultural sector to draw on, and significant innovation is required. A process of transformative change requires reflecting on multiple facets and dimensions simultaneously.
The European Union-supported Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Project (ANEP) began in Bangladesh and Nepal in December 2011 and ended in November 2014. The objectives of the project were to: (1) improve the food security and nutrition of smallholders by facilitating the adoption of productive and environmentally sustainable agricultural technologies that improve beneficiaries’ livelihoods; and (2) create and develop market links to improve food and nutritional security of both rural producers and urban consumers in Bangladesh and Nepal.
Today, fish is recognized as a global superfood, providing nutrients and micronutrients that are essential to cognitive and physical development, especially in children, and is an important part of a healthy diet. Globally, 3 billion people rely on fish for almost 20% of their animal protein. And demand for fish is increasing. Projections suggest that we will have a 68–78 million metric ton shortfall of fish by 2030. This will be especially acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where aquaculture has yet to fully develop and where fish consumption is projected to decline.
Increasing agreement on the relevance of gender and social equalities to agricultural development outcomes has not come with the same consensus within the development community regarding ways to intervene in the sector to foster equality. The guiding principles of agriculture research for development (AR4D) and its focus on capacity development can contribute to this debate and to advancing gender integration in the sector if the "social threads" within its principles are developed more thoroughly.
In Bangladesh, only 6% of the daily food intake is animal food of which fish accounts for 50%. Rice is the mainstay, making up 60% of the daily food intake. However, many nutrients such as vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, zinc and iodine are not found in rice and have to be obtained from other sources. Small indigenous fish are a vital contribution to the diet of the rural poor in Bangladesh, where more than 30,000 children go blind every year from vitamin A deficiency and 70% of women and children are iron-deficient.
Most research on gender difference or inequities in capture fisheries and aquaculture in Africa and the Asia-Pacific focuses on the gender division of labour. Emerging research on globalization, market changes, poverty and trends in gendered employment within this sector reveals the need to move beyond this narrow perspective. If gleaning and post-harvesting activities were enumerated, the fisheries and aquaculture sector might well turn out to be female sphere.
Technology Assessment and Refinement through the Institution Village Linkage Programme (IVLP) is the latest participatory extension model successfully undertaken by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in India. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has been implementing IVLP since 2001 to assess and refine the technologies of the coastal agro ecosystems at Elamkunnapuzha village (Vypeen Island) in the Ernakulam District of Kerala.