AgroInvest Gender Analysis: Opportunities to Strengthen Family Farms and the Agriculture Sector in Ukraine

AgroInvest, a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, commissioned this Gender Analysis of family farms and smallholder agriculture in Ukraine in order to inform and strengthen the design, implementation and results of policies and projects. The intention was not to undertake a broad gender assessment of women in rural areas, i.e. not to identify women’s needs abstractly, and not to focus on the social dimensions of agrarian life, unless they affect the economic success of small and medium producers (SMPs). And while gender equity (or fairness) is an important social, moral and legal goal, it was relevant to this Gender Analysis only insofar as gender inequality may restrict the economic success of rural families.

The research hypothesis was that women represent specific, significant and often underestimated assets for family farms and growth of Ukraine’s agricultural sector, but that if resources are not reaching them effectively, then women’s contributions are constrained. With their focus on the economic aspects of gender roles, responsibilities and relations in agrarian areas, the researchers sought to (1) highlight disparities between omen and men, such as relating to access to and use of training, finance and machinery; (2) identify gender-blind practices that, by failing to purposefully reach and benefit from women, or to engage women and men effectively together, are limiting efficacy and results; and (3) suggest gender-related strategies by which some focus on women or men, or on gender equality or relations between them, may enhance results relating to the agricultural sector.

The field research focused on the respective roles and responsibilities of women and men, and on how they relate to one other in economic units; and applied the “six domains” conceptual framework to guide their inquiry. Access to agriculture-related resources such as information, skills and finance, was a critical concern. But because access does not necessarily mean utilization, the inquiry particularly asked about use of resources: Even when there is “access”, like a doorway that is unlocked, it does not ensure utilization, i.e. that one actually enters or crosses the threshold. Research encompassed review of laws, policies, data and studies, along with intensive field research that covered 9 of 27 oblasts of Ukraine for a representative sample. Primary data-collection relied on in-depth individual interviews and focus-groups with women and men, including women farmers or members of their families; rural households’ female or male owners; experts on agrarian development policy; gender equality experts; national and local government officials; and representatives of agricultural advisory services, farmers’ business and marketing associations, and women’s civil society organizations. It also included site-visits to agrarian cooperatives and seasonal farmers’ markets. The gender experts met with representatives of USAID and of the MAPFU at the beginning of the research, and provided separate debriefings upon completion of the field research.

The Six Domains:

  1. Access to assets
  2. Knowledge, beliefs and perceptions
  3. Practices and participation
  4. Time and space
  5. Legal rights and status
  6. Balance of power and decision-making

Although the Gender Analysis did not include overarching assessment of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in Ukraine, the report highlights two aspects of the gender context that particularly affect the analysis and recommendations: First, while Ukraine has adopted legislative provisions addressing gender equality at the national level relating to European standards and international requirements, and for all the efforts of gender equality advocates, Ukraine is now experiencing some “pushback” and negative campaigns against gender equality. There has been an overall weakening of the GoU’s political will for gender equality mainstreaming, persistence of traditional stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in the society, mass media practice of focusing on women’s sexual appeal while not portraying women and men as equal partners in all spheres of societal development, and an increase in anti-gender activities supported by some religious factions and opponents of Ukraine’s movement toward stronger democratic processes and European integration. At the same
time, international support for Ukrainian CSOs striving to promote gender equality has decreased over time.

Second, the GoU lacks the institutional capacity to address issues relating to women’s economic contributions. Through reforms in 2010, the President eliminated the Ministry responsible for coordinating gender equality policy in Ukraine, and transferred those responsibilities to the Ministry of Social Policy; there is no institutional mechanism for focusing on women’s economic contributions. Thus, while laws and regulations affecting the economic aspects of the agrarian sector may not discriminate on the basis of sex, and while legal norms related to the development of agri-industrial production, farming, cooperatives’, and development of rural territories may be characterized as “gender-neutral”, the result is that they are gender-blind — meaning that they fail to recognize and address gender-related obstacles and opportunities.


There are strategic reasons for the GoU, USAID and AgroInvest to focus on women within their agrarian and agriculture policies and programs: (1) Women not only account for more than half of the rural population, but contribute significantly to many dimensions of family farm businesses, (2) As a matter of gender relations, women are critical partners for their husbands, in order for the family farm to be a success, and (3) The family farms will disappear if younger women and men have no reason to stay and work in agriculture in rural areas, leaving men without wives and vice versa. But focusing on women means making sure they are seen and heard, recognizing them as assets for the economic dimensions of agrarian policy, and investing in them as valuable partners. The reason for successfully engaging women and men, in their respective spheres and contributing their particular knowledge and perspectives, is not simply to respect gender equality principles or commitments. Rather, it is a critical approach for crafting effective policies and achieving national, donor and project results.

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