Agriculture, gendered time use, and nutritional outcomes: A systematic review

Authors: 
Deborah Johnston, Sara Stevano, Hazel Malapit, Elizabeth Hull, and Suneetha Kadiyala  
Publisher: 
International Food Policy Research Institute 

Existing reviews on agriculture and nutrition consider limited evidence and focus on impact size, rather than impact pathway. This review overcomes the limitations of previous studies by considering a larger evidence base and exploring time as one of the agriculture-nutrition pathways. Agricultural development plays a role in improving nutrition. However, agricultural practices and interventions determine the amount of time dedicated to agricultural and domestic work. Time spent in agriculture—especially by women—competes with time needed for resting, childcare, and food preparation and can have unintended negative consequences for nutrition.

The findings of this systematic review confirm previous conclusions about the gendered nature and impact of agricultural practices and interventions. However, the results contradict the assumption that rural residents in low- and middle-income countries have surplus labor time. In particular, the evidence shows that

  • women play a key role in agriculture, and this is reflected in their time commitments to these activities, whether as farmers or as farmworkers;
  • women are important actors in the uptake and response to agricultural interventions; and
  • agricultural interventions tend to increase women’s, men’s, and children’s time burdens.

However, the studies included in this review do not provide clear-cut evidence on the nutritional implications of agricultural practices and interventions, even when these result in increased time spent on agricultural activities.

Nutritional impacts are varied because households and household members respond to increased time burden and workload in different ways. Why are responses different? It depends on a number of important differentiating factors that include income and the possibility of purchasing food, household socioeconomic status more generally, household type and composition (in particular the presence of members who can take up domestic work), and the type of indicator used to assess food consumption, security, or nutrition. Therefore different sets of policies are needed to address specific forms of burden management, shouldered by households, individual household members, or both.

Source / Citation: 

Johnston, Deborah; Stevano, Sara; Malapit, Hazel J.; Hull, Elizabeth; Kadiyala, Suneetha. 2015. Agriculture, gendered time use, and nutritional outcomes: A systematic review. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1456. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). http://ebrary.ifpri.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15738coll2/id/129389