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Social Relations Analysis


While there has been emphasis on women and gender in African agriculture and policy, there has there been little integration of social relations analysis. Why?

FAC’s gender e-debate (2 – 20 May 2011) drew on insights about household gender relations, including conjugal relations, arising from feminist and other research relevant to ongoing debates about the potential of small (family?) farms to contribute to increasing food supplies in sub-Saharan Africa

In much gender and agriculture literature, these small farm households are framed as bounded institutions within which individual interests dominate, husbands and wives hold separate purses, and marriage is a contract legitimising the exploitation of women.

The two FAC papers that accompanied the call for contributions to this e-debate argue for an alternative framing based on a social relations analysis. The main question being debated was why, in spite of general agreement about the value of integrating social relations analysis into policy thinking, this has not yet happened.

Contributions were invited to address four questions that raised possible policy issues around the acceptance of a more complex framing of rural women, and of rural households and decision-making within these. In the run-up to the debate the moderator made contact with numerous individuals from Africa and elsewhere who are actively involved in relevant research. The debate was also advertised through a number of development and gender-related networks and websites.

While the debate itself raised few comments, the site was visited by over a hundred viewers and each of the two attached gender FAC documents were downloaded over 150 times. We also received numerous e-mails and are now engaged in discussions about future research. The questions and comments are detailed on the pages below.

Why Integrate the Analysis of Social Relations into Agricultural Policy?


Over the last four decades there has been much emphasis on women and gender in African agriculture and agricultural policy.

There has also been plenty of talk about the importance of integrating social relations analysis into policy to achieve equitable, broad-based development in Africa. However, in large part this has not yet happened. Why?

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Question 1. Social Construction

How has the social construction of different groups e.g. women as vulnerable, responsible for household food security, and without agency or power, affected their opportunities to contribute to and/or benefit from mainstream agricultural policy?

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Question 3: Land Access

How do different kinds of households and wider kin groups incorporate terms of land access into their short and long term livelihood strategies, and what are the implications of this for land policy?

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Question 2: Trade-offs

What are the likely policy implications of the understanding that men and women take their joint concerns about household survival into consideration when assessing the trade-offs between e.g. investing in land improvements and engaging in off farm opportunities and other interventions?

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Querstion 4: Linking

What are the pathways for linking outcomes of social relations analysis with the productivity and production outcomes of interest to policy?

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Background Reading