The role of gender in household decision making on tree planting: A case study from Malawi
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  • 1. The role of gender in household decision making on tree planting: A case study from Malawi Seline Meijer University College Dublin (UCD) World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Supervisors: Maarten Nieuwenhuis (UCD), Delia Catacutan & Sileshi Weldesemayat (ICRAF) ATBC Meeting Bonito, World Congress on Agroforestry, New Delhi, India 11 February 2014 • 19 June 2012
  • 2. Background  Increasingly, the traditional assumption that the senior male of the household functions as the household head and primary decision maker is being questioned.  When it comes to agroforestry, the role of the head of the household in decision making at household level has not been documented well.
  • 3. Aims of the study i. To identify which household members are the main decision maker(s) for various agricultural activities including tree planting; ii. To evaluate the outcomes of household decision making in terms of actual trees planted by farming households in two rural districts in Malawi.
  • 4. Malawi  High levels of poverty  About 75 % of the population are subsistence farmers  Small farm size (< 1ha)  Most important food crop is maize  Low education levels
  • 5. Malawi and kinship  Patrilineal social organisation: Households reside in the village of the husband after marriage (virilocal residence) and the husband holds the land rights.  Matrilineal social organisation: Households reside in the village of the wife after marriage (uxorilocal residence) and the wife holds the land rights.
  • 6. Study area  Two study sites:  Mzimba (northern Malawi) Low population densities High forest cover Mostly patrilineal kinship  Chiradzulu (southern Malawi) High population densities Low forest cover Mostly matrilineal kinship
  • 7. Methods  Household survey of 135 married household heads  Mzimba:  65 male household heads  2 female household heads  Chiradzulu:  41 male household heads  27 female household heads
  • 8. Methods  Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): 8 per district
  • 9. Results – part 1 Who makes the decisions on agricultural activities; in particular on tree planting and tree management?
  • 10. Results – part 1: survey Activities Head (%) Spouse (%) Joint (%) N Crops to plant 50 10 40 134 Sowing 50 7 43 135 Weeding 47 8 45 135 Fertilizer 39 14 47 134 Trees to plant 67 7 26 134 Tree management 63 8 29 133 Animals to rear 52 12 36 135 Selling farm products 40 17 43 135 Credit 45 19 36 135 Participation in meetings 54 1 45 135 Firewood collection 27 62 11 135
  • 11. Results – part 1  Gender:  Male-headed households: decision making on tree planting was done more often by the household head alone  Female-headed households: more joint decision making by the husband and wife together.
  • 12. Results – part 1  Kinship:  Patrilineal households: decisions on tree planting and tree management were made more often by the household head alone.  Matrilineal households: joint decision making was more common
  • 13. Results – part 1: FGDs Activities Husband 5 Wife 3 Joint 8 Other 0 16 Sowing 6 2 8 0 16 Weeding 4 2 9 1 16 Fertilizer 2 2 11 1 16 Trees to plant 12 1 3 0 16 Tree management 14 2 0 0 16 Animals to rear 4 1 10 1 16 Selling farm products 4 2 10 0 16 Credit 5 7 4 0 16 Participation in meetings 4 6 6 0 16 Firewood collection 0 16 0 0 16 Crops to plant N
  • 14. Results – part 2 How does decision making by the household head, the spouse or joint decision making affect the number of trees planted?
  • 15. Results – part 2  Negative binomial regression model to explore the relationship of gender, kinship, decision making on tree planting and tree management with the density of trees planted  In the best fit model, the density of planted trees was associated with kinship (P < 0.001) and the decision maker on tree management (P = 0.040). Gender of the household head was not significant.
  • 16. Results – part 2 140 Matrilineal 120 Patrilineal 100 80 60 40 20 0 Head Spouse Joint
  • 17. Conclusions  The findings of this study demonstrate that the assumption that the household head is the primary decision maker is an oversimplification of reality.  No clear pattern of household decision making emerged from our data, which indicates that decision making is a complex process and cannot be reduced to a simple model.
  • 18. Conclusions  Gender of the household head affected who was the main decision maker within the household, and this in turn affected the density of trees planted.  Tree planting and management seem to be considered as mainly the responsibility of men in our study areas; however, joint decision makers were more successful in terms of the numbers of trees planted on their land.
  • 19. Implications  Research and extension efforts should not merely target the household head but take into consideration that decision making in relation to farming and tree planting is multidimensional and site-specific.  Assumptions on headship and gender roles need to be locally checked and validated, for agroforestry research, policies and projects to be relevant and effective.
  • 20. Acknowledgements  Conference organisers  My supervisors  Maarten Nieuwenhuis (UCD)  Delia Catacutan (ICRAF)  Sileshi Weldesemayat (ICRAF)  My colleagues at ICRAF  Irish Aid for funding my research & the farmers in Malawi
  • 21. Thank you!  Contact: s.meijer@cgiar.org