First steps in the process involved the collection of gender-disaggregated data, particularly regarding farm/household decision-making. By understanding who is making decisions on behalf of the household/farm (men, women, or both) TFA and partners can better determine who will benefit most from trainings and target trainings to include these specific populations. The role of gender in agriculture varies significantly country by country based on a number of cultural and practical factors and is also in the process of constant evolution. With this in mind, it is important to maintain consistent gender-related data and not to over-generalize or otherwise misinterpret this information.
It may be deduced that if more women were empowered to attend trainings, they would also be more inclined to participate in important decision making processes such as what kind of pesticide to spray and how much. Also, even though they are often not spraying chemical pesticides themselves, they are often still directly or indirectly exposed to chemicals through the air or by the process of washing spray containers. Therefore, women should also be made aware of the dangers of chemical exposure and the specific impacts to women and children.
In Cambodia, focus group discussions where organized with both men and women present on gender roles in agriculture. During these focus groups, participants discussed what needed to be improved upon regarding the role of men and women.
TFA’s partner organization in Vietnam, ICERD, has maintained a close collaboration with communal Women’s Unions over the past several years, supporting female participation in ABD, PRR, SRI, and IPM trainings. In 2015, 58 % of the farmers who attended the integrated Farming training (rice–fish) and Bac Giang province were women and in Yen Bai province 96 % of farmers who attended the training on Conservation and Utilization of Indigenous Vegetables/ Market Access were women.
Women’s Savings Groups
Additional support by TFA and ATSA of Women’s Savings Groups has been implemented as a response to a recently recognized need for assistance with financial planning and accounting in the communities we serve. During numerous site visits and interviews with members of Women’s Union’s, women reported that they were the ones responsible for handling household money, but lacked basic accounting education and often did not keep accurate records of costs and profits. This lack of knowledge prevented farmers generally from seeing whether their money was being spent or saved in an effective manner but also specifically did not allow them to recognize the savings that they were experiencing as a result of their conversion to sustainable farming methods. By empowering women with basic accounting knowledge, farmers can employ greater control over their personal expenses see first-hand the savings that sustainable farming methods can afford them, ultimately contributing to ensured programmatic sustainability into the future.
TFA and ATSA assisted three women’s saving groups by coaching them on how to self-organize and also on basic accounting principles. Women’s Savings Groups in Cambodia made it their own prerogative to establish a group savings fund/community loan system. All members of the group made a minimum contribution to the fund and any community members can apply for loans from the group as they need. The group is self-managed by group members who elect a management committee and was recognized by local authority. Rules and procedures were developed to ensure transparent management of their savings and lending fund. They continue to contribute money to the group fund on a monthly basis and interest that they earn from lending to members is kept to increase group capital.