Championing for gender justice in the coffee value chain

October 25, 2016

In recent years, Tanzania has been applauded for its commitment in enhancing women’s empowerment, and even more so for championing women’s participation in politics. However, despite the government’s strong commitment to women’s empowerment, traditional patriarchal attitudes remain entrenched in rural areas, especially in agriculture, where work imbalance is the norm in households.

Eliuze Obedi is a former civil servant who began coffee farming while working as an assistant in the Coffee Union. As the head of the household, Eliuze was responsible for making financial decisions and taking up the ‘masculine’ responsibilities on his farm, such as preparing the land for planting. From the harvest proceeds, he would pay school fees for his six children and off-set other financial responsibilities, but without proper planning.

Before the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) arrived on the scene, Eliuze had incurred heavy costs owing to market fluctuations the price of coffee. ‘’Coffee farming was becoming too expensive and I actually thought of pulling out. All that time, I didn’t know whether we could survive the season,’’ he said.  His wife, Anna, would later learn about and follow Hivos East Africa’s GALS training thanks to the women in her community. Afterwards, she was keen to share her newly acquired knowledge with her husband.

The GALS training helped Eliuse and Anna realise that they need to make decisions jointly and formulate clear goals together in farming in order to be successful. With the support of GALS, they have diversified to crops such as tomatoes and ginger and purchased a cow to expand their business.

When asked about whether he feels the GALS approach will ruffle feathers in a patriarchal society where women provide majority of the labour, he speaks of an opportunity that will enhance productivity on his farm. ‘’Most of my peers in the community have refused to integrate GALS in their households, but I see value in this approach through joint planning with my wife,’’ he said.

As the former chairlady of the local Agricultural Marketing Cooperative, Sacco, Anna used her position to influence the women in her community to try the GALS approach in their households.

She appreciates the changes she has seen in her household as a result of the training. ‘We now do even household chores together; you will find my husband cleaning utensils while I cook,’’ she said.

Eliuse and Anna illustrate a perfect example of how Hivos East Africa’s GALS toolkit continues to influence behavioural change in the rural communities. They both feel that the approach could help similar families to change the way they run their households and farms for the better.

GALS is a community-led empowerment methodology that uses principles of inclusion to improve income, food and nutrition security of vulnerable people in a gender-equitable way. It positions women as drivers of change in enabling food security.

Farmers such as Eliuze and Anna continue to benefit from the Hivos East Africa’s GALS method that was formulated in conjunction with partners to address the unequal access to training, land ownership, inputs and income that women and youth in the coffee supply chain experience.