Women Dairy Farmers in Africa
Women provide 46 percent of Africa's agricultural labor, produce about 70 percent of its food, perform almost 60 percent of the marketing and do at least half of the tasks involved in storing food and raising animals. Alarmingly, however, only 20 percent of these women are the direct recipients of extension advice. Studies by ILRI and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) have investigated what effects a smallholder dairying package had on women's workloads and what implications this would have for dairy development.
The study showed that, while 84 percent of the farms included in the study were owned by men, 84 percent of the dairy operators were women. On the farms where extension messages were delivered to men, three-quarters of the dairy operators were women.
Across all the farms, 48 percent of the people interviewed said that women did all or most of the dairy work, 25 percent said that hired laborers did most of the work and 22 percent indicated it was children who provided most of the labour. Only 5% said that husbands did most of the work in the dairy unit. But on the farms where men received the extension advice, over half of the husbands had exclusive control over the income generated by the dairy enterprise and in another 27 percent of the cases they shared control, despite the fact that three-quarters of the dairy operators were female. Extension officers reported that some female dairy operators lacked enthusiasm and conscientiousness in following extension advice because they derived little personal financial reward from their efforts in the dairy enterprise.
However, almost all (97%) of the people interviewed said that their total household income had increased since they adopted the Kenya National Dairy Development Project package and nine out of ten said that they had more milk for home consumption. The women felt that the benefits to the household outweighed their lack of reward. The most common use of the additional dairy income was food for the household (72%), followed by school fees (34%), dairy inputs (34%), hired labor (22%), school books (16%) and clothing (9%).
Any strategy for increasing dairy production in subhumid East Africa must take into account that many, if not most, smallholder units are managed by women and that these women must be involved in defining the research agenda to make sure their needs are taken into account.
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)