Field Exchange Aug 2001: Universal appreciation for women's involvement in food aid

Summary of a report

The previous issue of Field Exchange reported on a WFP assessment of community-based targeting (CBT) in Marsabit district in Kenya from a gender based perspective. WFP have just completed a similar type of assessment in the emergency affected Baringo district of Kenya. In addition to the community based targeting of the general ration, the assessment also considered the expanded school feeding programme and views on food for work (FFW) programmes.

Key findings

Most of the relief committees have active and equal gender participation. Elected women are now acting as agents of change as a result of their exposure to making decisions in a public arena and receiving and allocating WFP resources. This has opened the way for women to transcend their traditional subordinate role and be treated as equals.

The presence of women on relief committees is exposing the practical value of literacy and numerical skills for women, thereby creating community role models highlighting the value of education. Most men and women stated that they observed that households with educated daughters did not suffer the full consequences of the drought. This encourages them to send girls to school; they feel it is a way girls can obtain knowledge and skills to better enable them to provide extra resources to the household. Furthermore, the income transfer of the School Feeding Programme reduces the opportunity cost of sending girls (who are perceived as valuable household labour) to school. In addition, it reduces the cost of feeding the girl, removing pressure for early marriage. The expanded School Feeding Programme has therefore reduced the school dropout rate for girls.

All communities had a keen interest in Food for Work. They recommended that the projects should be scheduled to coincide with the hunger gap when food is most scarce and women have more time to participate in such activities. Another community recommendation was that women need to fulfil their routine early morning chores so that FFW projects planners should consider the timing of the work schedule in order to accommodate this.

Men and women suggested different types of activities for the FFW. Men suggested projects such as restocking, water holes, seed distribution, irrigation canals, building of dams and roads and development of livestock and honey markets. Women focused on construction of levees (barriers) to prevent soil erosion, distribution of farm tools and seeds, micro-credit schemes, building of schools and clinics, and training in animal healthcare.

If you would like to know more about WFP's experiences in this area, contact David Fletcher, World Food Programme, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: 254 2 622230. Fax: 254 2 622334/622263 or email: