Including the voices of farmers in the larger decision-making process at a national level sounds logical, but how can it be done in practice?
A project led by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), under a cross-CGIAR collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), uses an innovative methodology including documentary filming, community screening and local and national level workshops to do just that.
“Usually these farmers don’t have a chance to talk directly to the large companies,” said Principal Investigator Emily Gallagher of CIFOR. “It is for this reason that we have decided to include documentary filming and community screening as an essential part of the research process, to give these farmers a voice.”
This project is part of a larger study to examine the local impacts of commercialization across the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). The SAGCOT initiative aims to improve national food security, reduce poverty and support climate-resilient livelihoods through sustainable agricultural growth.
In practice, SAGCOT will grow through public-private partnerships to finance agricultural infrastructure, value chain development, and various smallholder outgrower schemes in Tanzania. The government of Tanzania, private investors and civil society organizations have outlined a commitment to social inclusion and climate-smart development through the SAGCOT Investment Blueprint (2011) and the Green Growth Investment Framework (2013).
However, these instrumental investment frameworks have overlooked the ways in which SAGCOT might also model development pathways that safeguard women’s access and household food security while promoting gender-inclusive green growth.
Including a gender dimension
This necessitates the new phase in the research, led by Gallagher, which aims to contribute to the dialogue by analyzing the social, economic and institutional factors that affect gendered access to these agro-investments. Through this it aims to propose productive pathways for aligning current and future development with the government of Tanzania’s socially inclusive vision for SAGCOT.
By setting out a set of methods and communication instruments for documenting the gender baseline at the initial stages of SAGCOT development, it has the potential to set the standard for sustainable and socially inclusive agricultural growth corridor development in sub-Saharan Africa.
The gender baseline includes the relative level of women’s participation in SAGCOT outgrower schemes and how this impacts on household food security and gendered distribution of benefits. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to operationalize the government of Tanzania’s gender inclusive policies through innovative practice.
Field visits to suspicious sugarcane farmers
This phase of the research and the field visits, which at the moment focuses on sugarcane farmers with later visits planned to rice farmers and tea farmers, are done in collaboration with enumerators, and partners, from the University of Dar es Salaam.
First, village introductions were done together with the government official located in each village, the village chairperson and subvillage leaders, the partners from the University of Dar es Salaam, and later, with a professional filmmaker. The reactions to their presence and the documentary filmmaking proposal have been quite diverse.
In the first village, a longer follow-up explanation was needed to clarify that CIFOR’s intention was not to convince farmers to join big cooperatives, as they have seen done in the past, but purely to understand the context and the reasons for day-to-day decisions that the sugarcane farmers make.
“Basically, the context in which we are working here in Tanzania is one of quite some suspicion and mistrust. Farmers have no means to talk directly to the large agribusiness and a lot of misinformation is going around. I think if companies had more open communication pathways about their management practices and market strategies, much of the distrust would dissipate,” said Gallagher.
It is necessary to say that the sugarcane market works through associations. “Overall, outside of the associations, there is no market for sugarcane. So unless it is a food crop, farmers need to somehow become a member of an association to sell their product. However, it seems that farmers are trusting the associations more than the government-backed cooperatives, which they have called corrupt and misguiding,” Gallagher added.
Visualization of the research
What Gallagher is really interested in is visual communications and the visualization of the research.
“This is what we are trying to reach through the use of the documentary film. For now, we have interviewed and filmed three people per community [six in total for the sugarcane farmers]. Two of them are outgrowers and one of them is a non-outgrower. Then, I want to use the issues that come out of the filming workshop as a guide to structure the dialogue and capture the communities, using a dialogical process with a strong facilitation, together with the investors.
“For this process, we do various exercises with various communities, both men and women, both outgrowers and non-outgrowers, to understand the reasons that guide their decision to say yes or no to become a member of sugarcane associations,” she explained.
“Another approach we take is using scenarios. We try to understand what, for example, an increase or decrease of the sugar price would mean for them: Would they leave or join associations? What would this mean for the adjoining forest? What would it mean for the water scarcity or water quality?
“We film these interviews and together with other footage we create a documentary. This documentary will then be played back during a community screening and we also invite the investors. We engage them all together in a local workshop, in which the video will serve as a means of facilitation. Here we will film their feedback, their reactions, their ideas and any other topics that might surge,” she said.
“After this, we will make a second version of the movie, which will be shown during a national workshop. Here we will invite national decision-makers, and again, the video will serve as a way to show the voices from the field, as a guide in the facilitation of the national workshop and as a tool to gain empathy and understanding of national decision-makers what it is like to be a smallholder sugarcane farmer.”
Gendered or generational restricted access?
In regards to the gender approach in the project, the results have been interesting thus far: In the specific community of Kitete, farmers tend to have very little land and therefore the whole household works together on the same plot. Therefore, the division between food crops and cash crops is not so clear, nor is the gender division of tasks.
Furthermore, female farmers that are not part of the association have been asked whether they feel there is gender restricted access. However, they mention that there is more of a youth restriction: Most young farmers do not have land because they have not inherited it. This land scarcity is also a cause of a lot of internal household conflicts in which various children fight for a very small piece of land, and why only very few farmers can buy land, because no one is selling it.
The only valid reason, as the interviewed farmers mentioned, for moving away from sugarcane production would be if the price dropped and thus the returns on investment did not make the production worth it anymore.
Gallagher will be in the field the upcoming months, shifting her focus towards the rice and tea farmers in Tanzania. Gender dimensions are expected to bring different outcomes in these communities. We will follow Gallagher as she continues her research and as the first documentaries become available.
By Manon Koningstein, FTA Gender Integration Team.
This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.