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PLENARY SESSION: GENDER AND NUTRITION - CASE STUDY PRESENTATION: Nozomi Kawarazuka

PLENARY SESSION: GENDER AND NUTRITION - CASE STUDY PRESENTATION: Nozomi Kawarazuka, University of East Anglia, UK

Understanding gender relations in the local processes of agriculture/fishery production and redistribution of wealth: a case study in South Kilifi, coastal Kenya

Research question: How is child nutrition mediated by gender relations in local production and redistribution processes?

In current development policies on agriculture, women are considered as the key to improving household food security and child nutrition while men's indirect roles are not fully taken into account. Pathways are predicted of the way that women's increased access to cash incomes, agricultural resources, and technologies contribute to increasing their bargaining power and autonomy within the household, and thereby to improving the household members' nutrition and health.

Current development policy on agriculture is partly the result of contemporary gender research which looks at women's and men's `characteristics' in isolation from their `relationships'. By drawing on a social theory of gender relations (Connell, 2009), this case study explores gendered processes in which local agriculture/fishery resources are utilized and the benefits are redistributed to individuals. Eight months of ethnographic fieldwork were conducted in south Kilifi, Coastal Kenya, where Mijikenda men and women engage in small-scale marine fisheries and palm tree cultivation as a cash crop.

Three key findings will be presented. First, gendered negotiations and relations are central in local processes of production and trading. Fishermen, for example, sell their catches to particular female traders who support them by providing credit in times of need. Female traders also benefit from a particular fisherman's catch, his assets, his kinship relations and his access to other resources. Such informal and flexible trading methods based on gender relations play an important role in livelihood security. Second, men's primary control over local resources is a base for demonstrating masculinity which helps maintain fatherhood, leading to men's responsibility for and emotional attachment to their children's well-being, health and nutrition. Third, the quality and quantity of everyday meals are not simply determined by the woman's income on that day. Each woman uses different sources of daily meals by using their relationships with men, such as their husband, sons, a male partner, and their children's father and his male kin members. Furthermore, the extent to which a woman or her family members can spend their time on cooking and nurturing depends largely on household composition and social support networks which also determine the quality of their diet.

This study provides insights on the dynamic processes in which agricultural products contribute to improving household food security and child nutrition. The local gender processes of production and redistribution, and men's indirect roles should be considered in development policies on agriculture and nutrition.