Gendered impacts of conservation agriculture and paradox of herbicide use among smallholder farmers
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Conservation Agriculture (CA) is increasingly taking a central stage in agricultural policies and rural development among developing countries like Zambia. The challenge of gender gaps in agriculture has persisted despite efforts of gender mainstreaming. This paper assesses gender based impacts of conservation agriculture (CA) basins among smallholder farmers under the Conservation Agriculture Programme (CAP) in Zambia. Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to collect data. Quantitative data was analysed mainly by descriptive statistics and qualitative data by thematic and content analysis. Results indicated that women and children experienced reduction in labour with respect to clearing of fields before tillage and during weeding where herbicides were used correctly. Improvement in household food security was also reported. Digging of CA basins was labour intensive and the chaka hoe was heavy for women. Labour requirement for women and children was more than for men during hand weeding. Herbicides have increased labour requirements for men because they are predominantly involved in spraying. Women needed to reduce their labour during weeding but feared that the use of herbicides would increase food insecurity during hunger peak period. This was because the use of herbicides is inconsistent with the practice of mixed cropping and selection of valuable wild vegetables that were important for food security. Results suggest that usage of herbicide such as atrazine could have health concerns that may affect women more than men. Use of herbicides raises questions as to what extent CA is environmentally sustainable. Interventions in CA need to be both gender sensitive and minimise tradeoffs between health concerns, socio-economic benefits and environmental sustainability.