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Gendered relationships in rural advisory services: a Pakistani case study

Lamontagne-Godwin, J. D. (2019) Gendered relationships in rural advisory services: a Pakistani case study. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00089015


As populations increase, so do the challenges in feeding the world. Rural Advisory Services (RAS) contribute positively to food security by ensuring rural populations have access to vital knowledge, increasing yields and rural incomes. However, national and local RAS systems are complex, multifaceted, and comprised of a multitude of stakeholders with differing aims and agendas. More importantly, women around the world access them less frequently than men, for historical sociocultural reasons. Recent attempts to improve the poor female access to agricultural information by multilateral organisations, operating outside national RAS systems, have been well-intended but largely ineffectual, overlooking progressive approaches that focus on gender transformative change. Most observers agree that more focused research on RAS and stakeholders would improve the balance of gender access to agricultural information. This thesis addresses the domain by firstly developing a novel approach for qualitatively and quantitatively understanding the complexity of national and local RAS systems in Pakistan through its stakeholders’ perceptions. This is a key first step to evaluate the system’s dynamism prior to any impact research on RAS initiatives. These findings exposed key differences between local and national perceptions of a RAS system, and demonstrated the value of an accessible methodology to measure and understand RAS and an external initiative’s impacts. Secondly, the thesis examines agricultural information access in a district with and without Plantwise, the agricultural extension initiative launched by CABI in Pakistan in 2011, to assess and understand the initiative’s impacts through farmers’ and extension workers’ perspectives. Results highlighted the need to refine the integration of gendered perceptions and utilisation of socio-economic factors at the institutional and organisational level to better assess and improve initiatives’ impacts on the ground. In the next chapter, the thesis studies the frequency of use and preference of agricultural information sources of a quantitatively significant sample of men and women in farm households in the Punjab province of Pakistan. In the first instance, the study identified interesting gender differences regarding use and preference for agricultural information sources in relation to age and literacy. Women hardly use sources for agricultural information, and value interpersonal communication from informal sources, compared to men’s official sources’ preference. Age and literacy affect differences between women more than it does between men, particularly for convenient locations to access information. The focus and outcomes regarding gender intersecting with age and literacy in agricultural information access imply the need for more refined socioeconomic models, discerning and interrelating gender and other social dimensions beyond the standard of male-headed households. This 4 study’s findings also add to the growing body of evidence on gendered information access, highlighting the need to investigate deeper socio-cultural issues, discerning and interrelating gender and other social dimensions beyond the standard of male-headed households. This aspect is explored in the final chapter, where male and female farmers’ perceptions are compared with a sample of extension workers’ perceptions in order to identify culturally acceptable genderresponsive schemes in Pakistan. The study highlights the importance of trials and assessments of female-led lead farmer approaches as potential transformative knowledge pathways, because of their blend of formal and informal interactions – both systems favoured by female smallholders. Results also showed that improving awareness of the importance of gender equality of access to information to male extension workers, and the continued training of female extension agents for field activities where possible, are important elements to improve equality of access to agricultural information and are able to create transformative change. This thesis highlights important foci for the gender debate in rural advisory services. On the one hand it is vital to analyse individual perceptions and behaviours to understand the types of initiatives that should be considered and implemented to achieve better gender equality. On the other, it is crucial to contextualise individual behaviours with a higher-level understanding of the organisational, sociocultural and institutional milieu that drives RAS in a country. Gender-sensitive research must attempt to investigate both aspects in the future. Better yet, these high level and individual perceptions should be linked and researched through social network and agricultural innovation system analyses in order to provide further evidence of the importance of focused gender-aware activities and their impact on food security.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Dorward, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:89015


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