Integrating gender into livestock projects: How data can help

By Jac Davis

The success of livestock projects can depend on how well they address gender gaps. Differences between men and women’s social roles and responsibilities can have large impacts on how livestock projects are implemented and maintained. But the exact effects of these gender differences may vary from project to project.  Data collection, and data collaboration, can help uncover and predict the role of gender in livestock projects.

Why include gender in livestock projects?

There is strong evidence that the success of agriculture and development projects can depend on how well they account for, and address, gender differences (Johnson et al., 2016). These include differences between men and women relating to power, income, social roles, the work they perform, and many other areas.  For projects targeting small-scale livestock producers, the gender context may influence factors like disease control (Curry, 1996), genetics (Nassif, 2008), and food quality (Valdivia, 2001).

For these reasons, gender has been identified as a priority area for funding in agricultural development projects. But data on gender and livestock projects is still lean. What do we know so far?

Gender and livestock fact check

Gender reflects the a project’s social context

Gender affects livestock projects partly because it reflects the social context of the project. Social contexts change from place to place – there is no single pattern that applies across all societies and locations, so gender is likely to affect livestock projects differently in different places. Some patterns have been identified, however, in specific geographic and social contexts.

Gender differences shape the control of income from livestock

In some contexts, women have little control over the sale of productive assets such as livestock and animal products (Bold et al., 2015), and are likely to see less cash income from it than men (Johnson et al., 20152016). However, in other contexts, women may be more likely to participate in sale decisions, especially where they are named on the land title (Santos et al., 2014). This dynamic needs to be understood when designing interventions that improve livestock productivity, to ensure that women and men can benefit equitably from projects.

Gendered household roles must be understood

In many contexts, livestock feeding and care is regarded as housework, which means that women are likely to be responsible for feeding and care of livestock. This can cause problems if interventions are targeted to men (for example, as the head of a household), and important information may not be communicated between men and women. For example, a project in Mozambique transferred dairy cows to households, but did not take into account the gender context. The project evaluation found that men were likely to attend project events and training, but because the work of caring for the cows was typically done by women, the information and training about appropriate fodder and husbandry was not typically passed on. The end result was that the cows were often not adequately fed or cared for, and several participants dropped out of the program entirely  (Johnson et al., 20152016).

Women’s workload may be increased by livestock projects

This effect can lead to unforeseen consequences of livestock interventions. For example, a project supplying cattle to women in Bangladesh had the unforeseen consequence of decreasing women’s mobility outside the home, because women had to spend more time at home caring for the new cattle (Das et al., 2013Quisumbing et al., 2013Roy et al., 2015). Similarly, a review of dairy production in Morocco found that women’s workload was increased when households switched to improved cattle breeds (Nassif, 2008). Local breed cattle systems had the cows and calves free-ranging outside the house, but improved cows had to be cared for at home and required more cut and carry of special feed. The increase in milk production, especially when excess milk was intended for market, also called for more time-consuming work extracting and packaging milk, and cleaning milk delivery utensils. Since this extra work took place in the home, it was primarily done by women (Nassif, 2008). The extra time that women spend caring for new, or improved, livestock may be taken from other necessary activities, such as childcare (Quisumbing et al., 2013) and water gathering (Njuki et al., 2014).

These examples show that livestock projects can fail or have unintended harmful consequences if they are designed without any attention to the gender context. But not every project exists in the same context, and not every project will have the same outcomes. How exactly to integrate gender into livestock projects is an ongoing challenge.

Better data can help tackle gender gaps

A first step to integrating gender into livestock projects is to collect and analyse gender-disaggregated data about the social context. Which data to collect? There are a range of guidelines available, including general indicators from the FAO (FAO, 2011), USAID (Manfre et al., 2017Rubin et al., 2009), IFPRI (IFPRI, 2011), IFAD (Rota et al., n.d.), BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012) and the IFPRI Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (Alkire et al., 2013). Project-specific indicators, such as ownership of locally relevant productive assets (Johnson et al., 2016), may also be useful.

In addition to survey indicators, projects should keep an open mind about data sources; some gender information may already be available, such as the gender of participants engaging with different stages of the project (Rubin, 2016). Where projects are already collecting indicators, simply reporting gender-disaggregated data is a good start (Mupawaenda et al., 2009Stapleton & Mulema, 2017).

As more data becomes available, collaborative efforts like the Livestock Data for Decisions (LD4D) community of practice, can build a picture of the variable role of gender in livestock projects. By piecing together evidence from different interventions, and different contexts, future efforts may discover high-level patterns in the way that gender affects, and is affected by, livestock projects around the world.

Do you have suggestions for useful sources of gender and livestock data? Please leave a comment at the end of this article.

About the author: Jac Davis is a graduate of the Gender Development Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, UK, funded by Gates Cambridge.

Header image: In Nyando, Kenya, men and women farmers are using improved livestock breeds such as gala goats and doper sheep that are early maturing, easy to manage with high milk productivity thereby increasing their resilience to climate change. Photo: K. Trautmann (CCAFS) (Source).

References and Further Reading

Alkire, S., Meinzen-Dick, R., Peterman, A., Quisumbing, A., Seymour, G., & Vaz, A. (2013). The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. World Development52, 71–91.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2012). Creating Gender-Responsive Agricultural Development Programs: An Orientation Document. Retrieved from

Bold, M. van den, Dillon, A., Olney, D., Ouedraogo, M., Pedehombga, A., & Quisumbing, A. (2015). Can Integrated Agriculture-Nutrition Programmes Change Gender Norms on Land and Asset Ownership? Evidence from Burkina Faso. The Journal of Development Studies51(9), 1155–1174.

Curry, J. (1996). Gender and livestock in African production systems: An introduction. Human Ecology24(2), 149–160.

Das, N., Yasmin, R., & Ara, J. (2013). How Do Intrahousehold Dynamics Change When Assets Are Transferred to Women? (IFPRI Discussion Paper No. 01317) (p. 44). International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from

FAO (Ed.). (2011). The State of Food and Agriculture 2011. Women in agriculture: closing the gender gap for development. Rome: FAO. Retrieved from

Johnson, N., Kovarik, C., Meinzen-Dick, R., Njuki, J., & Quisumbing, A. (2016). Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects. World Development83, 295–311.

Johnson, N., Njuki, J., Waithanji, E., Nhambeto, M., Rogers, M., & Kruger, E. H. (2015). The Gendered Impacts of Agricultural Asset Transfer Projects: Lessons from the Manica Smallholder Dairy Development Program. Gender, Technology and Development19(2), 145–180.

Manfre, C., Rubin, D., & Nordehn, C. (2017). Assessing How Agricultural Technologies can Change Gender Dynamics and Food Security (p. 6). USAID. Retrieved from

Mupawaenda, A. C., Chawatama, S., & Muvavarirwa, P. (2009). Gender issues in livestock production: a case study of Zimbabwe. Tropical Animal Health and Production41(7), 1017.

Nassif, F. (2008). The Gender-Livestock-Climate Change connection: local experiences and lessons learned from Morocco. In P. Rowlinson, M. Steele, & Nefzaoui (Eds.), Livestock and Global Climate Change (p. 154). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from

Njuki, J., Waithanji, E., Sakwa, B., Kariuki, J., Mukewa, E., & Ngige, J. (2014). A Qualitative Assessment of Gender and Irrigation Technology in Kenya and Tanzania. Gender, Technology and Development18(3), 303–340.

Quisumbing, A. R., Roy, S., Njuki, J., Tanvin, K., & Waithanji, E. M. (2013). Can dairy value-chain projects change gender norms in rural Bangladesh? Impacts on assets, gender norms, and time use (Working Paper). International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (2011). Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development Programs: A Conceptual Framework. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.

Rota, A., Sperandini, S., Hartl, M., & IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development). (n.d.). Gender and livestock: Tools for design. Livestock Thematic Papers: Tools for Project Design. Retrieved from

Roy, S., Ara, J., Das, N., & Quisumbing, A. R. (2015). “Flypaper effects” in transfers targeted to women: Evidence from BRAC’s “Targeting the Ultra Poor” program in Bangladesh. Journal of Development Economics117, 1–19.

Rubin, D. (2016). Qualitative Methods for Gender Research in Agricultural Development (IFPRI Discussion Paper No. 01535) (p. 32). International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from

Rubin, D., Manfre, C., & Barrett, K. N. (2009). Promoting gender equitable opportunities in agricultural value chains: A handbook. USAID Greater Access to Trade Expansion (GATE) ProjectUSAID Office of Women in Development. Retrieved from

Santos, F., Fletschner, D., Savath, V., & Peterman, A. (2014). Can Government-Allocated Land Contribute to Food Security? Intrahousehold Analysis of West Bengal’s Microplot Allocation Program. World Development64, 860–872.

Stapleton, J., & Mulema, A. (2017). Community gender profiles help target small ruminant value chain interventions in Ethiopia: Implications for intervention design (ILRI Livestock and Fish Brief No. 11). International Livestock Research Institute. Retrieved from

Valdivia, C. (2001). Gender, livestock assets, resource management, and food security: lessons from the SR-CRSP. Agriculture and Human Values18(1), 27–39.