Gender relations in livestock production and animal-source food acquisition and consumption among smallholders in rural Timor-Leste: A mixed-methods exploration

Gianna Bonis-Profumo, Domingas do Rosario Pereira, Julie Brimblecombe, Natasha Stacey

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Abstract

Among smallholders, gender relations shape how agricultural products are produced and how foods are acquired and consumed, which impacts food security and nutrition. In Timor-Leste, most rural households own multiple livestock species, yet intake of animal-source foods (ASF) is low and malnutrition high. This study explores how gender relations inform livestock production and ASF acquisition and consumption in four Timorese villages in Baucau and Viqueque districts. We examined women's empowerment within the relational sphere of gender relations and applied a qualitative-dominant mixed-methods design. We used ownership and decision-making data from the Abbreviated Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (n = 161 women, n = 106 men) and 24-hr ASF recalls (n = 161 mother-child pairs). Findings were complemented with those from 33 semi-structured interviews, mostly with women and/or their husbands, analyzed through the Gender Relations Framework. We found that most women and men reported joint livestock ownership and joint decision-making on production and income. However, interviews revealed that for many women, joint decisions meant requiring their husband's consent, without which they would not proceed with selling livestock or purchasing ASF. Women's unequal bargaining position was influenced by social norms on the gendered division of labor, and by men's role and framing as income generators. In a setting where rice security was a priority concern, ASF were considered non-essential and unaffordable. Mixed-methods are valuable to understand the contextual significance of decision-making processes, as only through qualitative methods did the limited agency of women to exercise their voice in shaping final decisions become apparent. In their design, nutrition-sensitive programmes could include men as important actors in financial decisions that might affect dietary composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-234
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume89
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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