Women’s empowerment in agriculture and agricultural productivity: Evidence from rural maize farmer households in western Kenya
This study (PDF) in PLOS ONE examines the effects of women’s empowerment in agriculture on maize productivity at farm- and plot-level, where women’s empowerment may have differential effects on such productivity depending on whether a plot is managed jointly by a man and a woman, or individually by either a man or a woman. This paper documents a positive relationship between maize productivity in western Kenya and women’s empowerment in agriculture, measured using indicators derived from the abbreviated version of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Women’s empowerment in agriculture significantly increases maize productivity. Although all indicators of women’s empowerment significantly increase productivity, there is no significant association between the women’s workload (amount of time spent working) and maize productivity. Furthermore, the results show heterogenous effects with respect to women’s empowerment on maize productivity for farm plots managed jointly by a male and female and plots managed individually by only a male or female. More specifically, the results suggest that female- and male-managed plots experience significant improvements in productivity when the women who tend them are empowered. These findings provide evidence that women’s empowerment contributes not only to reducing the gender gap in agricultural productivity, but also to improving, specifically, productivity from farms managed by women. Thus, rural development interventions in Kenya that aim to increase agricultural productivity—and, by extension, improve food security and reduce poverty—could achieve greater impact by integrating women’s empowerment into existing and future projects. More research, using nationally representative and repeated data from Kenya and elsewhere in SSA, is needed to fully understand the relationship between women’s empowerment and maize yield.