Africa Gender Innovation Lab

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The Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) conducts impact evaluations of development interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in earnings, productivity, assets and agency. The GIL team is currently working on over 50 impact evaluations in 21 countries with the aim of building an evidence base with lessons for the region.

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Top Policy Lessons in Agriculture

2022-09, World Bank

Across Africa, agriculture is a primary sector of employment, and African women provide about 40 percent of the agricultural labor across the continent. Yet women farmers face systemic barriers to success, leading to large gender gaps in agricultural productivity that range from 23 percent in Tanzania to 66 percent in Niger. These gender gaps not only represent major untapped economic potential but could also yield sizable gains for African economies if they were closed. For instance, in Nigeria, closing the gender productivity gap in agriculture could boost gross domestic product by an estimated US2.3 billion dollars and potentially as much as US8.1 billion dollars due to spillovers to other economic sectors. Several factors driving female farmers’ lower productivity are the time and bandwidth taxes from care and household responsibilities, limited access to and control of hired labor and other productive inputs, skills and information gaps, low financial liquidity, and restrictive social norms. Over 90 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s extreme poor, who are some of the most vulnerable to shocks, are engaged in agriculture. In the face of crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and global price shocks, that can exacerbate food insecurity, women farmers need targeted support and access to productive inputs that can secure their livelihoods and mitigate existing gender inequalities. Impact evaluation evidence from the Africa Gender Innovation Lab points toward policy solutions that can address many of these constraints and help women farmers reach their full potential.

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Africa Gender Innovation Lab Ethiopia Gender Diagnostic: Building the Evidence Base to Address Gender Inequality in Ethiopia

2019, Buehren, Niklas, Goldstein, Markus, Gonzalez, Paula, Hagos, Adiam, Kirkwood, Daniel, Paskov, Patricia, Poulin, Michelle, Raja, Chandni

Ethiopia has made remarkable economic progress over the past decade, achieving high gross domestic product (GDP) growth and dramatically reducing poverty. Despite this success, current gender gaps show that challenges remain to realizing inclusive growth and the full potential of women’s economic empowerment. In Ethiopia, women still lag men on several important economic indicators, including employment rate, agricultural productivity, earnings from self-employment, and wage income. While the Government of Ethiopia has already made significant commitments and investments aiming to close the country’s gender gaps, new data offer an opportunity to generate critical evidence to strategically target these investments. For this reason, the Africa gender innovation lab’s (GIL) Ethiopia gender diagnostic report provides innovative analysis on the root causes and drivers of gender inequality in Ethiopia. Using data from the latest round of the Ethiopia socioeconomic survey (2015-2016) and an established statistical approach, the report examines the country’s gender gaps in employment, agricultural productivity, and income from self- and wage employment. It presents specific policy areas for the government to target in addressing the constraints faced by female workers, farmers, and business owners. The key findings and policy recommendations are discussed in the report.

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Top Policy Lessons from Africa Gender Innovation Lab Research

2017-10, World Bank

The study in Togo reveals that psychology-based entrepreneur training (personal initiative training) increases firm profits by 30 percent, compared to a statistically insignificant increase for traditional business training. Personal initiative training was particularly effective for female-owned businesses, who saw their profits increase by 40 percent, compared to no impact from traditional business training. Getting more women into traditionally male-dominated sectors of the economy could boost the incomes of women entrepreneurs and their households. Our study in Ethiopia revealed that firms owned by women who cross over into male-dominated sectors are two times more profitable than firms owned by women who remain in traditionally female sectors, and they are just as profitable as businesses owned by men. Women are more likely to cross-over when parents and husbands support them and when they have access to information on the higher earnings potential in male-dominated sectors.

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Intra-Household Dynamics and the Design of Social Protection Programs: The Case of Polygamous Households in North Burkina Faso

2016-03, Guilbert, Nathalie, Pierotti, Rachael

A recent overview of World Bank social safety net programs and gender highlighted the need for greater consideration of intra-household dynamics in the design of social protection programs (Bardasi 2014). During program design, decisions have to be made about who to target, how much and how often to give cash transfers, and what measures should accompany cash transfers. These decisions become even more complex in the context of polygamous households. The conclusions above are meant to illustrate important links between intra-household dynamics and the design of cash transfer programs. As a preliminary study, this research did not capture the actual effects of cash transfers. It is important to remember that money received from the government in the form of a regular cash transfer may be treated differently than income from other sources. Additional research is planned that will measure differences in the use of cash transfers depending on the social protection program design.

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Reducing the Agricultural Gender Gap in Cote d'Ivoire: How has it Changed?

2020-02, Donald, Aletheia, Lawin, Gabriel, Rouanet, Lea, Rouanet, Léa

Over the last decade, Cote d’Ivoire has witnessed a remarkable shrinking of its gender gap in agricultural productivity. When comparing similar households, the gender gap has been reduced by 32 percent.

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Overcoming Information Asymmetry in Job Search: The Power of a Reference Letter

2018-04, Carranza, Eliana, Pimkina, Svetlana

The labor market is characterized by information gaps between work seekers and prospective employers, particularly when it comes to hiring low-skill entry level workers. Information asymmetries about workers’ skills can result in poorer matches, lower productivity for employers, and increased inequity for the unemployed. One approach to resolving the asymmetry is introducing a formal referral system: reference letters from former employers. The authors finds that reference letters improve firms’ screening ability and employment outcomes, especially for women. Despite their high value, the use of reference letters in job applications is low, partly due to work seekers underestimating their value.

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Time and Money: A Study of Labor Constraints for Female Cotton Producers in Cote d'Ivoire

2017-05, Carranza, Eliana, Donald, Aletheia, Jones, Rachel, Rouanet, Léa, Rouanet, Léa

A gap between male and female farmers in agricultural production, both in terms of output and productivity, has been largely documented across Sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Gender Innovation Lab has produced a body of evidence, including the Levelling the Field report and the Cost of the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity report, that identified constraints women farmers face, determined the size and cost of the gap in agricultural productivity, and offered promising policy options and emerging new ideas to test. One of the key findings from the levelling the field report is that labor presents the main barrier to achieving gender equality in productivity. Across the six profiled African countries, authors observe a combination of women deploying fewer household male laborers on their plots, male laborers generating lower returns for female farmers relative to male farmers, and female farmers facing challenges in hiring effective outside labor. In this policy brief, we investigate and provide explanations for female farmers’ labor constraints through a mixed-methods study within the cotton sector of Côte d’Ivoire, as part of the Côte d’Ivoire Agriculture Sector Support Project’s efforts to increase female participation in cotton production. We first quantify the gender gap in labor usage, then look at the drivers of this gap and how they constrain women’s cotton production and productivity, and finally offer recommendations for policymakers. Several key policy considerations emerge based on our analysis, relating to labor financing and gender norms. Adopting solutions to ease female farmers’ labor constraints will not only increase their productivity, but also boost economic growth as an increasing share of the population becomes involved in the cultivation of higher-value crops.

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What Are the Economic Costs of Gender Gaps in Ethiopia?

2019-03, Buehren, Niklas, Gonzalez, Paula, Copley, Amy

Despite Ethiopia’s remarkable economic progress over the past decade, gender gaps in key economic activities - agriculture, entrepreneurship, and wage employment - indicate that challenges remain to realizing the full potential of women’s economic empowerment. Differences in simple averages between men and women show that women lag men by 36 percent in agricultural productivity, by 79 percent in business sales, and by 44 percent in hourly wages. This brief examines the costs of these gender gaps and estimates the potential gains from closing them.

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The Impact of Strengthening Agricultural Extension Services: Evidence from Ethiopia

2018-04, Buehren, Niklas, Goldstein, Markus, Molina, Ezequiel, Vaillant, Julia

Extension services have been implemented on a large scale in developing countries for decades. However, there is little evidence on their impact on the productivity and welfare of farmers. Our study aims to begin to fill this evidence gap with the goal of identifying and encouraging the uptake of best practices for the delivery of extension services by governments.Our findings suggest that strengthening extension services to make them more responsive to the needs of farmers can induce a switch to more commercial, market-oriented agriculture.Female-headed households seem to have benefited equally from the extension services project but it did not contribute to reducing the gender gap in agricultural outcomes as their initial levels of wealth and consumption, as well as labor and capital endowments were lower.Additional research is required to identify extension services designs that contribute to closing the gender gap, by addressing more specifically the challenges faced by women in areas such as labor and capital endowment.

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As Good as the Company They Keep?: Improving Farmers’ Social Networks

2016-03, Leonard, Kenneth, Vasilaky, Kathryn

Extension services have a history of being relatively expensive and not always effective. At the same time, studies show that informal social networks can be very beneficial in helping increase productivity. In Uganda, the authors tested the value of informal social networks for women farmers by connecting the least-productive 30 percent to some of the most productive women farmers in their own villages. Results show significant gains in productivity indicating that the path to better outcomes is contained within their own community. Women learned the agricultural information at least as well in a network setting as in a more intensive, formal extension setting. On average, the social network intervention was less costly and more effectively targeted women and the least productive farmers than traditional extension services. By exploiting the power of social ties, social network interventions offer a lower-cost alternative to traditional agricultural training programs and can be particularly effective at improving the productivity of women. The results of the study featured in this brief are particularly relevant to policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa, where productivity differentials still exist between males and females, and women are less frequently targeted for training.