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A gendered approach to exploring smallholder farming and seasonal food insecurity in in Atacora, Benin

Authors: Rosalind Ragetlie*, Western University, Isaac Luginaah, Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, Waliou Amoussa Hounkpatin, University of Abomey-Calavi
Topics: Food Systems, Gender, Africa
Keywords: food security/insecurity, gender, women, rural, farming, smallholder, agriculture, West Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Bénin
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual Track 1
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Smallholder farming in northern, rural Benin is characterized by distinct gendered roles and responsibilities, as are household decision-making dynamics over resources including land, labour, and food. Yet, current knowledge regarding food insecurity in Benin relies largely on information collected from male heads of household. In order to address this gap, our study aims to improve understandings of localized gendered experiences of food insecurity in rural Benin. We took a mixed-methods approach, collecting data using a combination of community-level focus groups (n=12), semi-structured interviews (n=40), and household surveys (n=600) during two field seasons in 2017 and 2019. For both the interviews and surveys, male and female partners in selected households were interviewed separately in order to differentiate between male and female experiences and explore household power dynamics. We find that food insecurity is highly seasonal with its severity varying geographically. Food insecurity is having significant impacts on the health and well-being of smallholders, though its effects are gendered. Moreover, women are experiencing an extra burden of agricultural labour, though this has not shifted the dynamics of power and control over household resources, including food. This presentation will outline the importance of taking a gendered approach to food insecurity in research and development contexts where women’s experiences have long been subsumed under those of men.

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