In 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) published a report on a five-country study on how WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) work can contribute to empowering women and improving their nutrition. In this blog, a Senior Consultant for WFP, Zalynn Peishi, highlights some of the study’s findings. Findings from this study will be discussed at the WFP side event at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women on March 14, 2018.
Women and men sell the study team vegetables from a WFP-supported community garden in Zimbabwe (Photo credit: WFP)
Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) is a key WFP program that contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2): end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. But can FFA also contribute to progress towards SDG5 – gender equality and women’s empowerment? In a 2016-17 study conducted in Niger, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, and Sri Lanka, WFP found that FFA can contribute to empowering women and improving their nutrition. However, this requires concerted and deliberate actions, in addition to a food- or cash-based transfer.
What is FFA? In over 50 countries every year, WFP’s FFA program improves the food security and nutrition of vulnerable populations by addressing the immediate needs of women, men, and their communities while contributing to longer-term improvements in food security. FFA includes ‘core actions’ – food or cash transfers and building or rehabilitating assets – and ‘complementary actions’ – actions typically delivered in partnership with others. Examples of these actions are included in the table below.
The study methodology. In this study, we held focus group discussions with FFA participants and beneficiaries (women and men) in which we asked, “What changed in your lives as a result of the FFA initiative and complementary actions?”
What did the study find?
FFA can contribute to women’s empowerment. Overall, women reported experiencing changes at the individual, household, and community levels. The changes that were reported included (1) better organization, social cohesion, and mutual support; (2) recognition and strengthening of women’s roles in the public sphere; (3) improvements in intra-household dynamics, including the role of women in decision making; (4) reduced workload and hardship for women; (5) improved skills and confidence in women; (6) improved livelihoods and increased income for women; and (7) greater understanding of, and ability to exercise, their rights.
FFA can also contribute to improved women’s nutrition. The study focused on beneficiaries’ perceptions of changes in immediate, underlying, and basic determinants of malnutrition. These changes were in (1) women’s empowerment and gender equality; (2) better diets; (3) improved household resilience; (4) better care practices; (5) better living and health environments in communities; and (6) better access to health services.
Pathways between FFA actions and women's empowerment outcomes and impact from the Zimbabwe case study. Note that the red box indicates an anticipated change when the dip talk is completed. (Farmers in Zimbabwe dip livestock in chemicals in 'dip tanks' to control ticks and tick-borne diseases.)
How did FFA and complementary actions contribute to these changes? Changes in empowerment and nutrition occurred due to several actions working synchronously, rather than one single action.
Irrigated vegetable gardens can significantly improve the stability, diversity, and quality of diets when accompanied with good planning, agricultural training, and nutrition messages for a year-round ‘rainbow’ diet. Other assets, such as water reservoirs, latrines, roads, and energy-saving stoves, can promote better health and hygiene.
When women and men have long-term, equitable access to and control of assets, they are more likely to be able to invest their energies and resources in them.
Based on the study’s findings and recommendations, WFP has updated its FFA Programme Guidance Manual and Gender Toolkit. Countries featured in the study have also taken action to further enhance the gender transformative and nutrition-sensitive potential of their programs.
This post is part of a blog, the Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange, maintained by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). To add your comments below, please register with Disqus or log in using your Facebook, Twitter, or Google accounts. You must be signed in or registered to leave a comment.