DEFINING THE REAL NEEDS OF WOMEN SMALLHOLDER FARMERS IN VIETNAM: THE IMPORTANCE OF GRASSROOTS PARTICIPATION AND MULTI-STAKEHOLDER COLLABORATION (Published)
In response to gender gap and hardship due to heavy production and domestic tasks of women smallholder farmers in developing countries, this study was conducted under the auspices of the Gates Foundation with an original goal of formulating labour saving strategies and innovations for the rural women in Vietnam. The first five steps of a systems-based Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) framework together with other management tools were employed in the first phase of the project during April 2013 to April 2014. The project has identified actual challenges and needs of the target group using appropriate systems approaches, including a flexible use of stakeholder analysis and engagement, and a log-frame approach for evaluation. Interestingly, saving labour was not identified as the highest priority for the women and was ranked second after the need for increasing their income. The outcomes of the study served as feedback and a rationale for reframing the project goal and objectives to address the ‘real issues’, ‘real needs’ and thus appropriate intervention strategies to address the identified challenges of the women farmers in the research area. Process steps of issue identification, rethinking and reframing of the project approach, goals and objectives are discussed and analyzed to prove the value and validity of the unique ELLab processes as an appropriate framework to deal with complex problems in the context of interconnected economic, environmental, social and cultural factors. The findings have not only brought about practical solutions for the women, but also formulated context-based recommendations for funding agencies and local governments.