• A Gender Focused Analysis of Learning Processes of Smallholders within a Development Program in Nepal

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  • 11/01/2016

The final draft of the Master thesis by BOKU student Katharina Zangerle is now available. Katharina conducted the field work for this research within project locations of SAF-BIN project in Nepal supported by the local SAF-BIN team.


Smallholder farmers in Nepal are increasingly facing problems caused by climate change. Within the action research and development project “Strengthening Adaptive Farming in Bangladesh, India and Nepal” (SAF-BIN), Caritas collaborated with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, associated partners from civil society and research as well as smallholder farmers’ collectives to build resilience towards climate change. Based on the Theory of Transformative Learning and theoretical gender perspectives, this study analyzes project activities, outcomes and potential impacts of SAF-BIN in Bardiya and Kaski, Nepal with a focus on gender. Project activities can lead to instrumental (e.g. technical skills and knowledge about farming practices and site-specific technologies) and communicative (e.g. communication skills) learning outcomes, which can result in learning impacts. Through participant observation and 32 semi-structured face-to-face interviews with project participants (16 women, 16 men), qualitative data was collected in 2014. A fieldwork diary and photographs completed the dataset. A comprehensive structure analysis and descriptive statistics were performed using Atlas.ti and Excel.

Results show that smallholder farmers’ collectives differed in most socioeconomic characteristics of their members. In all collectives, more women than men participated though. Especially participative and regular project activities facilitated elements of transformative learning like individual experience, dialogue and critical reflection. Instrumental learning outcomes included: increasing knowledge about climate change and its’ links to farming, new inputs, new cultivation practices, new management approaches as well as diversification and professionalization of farming. Communicative learning outcomes included: enhanced analytical capacities, improved presentation skills and confidence and increased understanding of abstract concepts. Men were more likely to achieve technical learning outcomes, women more likely to achieve communicative learning outcomes due to different gender roles. By including aspects in the project interventions that were not core activities for women before, their capacities were increased. Realized impacts were increased crop production, increasing reflection of gender roles and formation of (saving-) networks. Possible future impacts are e.g. changing gender roles and resilient farming systems.

More research is needed in order to examine the potentials regarding transformative learning for non-participating farmers and other stakeholders. Also, other socioeconomic factors such as ethnic and caste affiliation plus gender have to be considered in future research in order to explore the potentials of diversity for transformative learning in a detailed way.



Maria Wurzinger, Centre for Development Research (CDR), BOKU University

Lorenz Probst, Centre for Development Research (CDR), BOKU University

Romana Roschinsky, Centre for Development Research (CDR), BOKU University

Manindra Malla, Caritas Nepal

Chintan Manandhar, Caritas Nepal

Picture: A smallholder farmer collective meeting in Nepal Zangerle, (c) 2013