The role of gender in household decision making
on tree planting: A case study from Malawi
Seline Meijer
University Colleg...
Background
 Increasingly, the traditional assumption that the

senior male of the household functions as the
household he...
Aims of the study
i.

To identify which household members are the main
decision maker(s) for various agricultural activiti...
Malawi
 High levels of poverty
 About 75 % of the population are

subsistence farmers
 Small farm size (< 1ha)
 Most i...
Malawi and kinship
 Patrilineal social organisation: Households reside in

the village of the husband after marriage (vir...
Study area
 Two study sites:
 Mzimba (northern Malawi)
Low population densities
High forest cover
Mostly patrilineal kin...
Methods
 Household survey of 135

married household heads
 Mzimba:
 65 male household heads
 2 female household heads
...
Methods
 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): 8 per district
Results – part 1
Who makes the decisions
on agricultural activities;
in particular on tree planting
and tree management?
Results – part 1: survey
Activities

Head (%)

Spouse (%)

Joint (%)

N

Crops to plant

50

10

40

134

Sowing

50

7

4...
Results – part 1
 Gender:
 Male-headed households: decision making on tree

planting was done more often by the househol...
Results – part 1
 Kinship:
 Patrilineal households:

decisions on tree planting
and tree management were
made more often...
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

1...
Results – part 2
How does decision making by the household head,
the spouse or joint decision making affect
the number of ...
Results – part 2
 Negative binomial regression model to explore the

relationship of gender, kinship, decision making on
...
Results – part 2
140

Matrilineal

120

Patrilineal

100
80
60
40
20
0
Head

Spouse

Joint
Conclusions
 The findings of this study demonstrate that the

assumption that the household head is the primary
decision ...
Conclusions
 Gender of the household head affected who was the

main decision maker within the household, and this in
tur...
Implications
 Research and extension efforts should not merely

target the household head but take into consideration
tha...
Acknowledgements
 Conference organisers
 My supervisors
 Maarten Nieuwenhuis (UCD)
 Delia Catacutan (ICRAF)
 Sileshi ...
Thank you!
 Contact: s.meijer@cgiar.org
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The role of gender in household decision making on tree planting: A case study from Malawi

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The role of gender in household decision making on tree planting: A case study from Malawi

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 8. Methods  Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): 8 per district
  9. 9. Results – part 1 Who makes the decisions on agricultural activities; in particular on tree planting and tree management?
  10. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 16. Results – part 2 140 Matrilineal 120 Patrilineal 100 80 60 40 20 0 Head Spouse Joint
  17. 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. 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. 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. 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. 21. Thank you!  Contact: s.meijer@cgiar.org
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