Mamusha Lemma (left) discussing with members of farmers’ groups (Photo credit: ILRI\Apollo Habtamu)

Community conversations change gender perceptions in Amhara farmers’ groups

Blog post

Since May 2018, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have been conducting community conversations to transform gender relations in communities and households in Ethiopia. A total of 249 (72 female) community members and local research and development partners have participated in four rounds of these conversations.

The community conversations deal with gender roles in livestock husbandry; perceptions about women’s ownership and control over livestock resources; knowledge, attitudes and practices of community members about zoonotic diseases; and institutional and structural factors influencing prevention and control of zoonotic diseases.

The Key Afer community in Menz Mama District is among the sites where the CGIAR Research Program on livestock has carried out these conversations. The conversations engaged the community groups in active dialogue and social learning processes about gender, animal health and zoonotic diseases.

In 2008, the district established a forage nursery site in Gebeta Dingay . In the same year, a fish pond was constructed adjacent to the nursery site to create jobs for landless community members. Six male youths were organized into a fishery group and started fish production. The group has received training on fish production and management including  fish feed development, processing and feeding; fishing techniques, and fish processing and marketing. Two fish species, one known for its cold resistance and the other for its fast growth, were introduced by the district office of agriculture with the help of the Amhara regional government.

The group started harvesting fish after seven years. During the first harvest, they captured about 80 fish with the biggest one weighing 3.5kg and the minimum weighing 2kg. In good seasons, the group harvests three times a year.

In 2018, two members of the fishery group was invited to participate in community conversations about gender roles in livestock. The discussion focused on the activities men and women carry out in livestock production; labour and time demand and balance of men and women’s activities in livestock; and the visibility and value of women’s roles in livestock husbandry.

Due to the community conversations, the fishery group members realized that they needed to include women members. ‘From the first round of community conversations meetings, I realized we were not a gender balanced group. We needed to have gender equality, which would benefit all of us in the group,’ said Yeshidagna, leader of the fishery group. Another male in the group said ‘the sessions helped the group initiate discussions among ourselves, and we decided to include six women in our group.’

It is now four months since the women were included in the fishery group. Group members acknowledge that the level of innovation and resourcefulness in the group has increased as a result of including both genders. One of the fishery group members, in witnessing these benefits, said that after joining, the women came up with alternative feed management and fish feeding options using household leftovers and maize powder replacing concentrate feeds which are expensive and difficult to access. ‘Our fish production and productivity has improved and the cost of production has reduced. We are making more money.’

Through technical support from local partners, such as the district office of agriculture, the livestock agency, and cooperative promotion office of the district; the group processes fish some of which they use to feed their families, especially children. They have also started market fish to the nearby market centres to earn extra income. One male member noted that ‘there’s demand for fish from neighbouring communities.’ A 3.5kg and 2kg fish fetches ETB80 and ETB40, respectively, in local markets. The group is sharing its experiences in the neighbouring kebele where the district administration is working to establish fish farming and organize jobless youth into fishery groups. Moreover, the fishery group is serving as a demonstration and learning site for the district and beyond.

Through this demonstration effect of the fishery group, information from the community conversations will continue to disseminate and influence the society at large. The Livestock Health flagship of the livestock program will continue to develop modules that use the community conversation approach. Currently modules on animal welfare, antimicrobial use and resistance and livestock breeding are under development. The new community conversation modules will facilitate continued follow-up on topics discussed in previous community conversations and continue capturing change stories.

By  Wole Kinati, Mamusha Lemma, Yifru Demeke and Annet Mulema