Published on 08/25/16

Recent UGA graduate helping identify the needs of female peanut farmers in Mozambique

By Allison Floyd

Women play a substantial part in the production and processing of peanuts in many countries of the world, so much so that the peanut is sometimes called a “woman’s crop.”

But that doesn’t mean that women have the same role in every village within a district or even in every home within a village.

That was one of the takeaways from a recent survey of 400 households in northern Mozambique. The survey will help to indicate what farming practices have the most significant impact on farmers’ quality of life. The questions, written in part by recent University of Georgia graduate Emily Urban, involved details closely related to agriculture, but other questions explored family dynamics and household possessions.

Urban served as a graduate assistant with the UGA-based Feed the Future Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL) while completing her master’s degree in agricultural and environmental education and her International Agriculture Certificate, both through UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). As part of the certificate program, she interned in Mozambique, where she helped to craft questions about gender roles and assisted local enumerators as they traveled from village to village in northern Mozambique last month.

“I’m really looking forward to digging into the data,” said Urban. “We asked a lot of questions about how women spend their time, and who is making household and production decisions. Essentially, we are trying to understand gender dynamics.”

As an undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University, Urban thought she might become an agriculture teacher and even student-taught for a term, but decided to go to graduate school to prepare for a career in international development.

“The internship experience provided by the International Agriculture Certificate program gives students an opportunity to experience the realities of agricultural development work firsthand and, perhaps more importantly, challenges students to be fully immersed in a culture and language that is not their own,” said Vicki McMaken, associate director of the CAES Office of Global Programs. “The certificate program is a great fit for students like Emily.”

While working on her master’s degree, Urban received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship through the U.S. Department of Education and traveled to Brazil to study Portuguese and began to work with PMIL, which works with partners in five countries, mostly in Africa. She also served as a teaching assistant for Culture-Centered Communication and Engagement, a UGA study abroad program in Romania.

Urban’s travel to Brazil, Romania and Mozambique was funded by the CAES Edward T. and Karen Kanemasu Global Engagement Award, the Global Programs Graduate International Travel Award and the International Agriculture Certificate Scholarship. Urban also received Global Programs’ World Food Prize Student Travel Award, which provided her the opportunity to attend the 2015 World Food Prize, often called the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”

Her survey work in Mozambique — where Portuguese is the national language — seemed like a great opportunity to put together what she had learned.

The Southern Africa Pre-harvest Value Chain Analysis, which is led by University of Connecticut professor Boris Bravo-Ureta, is assessing productivity and profitability of peanut production in three countries. The data collection in the Nampula and Cabo Delgado areas of Mozambique started at the beginning of June.

First, the team drafted the questionnaire, then translated it into Portuguese. Working with an expert from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Urban helped to draft the questions related to gender.

The enumerator team was made up of five men and three women, an important balance to make sure that responses weren’t influenced by the gender of the person asking the questions.

We wanted to be very aware of the dynamics of who is interviewing whom,” Urban said.

Assisted by PMIL collaborators at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM) and local extension agents, the team conducted three weeks of interviews, moving from one district to another every four days and visiting 400 households. Urban then returned to Nampula for three weeks of data coding while living with the family of a member of the enumerator team. There she had a chance to further improve her language skills and experience a bit of the daily life in Mozambique.

The results are still being analyzed, but some interesting themes already stand out. Among the most repeated responses: Most people reported that they eat peanuts every day. “It is an important protein source, as these people have very little meat in their diets,” Urban said.

Overall, the survey showed that women have different roles in the production of peanuts in different villages. In some communities, women are wholly responsible for peanut production — from planting to harvesting to drying — while men are in charge of marketing. In other places, men work alongside women in the field and make some of the production decisions.

Recognizing that diversity is important, Urban said. Any training or other interventions that develop from the survey results must take the audience into consideration.

With her master’s degree now complete, Urban plans to get work experience in international agriculture before returning to school to complete her doctoral degree. She also hopes to publish the results from the gender-based questions of the survey.

Allison Floyd is the PR coordinator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut, which is headquartered at UGA.

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