Dairying / East Africa / Gender / Gender news / Impact Assessment / Kenya / Livelihoods / Livestock / LIVESTOCKCRP / PIL / policy / SLS / Women

Achieving gender-equitable outcomes in low emissions development initiatives in the Kenyan dairy sector

Niller Musinya of Vihiga County happily showing her improved calf born from fixed-time artificial insemination (photo credit: AVCD/ FIPS R. Jumah).


Stakeholder interest in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensities from livestock production has continued to gain momentum globally. This is driven by the fact that livestock production, particularly of ruminant animals, generates significant amounts of GHGs – about 40% of the total emissions from agriculture. As a result, increased efforts have been employed through research in a bid to find ways to reduce GHG emissions through investments in low emission development (LED) initiatives. In Kenya, livestock production is a significant sector, contributing largely towards supplying household food and income. Agriculture is also key to the Kenyan economy, contributing 26% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 40% of employment creation to the total population and another 70% to rural livelihoods. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is a key contributor to the ongoing discussions geared towards ensuring that farmers maximize on their livestock production activities while lowering GHG emissions.

Achieving global goals of lowering livestock’s GHG emissions intensity is hinged on changing the practices (feeding, herd management and manure management) of smallholder households. Animal husbandry is characterized by gendered division of labour, resource control and decision-making power, with men mainly claiming ownership of animals while women provide labour. Farmers worldwide are known to be motivated to adopt practices that enhance productivity and profitability. This means that participation in GHG-lowering activities will likely depend on identifying incentives that could benefit farmers in tangible ways. This will help avoid the common scenario where intensification causes concentration of men’s control over productive resources and monetary benefits, even where women contribute substantially (especially through provision of labour) to the on-farm production.

In the Kenyan dairy sector for instance, women are predominantly responsible for the daily tasks of securing fodder, feeding, milking and general care of the animals. An earlier study on the gender norms and intra-household dynamics that influence women’s participation in LED interventions, explores specific options that can encourage their participation. The study recommends engagement with smallholders regarding gender roles and equity in order to customize incentives for women’s participation in LED interventions and to ensure they are culturally sensitive and reflect day-to-day realities. These findings mean that gender dynamics have a significant role to play in the adoption of low emission development strategies in the dairy sector. As in all other aspects of sustainable development, gender dynamics greatly influence the participation of livestock keepers in LED interventions.

A recent study observes that analysis of intra-household survey data regarding livestock practices can be helpful in identifying how gender organization of labour, benefits and control can affect low-emission development interventions. To better understand these gender dynamics, the study used data from a household survey conducted by the East African Dairy Development (EADD) program, a multi-implementer collaborative project led by Heifer International and implemented in partnership with ILRI. The survey collected household-level data on ownership and control of farm assets (including cattle)decision-making, and labour dynamics within dairy farm households in North Rift and South Rift regions of Kenya. Gender disaggregated analysis of the data revealed the existence of gender respondent bias in reporting practices between men and women respondents. Though there were some similarities in reporting, both men and women tended to bias their reported answers related to livestock ownership, control, decision-making, and amount of time spent on dairy tasks towards themselves. The greatest divergences were around control and decision-making regarding the sale of milk produced in the morning and evening. For instance, despite the general agreement that men controlled most of morning milk income, women were more likely to report ‘joint control’ (i.e. women and men control income together) than male respondents.

While the precise reason why these data revealed gender respondent bias is unknown, the study discusses three possible theories to explain this social phenomenon. The first is that women and men have the same information about household practices but chose to report differently for strategic gain (real or imagined) or to appear socially acceptable to the surveyors. The second is that men and women in smallholder dairy farming households may have different information about what transpires within a household. For instance, while milk marketed through formal channels is highly likely to draw the attention of men – who are, in most cases, the family members registered with dairy co-operatives – the left over milk used for household consumption is traditionally left at women’s discretion. Women’s decision of whether to keep the milk for household consumption or to sell the milk locally depends on their (family) needs – information that men may not be aware of. The last possible explanation for the observed gender respondent bias is that the surveyed respondents may have different perceptions of the meaning of control compared to survey enumerators. This led to the study’s conclusion that in implementing LED interventions, there is need to engage carefully with household gender dynamics in order to achieve gender-equitable development outcomes.

Overall, the ever-changing practices in smallholder households such as division of labour, resource control, and decision-making power should be considered as critical factors towards achieving the global goal of lowering livestock’s GHG emissions intensity. Actively engaging both women and men in participatory assessment of low-emission technologies–including their implications for gendered labour dynamics, resources, and decision-making–will be important in achieving gender equitable low-emission development. In addition to household surveys, gender differences and similarities in household reporting would benefit from further qualitative exploration. An assessment of how household gender dynamics influence farming practices is necessary as an entry point for uncovering best practices in the Kenyan dairy sector and can aid in the identification of farming practices that are suitable for sustainable, gender-equitable LED interventions.

The study Gendered reporting of household dynamics in the Kenyan dairy sector: trends and implications for low emissions dairy development, is a collaborative work between researchers from the Sustainable Livestock Systems (SLS) program and the Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods (PIL) program at ILRI. The study authors are;  Katie Tavenner, Simon Fraval, Immaculate Omondi and Todd Crane

Blog written by Judy Kimani with contributions from Sarah Kasyoka. Both are communications and knowledge management specialists within the PIL and SLS programs, respectively.

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