Gender and agriculture in Western Honduras: Lessons learned (RSS 2017)


Paige Castellanos of Penn State shared this presentation at the Rural Sociological Society annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio in 2017. The presentation was prepared with co-authors Janelle Larson, Leif Jensen and Elisabeth Garner, also of Penn State. In the slideshow, Castellanos introduces "Empowering women through horticulture in Honduras" — highlighting preliminary findings from this Horticulture Innovation Lab project. 

Lessons from the Women in Agriculture Network Honduras Project

This project is led by researchers from The Pennsylvania State University and the Pan-American Agricultural School, Zamorano. Based in Western Honduras, the project seeks to illuminate how the horticulture value chain can support equity and empowerment for women.  Empowerment, in the context of the project, is defined as agency which includes the power over, the power to, power with and power within (Kabeer, 2006; Alkire et al, 2013). The project's work is grounded by a gendered economy perspective. 

Its research objectives seek to determine barriers to women’s participation in the horticulture value chain, identify barriers to women’s adoption of technologies and identify policies and cultural norms that limit the participation of women and other marginalized populations in the horticulture value chain. The project also seeks to highlight intra-household dynamics between men and women, particularly in terms of decision making, livelihood strategies and agricultural production. 

Researchers involved in the project employed focus groups and key informant interviews to gather qualitative data and a household survey to gather quantitative data. They also hosted workshops to bring producer organizations together to share their experiences and farmer field schools which integrated gender into horticulture production training. 

Household surveys in Honduras related to women's empowerment and food security

The survey was conducted across 30 municipalities and in 103 communities in Western Honduras. It asked 953 respondents (both male and female heads in each household) from 562 households about household ownership of assets, access to various types of credit, control over income, food insecurity and dietary diversity. The team used the Abbreviated Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (A-WEAI) to measure the empowerment, inclusion and agency of women in agriculture. 

Highlights from the quantitative survey sample demographics included:

  • Of the 162 women surveyed who were the single head of their household (17% of sample), 94 percent of these women had either only a primary school education or less than a primary school education. 62 percent were literate. 
  • Of the 400 women surveyed who lived with men in a dual-headed household (42% of sample), 91 percent of the women had either only a primary school education or less than a primary school education. 75 percent were literate. 
  • Of the 391 men surveyed who lived with women in a dual-headed household (41% of sample), 91 percent of these men had either only a primary school education or less than a primary school education. 74 percent were literate. 

Descriptions below are based on graphs and tables in the presentation.

Ownership of assets, between men and women

Approximately 100 percent of men claimed that they held ownership of assets compared to approximately 92 percent of women  As well, nearly 80 percent of men reported that they owned agricultural assets compared to 42 percent of women. 

Household access to credit

Fifty-two percent of men reported that they had access to credit and could make decisions about credit, whereas less than 30 percent of women reported that they had access to credit and could make decisions about credit. Respondents were also asked about the types of credit they have access to, with most responses related to microfinance or friend/family credit types.

Graph showing responses to questions regarding control over different types of income, based on household role
In response to questions regarding control over different types of income, men more consistently held control over income from household crops and commercial crops and women more often reported control over income from livestock. (Graph excerpted from presentation)

Household control over income from crops and livestock in Honduras

Eighty-two percent of men said that they had control over income gained from producing a household crop while just over 30 percent of women claimed to have that same income control. Approximately 68 percent of men reported that they had control over income gained from commercial crops and a mere 29 percent of women said that they held that same income control. Thirty-one percent of men reported that they had control over wage and salary income and approximately 23 percent of women had control over wage and salary income.

However, 68 percent of women said that they had control over income raised from livestock whereas about 24 percent of men claimed to have control over that same income. As well, 21 percent of women in single-headed households reported that they had control over income from non-farm activity (and 15% of women total), and only 9 percent of men reported that same income control.

Only 10 percent of women in single-headed households felt like they could make decisions about major household expenses, while 29 percent of total women and 51 percent of total men claimed that they could make decisions about major expenses. Approximately 42 percent of women reported that they could make decisions over minor household expenses, and 44 percent of men made the same claim.

Food insecurity experiences by gender and household type in Honduras

The survey revealed that women in single-headed households experienced more mild, moderate and severe food insecurity than other households, using the 8 key questions from the Food Insecurity Experiences Scale (FIES) survey module. The module's questions ask about experiences in the last 12 months.

Mild food insecurity: Seventy-eight percent of women in single-headed households reported being worried that they would run out of food in the last year, compared to 68 percent of total households. Fifty-five percent of women reported that they lacked the money to purchase healthy food whereas only 41 percent of men reported the same circumstance. Sixty-three percent of total women reported eating a small amount of food because they did not have enough money to purchase more food (including 73% of women in single-headed households), and 43 percent of men reported that they moderated their food intake for economic reasons. 

Moderate food insecurity: Fifty-three percent of women in single-headed households reported having to skip a meal because they lacked money to eat, in comparison to 34 percent of total households (this includes 28% of men and 38% of women reporting skipped meals because of lack of money). Sixty-six percent of women in single-headed households reported eating less than they should for economic reasons while only 41 percent of men reported doing so. Forty percent of women in single-headed households claimed that their household ran out of food due to a lack of money while only 24 percent of total households reported running out of food. 

Severe food insecurity: Thirty-six percent of women in single-headed households reported going hungry because they could not afford to purchase food while 22 percent of men reported going hungry for economic reasons. Approximately 9 percent of women went an entire day without eating because they could not afford food while 6 percent of men went without food for a day. 

Dietary diversity across Honduran households

In evaluating dietary diversity across 10 food types, respondents most consistently reported eating grains, starches, legumes and eggs — with 99.2 percent reporting that they consistently ate grains and starches, 93 percent reporting that they consistently ate legumes and 48.7 percent reporting that they consistently ate eggs.

Only 8.6 percent reported eating diets full of leafy greens, 11.9% claimed to routinely eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A and 22.2 percent reported that they routinely ate meat and seafood. Findings by food group are also delineated in presentation slides by household type.

Key findings across households on empowerment, security and diets

The presentation summarized key findings from the surveys:

  1. Food insecurity still prevalent for too many of the people in the area, especially considering mild and moderate measures of food insecurity
  2. Dietary diversity inadequacies even for those who are “food secure"
  3. Women are worse off in terms of food security and dietary diversity. Single female headed households reported the lowest food security and a lack of dietary diversity. 
  4. Women’s empowerment when compared to men is unequal. They lack access to resources and control over income

Future directions

Based on these results, Castellanos presented that researchers hope to expand their data analysis to include multivariate regressions. They hope to further analyze the division of agriculture production between men and women and also to examine links between the socially defined norms and perceptions of horticulture production. They also hope to address barriers not included in the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index including domestic and community violence and access to education.