Understanding gender and power relations in home garden activities: Empowerment and sustainable home garden uptake
How does home gardening fit into women’s and men’s livelihood aspirations? Can home gardens address the nutritional deficiencies of household members in ways that empower women? Do men and women differ in their perceptions of the nutritional status of children?
Understanding gender and power relations in home garden activities – Empowerment and sustainable home garden uptake, a study undertaken as part of a collaboration between the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) under the USAID-funded project “Deploying vegetable seed kits to tackle malnutrition in Cambodia” (referred to as the home garden project), aims to answer these questions and inform the project’s scaling-up strategy, implementation processes, monitoring and evaluation, and capacity development plan for project staff and partners.
The study, conducted with seven randomly-selected project client groups in the provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang in Cambodia, found that home gardens played a significant role in the livelihood portfolios of women due to their responsibility for family food provision and subsistence livelihoods, although home gardens were not one of the key income sources in household economies. Project clients were not motivated by nutritional outcomes when they enrolled in the project, but more by opportunities for generating extra income and having a clean food source that both helps prevent sickness from toxic vegetables and saves family spending on food and medical care.
Although home gardens fall within women’s traditional space, gender division of labor was not rigid; it was common to see women and men in client households perform tasks traditionally perceived as the responsibility of the opposite sex. The study argues that gender and social norms are reinterpreted to justify and value men’s engagement in the unconventional domain i.e. home garden; and that the participation of men in the home garden project reinforces positive attributes of men’s identity as knowledgeable, hardworking and supportive husbands, but does not necessarily indicate a change in gender power relations.
Gendered roles and stereotypes relating to the capacity of women and men in the roles of technical provider influence client preference over who they turn to for advice on home gardens. While some female clients feel more at ease communicating with female trainers, others feel less comfortable contacting female trainers as they are perceived as being busier because of their household responsibilities.
The study found that the home garden project does not require serious negotiation between husband and wife and the power of women in making the decisions in the project might not be an indication of improved status, but links to women performing their “duties” in their traditional domain. The study argues that the criteria for selecting project clients such as the availability of land and accessibility to water source creates a condition that does not require women to negotiate for reallocation of household investment – an opportunity for enhancing women’s capacity in gaining more control over household resources, particularly in a situation of competing resources and priorities.
Nguyen H, Ly S, Biskupska N, Pravalprukskul P, Brown S, Ro A, Fielding M. 2017. Understanding gender and power relations in home garden activities: Empowerment and sustainable home garden uptake. World Vegetable Center, Taiwan. Publication number 17-813. 46 p.