How did GIADP do on gender?

By Nancy Kaawe, Philipp Baumgartner, Weijing Wang 

Quite well in our estimation, during the project completion review mission in May 2017. Targeting of beneficiaries in the project was highly gender sensitive, with women accounting for 53.1% of direct project participants and 47.6% of total beneficiaries. Gender targets were met, as the project began with a baseline of 46.6% of women in the population of target townships.
The portion of active participants among female beneficiaries was roughly 3% more than that of male participants.

While the high participation of women in the project can partly be attributed to the growing feminization of rural agriculture in China as a result of increasing migration of men to the cities, it was also noted that: (i) the project management displayed commitment to gender concerns and working closely with women's federations at all levels, with clear targets in the manuals from the PPMO; and (ii) project interventions prioritized women and also fit demands of women. The modular approach to project implementation made it possible for Village Implementation Groups (VIGs) to request specific modules of interest to their communities.
One of the many testaments to the latter was in Baishou Township, Yongfu County, where the mission met with the VIG members of Chao Yang village. The group was composed of 11 members (5 of which were women), who recounted having requested the rural environment component of the project, and among other benefits, reported that in 2016 they had gone from selling oranges at 10CYN/KG to 12CYN/KG (20% price increase) and were selling at higher prices as compared to other villages that did not receive this component. They attributed this to having a cleaner and more sanitary environment which attracted buyers and allowed them to sell at higher prices. The data snapshots (below) providing an overview of women outreach and participation by project modules; in fact show-among other things- participation of women in the rural environment component on the higher end.

On a more critical note, the data also indicates two areas that stand out with low figures in women's participation: (i) agricultural technical extension stations and (ii) project management. Low participation of women in township agricultural stations was explained by the project as a result of limited interest or attraction of women to work in this area. It was also reported that in many cases extension staff travel to villages unaccompanied, and quite often return to the townships late in the evening, making women less suitable for this work due to security concerns.  Project management however is key and cross-cutting, and further reflection and analysis of shortfalls in this area could present a learning opportunity for future projects in the country programme. Interestingly, the mission did not perceive any issues regarding the representation of women in project implementation and there is no allusion to any such issues in the documentation through the life of the project. But the numbers are what they are, and while VIGs were an overall success with good representation from women and supported collective and unanimous decisions by the villagers, the data suggests that there is still room for improvement in women's participation in project management (VIGs and PMO training).
There is a possibility that these figures may have been caused in part by the preferences of women farmers. Should we, (and if so how do we) factor such eventualities in our targets and reporting?

This remarkable lady in Pingle County made it known in no uncertain terms to the mission members that she had absolutely no interest in participating in most of the project activities, which she preferred to let her husband 'deal with'. It was quite clearly her choice.
She is a beneficiary of the community infrastructure and rural environment components in Xin Da Lang village, where they innovated the use of alternative waste (persimmon peels) to fuel biogas.

Another area of interest is the project support to farmers' cooperatives, which displays a great deal of potential for positive outcomes and impact. This area has been satisfactory where initial increases in women's participation and household incomes are concerned. In Leye County, women's participation in cooperatives reached 45.8%, while in Longzhou County; women's participation reached 48.1%. The overall average falls at around 50.3% women participants in cooperatives. A chicken cooperative in Longzhou County increased its membership from 16 to 67 in a span on 3 years of operation. While interviewing 3 women in the cooperative, economic empowerment showed through as members were able to sell around 5,000 to 6,000 chickens a year.
Cooperatives also have potential to provide opportunities for further employment to farmers/members in the processing part of the value chain, as seen in two cooperatives in Pingle County. One of the main challenges however, is in ensuring that poor smallholder farmers, especially women and minorities continue to be included in these cooperatives beyond the life of the project. The cooperatives module in GIADP involved concerted efforts between the implementing agencies, project management offices at provincial, county and township levels, to apply stipulations for household inclusion of productive poor smallholder farmers. These targeting efforts will need to be sustained by poverty alleviation programmes set by local governments.

This IFAD-supported sweet potato cooperative in Zhangjia Township, Pingle County is led by a woman, Ms. Li Zhen, who also employs mostly women farmers to work on sweet potato processing which is done by hand. This allows them to supplement their income with around CYN 60 per day, working close to their homes. The women interviewed told of having more decision power and reduced disputes in their homes because they also have an income.
Ms. Zhen, who is divorced with two children to support, recounted a story of 'very low production' and hardships before she began to benefit from the project's support to her cooperative. With increased production, her livelihood has significantly improved, and she encourages poor farmers to become commercial producers and join the cooperative. With pride, she informed the mission that last year (2016), she was selected as a people's representative for the county, and finally, she shared that being empowered and successful, she now has many suitors and can be more selective this time around!
  And in a photo that eerily echoed the mission's concerns about the sustained inclusion of IFAD's target group in cooperatives, a woman smallholder farmer (indicated by the arrow) in Leye County stood aside as the cooperative boss engaged with mission members.

This image was used in the mission's presentation during the wrap-up workshop to emphasize IFAD's recommendation for continued support to cooperatives to remain inclusive after the closing of the project.

In conclusion, the GIADP project performed well on gender, but was not without challenges. Clear successes, shortfalls and everything in between should provide for valuable lessons and further reflection for the country programme going forward. GIADP is one of the projects selected for an IFAD ex-post impact assessment, and no doubt the additional data will help us glean further insights and conclusions.
Until then,
Thanks for reading!

The Guangxi Integrated Agriculture Development Project (GIADP) in China became effective in 2012 and completed on 31 March 2017. Covering eight counties in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the project aimed to improve livelihoods of over 933,000 rural women and men, through production support, enhanced service delivery in extension and market access and improved community infrastructure. The total costs of GIADP was about USD 96.86 million, financed by an IFAD loan of SDR 29.65 million (about USD 47 million) and counterpart contributions including government financing of USD 46.4 million and beneficiaries’ contributions of an estimated USD 3.44 million.
GIADP completed with 99.8% of project funds invested, reached most of its targets and overall achievements are high. In total, 355.181 households and over 1.3 million rural men and women (1,339,189) benefited from project interventions