Research approaches required for supporting the empowerment of pastoral dairy women

Maasai woman feeding her child milk (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The especially rich and clearly written results of a livestock-gender-nutrition study in Tanzania deserve wide attention.

As the paper’s authors explain: ‘In the context of empowerment and nutrition studies have found that when women earn an income in the household, child and household nutrition are more likely to improve than when men earn an income . . . . However, the mechanisms through which women’s empowerment affects household nutrition and food security are complex and not fully understood. . . .

‘The empowerment of women increasingly is seen as a strategy to enhance household food security and nutrition  . . . In the context of empowerment and nutrition studies have found that when women earn an income in the household, child and household nutrition are more likely to improve than when men earn an income . . . .

‘Development programs have adopted dairy intensification as a strategy to enhance food security and nutrition among livestock keepers . . ., as it would translate in increased production levels. Dairy intensification is a promising approach to women’s empowerment in poor livestock communities, where dairy products and revenue often are more accessible to women than the revenues of other resources, such as land, buildings, and technology . . . . Improving forage supply is an important component of strategies for dairy intensification in East Africa, where forage shortages are a key reason for limited milk productivity in dry areas . . ., a situation exacerbated by the process of sedentarization . . . .

‘A gender-sensitive approach and the active involvement of women in dairy development have been found to be consistent elements in effective nutrition interventions . . . . Yet, the results of a Tanzanian dairy intensification project illustrate the complex interplay between dairy intensification, empowerment, and nutrition.

The project successfully increased milk production; as soon as higher yields made milk a marketable product its control transferred from women to men; women’s control over milk and revenue decreased, and no improvements were seen in child nutrition . . . .

‘The relationship between empowerment, food and nutrition security, and dairy intensification in sedentarizing pastoral households requires further study to elucidate effective pathways for enhancing maternal and child nutrition . . . .’

Maasai woman milking her cow (photo credit: ILRI).

This newly published paper was jointly published by scientists from Emory University (USA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley).