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Assets: Key to Prosperity

2016 May 20
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

Nancy Johnson, co-Principal Investigator of GAAP1 and GAAP2 has written a blog on the A4NH Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange in which she summarizes the key findings from GAAP1 and their implications for agricultural research and development. The post draws on a large body of work from GAAP1 in particular two recently-published synthesis papers authored by Nancy and her colleagues. (Johnson et al 2016; Quisumbing et. al 2015). The blog was originally posted here.  


What did GAAP1 do?

Source: Flickr (Sarita Pradhan, Landesa/IFPRI)

An Indian woman demonstrates how she allocates food in her family. Source: Flickr (Sarita Pradhan, Landesa/IFPRI)

GAAP1 looked at the impact of agricultural development interventions on men’s and women’s assets and gender asset inequality. There is a large body of evidence on the importance of asset-ownership for sustainable poverty reduction (Carter and Barrett 2006, Sherraden 1991). Not only are assets –also known as “capitals” in the sustainable livelihoods framework —important for being able to undertake livelihood strategies, they are also important ways to save (store wealth) and to cope with shocks such as bad weather or ill health.  While poverty is often studied at the household level, there is also strong evidence that who in the household owns the assets matters for important development outcomes.   Assets are owned by individuals not households, though an asset can be owned jointly by more than one person. Where women own assets, research finds that children’s education and nutrition outcomes are better (Quisumbing ed. 2003).

This suggests that strengthening women’s ownership of assets would help achieve desired development outcomes, yet little is known about how agricultural interventions affect assets, especially women’s assets and the gendered distribution of assets.  GAAP1 sought to answer this question by using mixed methods to look at the impacts of 8 diverse agricultural projects in Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia. Like GAAP2, GAAP1 worked with projects that were already conducting rigorous impact evaluations and provided a top up—both financial and technical, in the form of gender and impact evaluation expertise—to include assets among the program impacts to be assessed.


What did GAAP1 learn?

The main finding of GAAP1 is that agricultural development projects both affect and are affected by the gendered distribution of assets (Meinzen-Dick et. al, 2011).  Whether men and women within a household own or control assets affects their take-up of agricultural interventions; these interventions in turn affect the distribution of assets within the household.


How assets affect projects

The level of assets at the start of the project affects who participates in projects and how they participate. HarvestPlus’ project in Uganda found that the probability of orange sweet potato (OSP) adoption was highest for parcels which were jointly controlled by women and men but where women took the lead in deciding which crops were grown. The probability of adopting OSP was lowest for parcels exclusively controlled by men.

GAAP1 Conceptual Framework, Source: Meinzen-Dick et al., 2011

GAAP1 Conceptual Framework, Source: Meinzen-Dick et al., 2011

Some projects had explicit asset requirements.  CARE’s Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain (SDVC) project in Bangladesh, for example, had a goal of increasing women’s participation in and income from dairy value chains, but required that households already own  a cow.  A program implemented by Land O’ Lakes in Mozambique distributed cows as part of the intervention but required that beneficiary households own sufficient land to produce feed for the cow. In the same project, the beneficiary was defined as the recipient of the cow and since men traditionally owned cattle in the region, men became the de facto target beneficiaries with whom the project engaged.

While it is essential for implementers to consider the conditions under which projects will be successful and sustainable, it is also important to avoid making assumptions—e.g. only land owners have access to land—that would unintentionally exclude potential beneficiaries, especially women.  For example, Helen Keller International’s Homestead food production project in Burkina Faso helped women access land communally for production of vegetables and other nutritious foods.


How projects affect assets

All project evaluations documented increases in at least some type of assets. All five projects that were evaluated using experimental or quasi-experimental approaches found significant effects of the projects on some or all measured assets at the household level. This included projects that distributed physical assets—for which effects would be expected—as well as those that provided training, access to technologies, or developed local infrastructure.   This finding was particularly significant as there was concern that project timeframes, typically 3-5 years, might be too short to see a measurable impact on asset ownership, at least where distribution of assets was not part of the intervention.

Four of these projects had an impact on women’s assets, either those they own individually or those they own together with their husbands. In general, joint ownership of assets was an important way that women access assets in all project communities.  A better understanding is needed of what ‘jointness’ means to women and what the advantages and disadvantages of joint versus sole ownership are in different contexts (Doss and Meinzen-Dick, 2015).

Gardening in Burkina Faso. Source: Flickr (George Blonsky/HKI)

Gardening in Burkina Faso. Source: Flickr (George Blonsky/HKI)

The evaluations also highlighted some challenges to reaching and benefitting women.   Men’s as well as women’s assets increased and in most cases, the increase was greater for men.   Many projects, especially livestock projects, raised the demand for women’s time, and that of their families which in some cases displaced important tasks such as child care.  Women reported being able to maintain control over the increases in agricultural production that resulted from project interventions when production was for home consumption but were less successful in controlling  production for the market or the income earned from the sale of output.

Despite these challenges, women identified many intangible benefits from project participation including improved self-esteem, enhanced mobility and stronger family unity from working together as one unit.


Using the learnings from GAAP1

Evaluations of the eight GAAP1 projects provide valuable insights into how different types of projects affect and are affected by asset ownership.  Employing an assets perspective highlights asset-related barriers to adoption of agricultural technologies. A gender-assets perspective, however, gives a nuanced understanding of differences in barriers that men and women face.

Methods and tools developed and used in GAAP1 are available for other researchers and evaluators and have informed the development of both the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) and its project level variation, the pro-WEAI.

An external evaluation of GAAP1 found that working with and leveraging a set of projects was efficient and effective and benefited both GAAP and the individual projects (Firetail, 2014, 432KB). GAAP2 uses the same portfolio approach and, in response to recommendations from the external evaluation, builds in some innovations such as establishing and facilitating the communities of practice.

Assets: Keys to Prosperity from Independent Science and Partnership Council of the CGIAR, presented at the ISPC Science Forum 2016



Developing a nutrition-sensitive pro-WEAI

2016 April 4
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

GAAP2 team members Jessica Heckert and Sunny Kim have written a blog for A4NH's Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange in which they share some highlights of the discussions that took place in the nutrition working group at the GAAP2 Inception Workshop and discuss the development of a nutrition-specifc module within the pro-WEAI.

Photo credit: Cassie Chandler/Freedom from Hunger

Since the launch of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) in 2012 and later its abbreviated form (A-WEAI), it has been widely used to measure and understand women’s empowerment and inclusion in the agricultural sector. Owing to the demand from agricultural development projects for a tool that can be used to measure empowerment in a project setting, the next phase of the WEAI includes adapting and validating the tool for use in agricultural development projects (pro-WEAI). Pro-WEAI will include indicators that are relevant for specific types of agricultural interventions (e.g., crops, livestock, irrigation, natural resources) and sensitive to change during a project lifespan, typically three to five years. Also, as many agricultural projects aim to improve nutrition, an important question to consider is: how can pro-WEAI become nutrition-sensitive?

How would measures of women’s empowerment for nutrition-sensitive agricultural projects differ?

Increasingly, agricultural development projects incorporate nutrition-sensitive designs and address the underlying causes of undernutrition, including food insecurity, poor healthcare, and inadequate resources for optimal care of children (Ruel et al., 2013). To understand if women’s empowerment is changing in the context of agricultural interventions, we must be able to identify the aspects of women’s empowerment related to nutrition and measure them, not only with regard to production and the agricultural sector, but also as they are related to access and use of food, health services, and caregiving at the individual, household, and community levels. This involves considering women’s empowerment beyond its relationship to increased production and income, and identifying additional pathways of influence that can improve the health and nutrition of beneficiaries of agricultural development projects (PDF 343 KB). Such dimensions may lie outside the purview of traditional agricultural programming, yet have been shown to be key to achieving good nutritional outcomes.

GAAP2 Inception Workshop, photo credit: Stephan Dohrn/Radical Inclusion

GAAP2 Inception Workshop, photo credit: Stephan Dohrn/Radical Inclusion

Meeting project needs

At the GAAP2 inception workshop in Nairobi, program implementers and evaluators voiced the types of women’s empowerment indicators that they need for their nutrition-sensitive interventions. Women often face barriers to optimizing nutritional inputs, and these barriers differ from those they face when participating in production activities. Social norms may dictate who has first access to food, what women and children can eat, and how or when healthcare is accessed. Moreover, intra-household dynamics may enhance or limit whether women’s empowerment in agriculture translates into improved nutrition.

Across project sites in South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara, practitioners expressed the importance of women’s access to and control over resources, and their input into decisions that matter for improving their own nutrition as well as that of their children and families. For instance, a pregnant woman in Bangladesh may be influenced by her mother or mother-in-law to consume less food, in the hopes of a smaller baby and easier labor. Or, despite her primary role in raising poultry, a woman in Uganda may be instructed by her husband to sell all the eggs rather than to reserve some to feed them to her young child. Across these various contexts, workshop participants agreed that indicators to capture women’s empowerment related to nutrition are needed.

Photo credit: Pradan

Photo credit: Pradan

Identifying domains relevant for nutrition

Improving nutritional outcomes involves empowering women across multiple domains. Undernutrition is a result of poor diet and illness, which are caused by underlying conditions of food insecurity, inadequate health services, unhygienic environments, and inadequate care (UNICEF, 1990). Any areas of women’s empowerment that directly affect nutrition would operate via their influence on these domains of food, health, and care. Thus indicators should emphasize the control of inputs and the social dynamics around these domains.

Working groups throughout the workshop highlighted the domains in which women may be empowered or disempowered to optimize these inputs. We began to unravel these pathways and discussed how we might go about measuring them. For example, food inputs may rely both on women being able to produce nutrient-rich foods and whether they can allocate the nutrient-rich foods that they produce to household members in need of these nutrients. Seeking preventative and curative healthcare, important inputs for improved nutrition, may depend on women’s freedom of movement, access to resources to pay for services, and intra-household dynamics that dictate whether women can make these decisions.  Whereas many other aspects of women’s empowered may be associated with nutrition such as maternal autonomy and attitudes about domestic violence (van den Bold, 2013), their importance is not unique to nutrition outcomes and may be included in other domains of pro-WEAI, or as other project indicators.

Filling in the gap

While various surveys including the Demographic and Health Surveys and Feed the Future Surveys collect data on women’s empowerment, these large surveys are often limited in the number of indicators they collect (Heckert and Fabic, 2013). Thus there are still large gaps in terms of the data necessary to understand the complex relationships among nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions, women’s empowerment, and nutrition. The development of a nutrition-specific module within pro-WEAI and the collection of related data provides a unique opportunity to better understand the relationship between women’s empowerment and nutrition and identify the types of interventions that empower women and improve nutrition outcomes for women, children, and their families.



Heckert J, Fabic M (2013). Improving Data Concerning Women’s Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Studies in Family Planning, 44(3):319–44.

Ruel MT, Alderman H, and Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group (2013). Nutrition-sensitive interventions and programmes: how can they help to accelerate progress in improving maternal and child nutrition? The Lancet. 382(9891): 536-551.

UNICEF (1990). Strategy for Improved Nutrition of Children and Women in Developing Countries. New York: UNICEF. 1990.

van den Bold M, Quisumbing AR, Gillespie S (2013) Women’s empowerment and nutrition: an evidence review. International Food Policy Research Institute Discussion Paper. #01294.


This blog was originally posted on A4NH's Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange.

WEAI featured on International Women’s Day 2016

2016 March 8
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

On International Women’s Day 2016, IFPRI is highlighting the role of data and evidence to empower women in Bangladesh, with a series of blogs and interviews.

  • Agnes Quisumbing writes on how findings from a survey in Bangladesh which used the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) inspired policymakers to pilot an integrated agriculture program which aims to empower women and improve nutrition. The program titled “Orienting Agriculture Toward Improved Nutrition and Women’s Empowerment”, better known as ANGeL (Agriculture, Nutrition and Gender Linkages), is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh with technical assistance from Helen Keller International and IFPRI and is part of the GAAP2 portfolio. The full blog can be read here.
  • In an interview on Periscope, GAAP2 team members, Hazel Malapit and Greg Seymour talk about the WEAI, their roles in the development of the index, what they have learnt and some recent findings from Bangladesh.

New paper: Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects

2016 February 25
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

A new paper co-authored by GAAP PIs and other  GAAP1 team members, synthesizing the findings of the 8 impact evaluations of projects which were part of the first phase of GAAP, is now available. The evaluations used mixed methods to show the impact agricultural development programs have on individual and household assets in seven countries in Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia.

While all projects showed an increase in assets at the household level, only 4 were able to increase women’s control of assets, and only one project contributed to a reduction in the gender-asset gap. Similarly, many projects showed an increase in women’s income but were unable to increase the relative control women have over income from projects.

The review did find, however, that even in cases where there were no impacts on asset ownership and control over income, the interventions improved women’s lives and welfare and influenced underlying norms about women’s work and participation in decision-making.

In addition to the quantitative and qualitative findings from GAAP1 on the importance of paying greater attention to gender and assets by researchers and development implementers, the methodological contributions made by the program to the study of gender and assets will be used and built upon in the second phase of GAAP (GAAP2).

More information about the GAAP1 portfolio can be found here.

The paper ‘Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects’ is open-access and can be read here.

Development of a project-level WEAI begins at the GAAP2 inception workshop

2016 February 17
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

On January 27-29 2016, the IFPRI-led Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project  held an inception workshop to kick-off its second phase (GAAP2). The workshop was organized in collaboration with AWARD at the beautiful World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. About 60 people participated in the workshop, including the GAAP2 core team and partners, the GAAP2 External Advisory Committee (EAC) and most importantly representatives from projects that have been short-listed to be part of GAAP2.

Workshop participants at the ICRAF campus, Photo credit: AWARD

Workshop participants at the ICRAF campus, Photo credit: AWARD

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), with the participation of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), GAAP2 aims to develop project-level indicators for measuring women’s empowerment and to identify the most effective strategies that agricultural development projects can use to empower women. The workshop was the first opportunity for members of the GAAP2 community to convene and get to know each other while achieving the following objectives:

  • Develop a shared understanding of the overall initiative, its objectives, and modalities
  • Learn about measures of women’s empowerment, particularly the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) and their uses in development programming.
  • Develop components of a project-level WEAI (pro-WEAI) that can be used for  assessing the impact of different types of agricultural development projects on women’s empowerment
  • Lay the foundation for a GAAP2 Community of Practice (CoP) and develop outreach strategies for engaging with projects that are not directly included in the GAAP2 portfolio
  • Review the GAAP2 timeline and discuss how individual pro-WEAI pilots fit into that timeline and how these can be used to identify strategies that work to empower women

Getting to know the WEAI

The GAAP2 core team presented the WEAI and its modifications (the Abbreviated WEAI or A-WEAI). The presentations focused on the rationale behind the creation of the index, its strengths and weaknesses and how it has been applied so far. The next stage of the WEAI will be the development of the pro-WEAI which will be implemented by the GAAP2 projects and the integration of the pro-WEAI into the projects’ impact assessment plans.

Poster session at the workshop. Photo credit: Stephan Dohrn

Poster session at the workshop. Photo credit: Stephan Dohrn

GAAP2 projects

Projects teams presented their interventions and proposed impact assessment strategies in a poster session - the GAAP2 portfolio has a diverse mix of projects ranging from livestock interventions to home gardens to financial inclusion programs and nutrition-sensitive agriculture extension programs. This was followed by a trivia contest about the information presented with exciting prizes (chocolates and coffee) for those with the highest points.


Group work to develop the pro-WEAI

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to developing the pro-WEAI. The group was divided first according to project themes (livestock, crops, income, nutrition) and then dimensions of women’s empowerment (access and use to information, individual empowerment, intrahousehold dynamics, physical mobility, empowerment with respect to nutrition). The purpose of the group work was to (a) propose additions or modifications to the existing A-WEAI module and (b) brainstorm over potential add-on modules to the A-WEAI. The group sessions resulted in some great ideas which will be used by the GAAP2 core team to develop survey modules for the pro-WEAI.

Community of Practice

An important feature of GAAP2 is the CoP which will allow members of GAAP2 to communicate and collaborate with each other throughout the duration of the project. In addition to the GAAP2 CoP, a larger community will be created for those interested in following the project and using the pro-WEAI in their work.


There were many opportunities for participants to get to know each over the course of the workshop. Project teams not only met each other and learnt about their respective projects, but also got introduced to the members of the GAAP2 team who will support the projects with their research.


Resources from the workshop

Workshop agenda [PDF, 705KB]

Workshop summary report [PDF, 1.31MB]

Recorded sessions

Presentation slides

A-WEAI questionnaire and manual




2015 August 7
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by ckovarik


The GAAP team at IFPRI has some exciting news to share! The International Food Policy Research Institute has received a second round of support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to adapt and validate a measure of women’s empowerment that agricultural development projects can use to diagnose key areas of women’s (and men’s) disempowerment, design appropriate strategies to address deficiencies, and monitor project outcomes related to women’s empowerment. This empowerment measure will be based on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) developed by IFPRI, USAID, and OPHI (Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative), but will be adapted for project use. This second round, called GAAP2, will run for five years (2015-2020) and will build on the experience of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP, 2010-2014), which worked with a set of agricultural development projects to incorporate gender into their M&E frameworks and evaluate their impacts on women’s assets. This work is undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) led by IFPRI, and will be complementary to ongoing efforts to use and adapt the WEAI, supported by USAID. For the call for concept notes, click here. For an editable Word version of the call, click here.

Also, please review our list of FAQs on the GAAP2 call (updated September 2, 2015). We will continue to add to this list as we receive more questions. If your question is not included in this list, please email us at

New Report: Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment

2015 July 29
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by ckovarik

A new report, Measuring Women's Economic Empowerment, was recently released by the United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation. It summarizes recommendations to assess intermediate, direct, and final outcomes of programs targeting women's economic empowerment. This report is meant as a companion to an earlier report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment.

In addition, two complementary documents were produced:

More information on the initiative can be found at:

Technical Guide now available!

2014 November 21
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by ckovarik

The GAAP team is happy to announce the release of our new technical guide!

This new guide, Reducing the Gender Asset Gap Through Agricultural Development, explains the importance of assets - both tangible assets such as land, labor, and animals and intangible assets such as education, financial capital, and social networks - for development, and the wide gap that exists between men and women in the use, control, and ownership of these assets. With practical lessons and recommendations, the guide shows how to collect data and design and monitor projects to address this gender asset gap, clarifying how each step of the project - from design to evaluation - can attend to gender differences. It also identifies both qualitative and quantitative tools to use in collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data on assets.

Along with the research findings laid out in the GAAP project notes and discussion papers, and an updated GAAP toolkit for collecting data, this technical guide completes a full package of resources for researchers and practitioners working to improve women's equality and economic status in the developing world.

Happy reading!

Updated GAAP toolkit now available

2014 October 8
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by ckovarik

gaapThe GAAP Gender & Assets toolkit, originally created in February 2012, has now been updated! This updated version includes case studies from each of the portfolio projects, a new section on key "lessons learned", and links to the tools used in each project.

The new version of the toolkit can be found here. Individual case studies can also be read here.

Tools used in GAAP now available!

2014 September 25
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by ckovarik

The tools used by each of the projects in GAAP have now been posted on the website! These include both qualitative and quantitative tools. For more information on what worked and didn't with each of these tools, we recommend you read the case studies, in particular the interviews with project leads. The tools can all be found at the Questionnaires tab above, or by clicking on the link to each specific project below.





Harvest Plus




Land O'Lakes