Refocusing on Gender Roles in Agriculture and their Impact on Household Food Security: An in-depth Analysis of Chosen Wards within Kisarawe District, Tanzania

Ainebyoona Christine and Kiweewa Emmanuel

Department of Public Administration and development studies Kampala International University Uganda.


The research conducted in selected wards of Kisarawe, Tanzania, aimed to examine the interplay between gender dynamics, agricultural endeavors, and household food security. The study objectives encompassed identifying gender-based roles in ensuring food security, evaluating the contribution of agricultural activities to food security, and elucidating the intricate relationship between gender, agricultural practices, and household food security. Employing a descriptive correlational design, data was gathered from a randomly chosen sample of 308 respondents. Data collection involved the use of researcher-designed questionnaires, interviews, and observations. The analysis encompassed descriptive statistics, which included frequency counts and means, as well as Pearson linear correlation coefficients. The research findings underscored a significant relationship between gender roles, agricultural activities, and household food security. Consequently, it was deduced that the primary factors contributing to food insecurity in Kisarawe, Tanzania, encompassed unequal ownership of productive assets, the burden of women’s domestic responsibilities, limited decision-making opportunities for women, an absence of labor division, suboptimal technology utilization, limited access to capital, a lack of crop diversification, and inadequate information about modern farming methods. Based on these findings and conclusions, the study suggests several recommendations. These include advocating for equitable resource ownership, promoting gender-balanced decision-making processes, fostering an equitable division of labor, providing access to ample information, encouraging crop diversification, and advancing technological capabilities in the pursuit of enhanced food security in Kisarawe, Tanzania.

Keywords: Gender, Agricultural Activities, Household and Food Security


In today’s world, the most important business is growing enough food and ensuring that it reaches everyone. To feed the growing population, there is need to increase global food production by 70% before 2020. Meeting world food needs in the year 2020 will depend even more than it does now, on the capabilities and resources of women. The United States alone cannot meet the global need to reduce hunger and promote food security since women make up the majority of agricultural work force in many areas of the world, [1]. This is not surprising given that about 52% of the population live under the poverty line. Women are responsible for generating food security for their families in many developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Women are processors, purchasers and the ones who prepare food and play a significant role in national agricultural production of both food and cash crops [2]. In many African countries women engage in various activities apart from agricultural production as compared to men’s provision of water, fuel, and child care [3]. These activities which include land preparation, planting, transplanting, weeding and harvesting impose heavy burden to them and not only reduce the time available to work in their fields for agriculture but also reduces the significance of gender within agricultural organization. The basic question of access to land, to the labour of other members of the household and other necessary resources for agricultural production remains unanswered, [4]. The premises of production unit controlled by male head leads to extension of workers (largely male) frequently to ignore women even in areas where women not only do much field labour but also may be managing farms completely due to male migration, [1].

Despite agricultural policies and strategies in both Nigeria and South Africa, food insecurity remains a fundamental challenge in the countries [5, 3]. In Nigeria for instance, although agriculture remains a key component of the national economy, contributing about 41% of GDP and employing about 70% of the active population, it receives less than 10% of the annual budgetary allocations. As a result, the agricultural sector has significantly underperformed given its vast potential. Consequently, Nigerian agriculture has failed to supply sufficient food in quantity and quality to feed the constantly growing population [5]. Therefore, the level of food insecurity in Nigeria has continued to increase steadily since the 1980s. Food insecurity rose from about 18% in 1986 to about 41% in 2004 [6], with an estimated population of 150 million, this implies that over 61 million Nigerians are food insecure, that is they are either hungry, under nourished, or starving.

Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy and it will continue for a long time to play a predominant role in supporting employment, food production and exports [7]. It is estimated that 84% of the Tanzanian population work in the agricultural sector producing about 60% of Gross domestic product (GDP) and mechanized export. Agricultural production is still the primary source of livelihood for about 85% of Tanzanian population to whom it ensures economic sustenance in terms of food security, income generation and employment. According to national accounts, food crops dominate the agricultural sector totaling 55% of the agricultural GDP, where by 30% is accounted for food crops, the traditional export crops account for 8% livestock farming and hunting accounts for 6% while forestry accounts for 1%. Since 1973 to date, it is said that, Tanzania has become a net importer of food [8]. Inadequate rainfall coupled with poor production technologies, high growth rate gender imbalance in agricultural and natural disasters have also contributed to the determination of Tanzanian’s capacity to ensure food security.

These struggles over gender, class and national relations often occur simultaneously, as men sell off family land to large-scale farmers for example, or to hunting companies and tourist hotels, without involving their wives and children in decision-making or sharing the proceeds. From Tanzania Gender Networking Programmes (TGNP’s) perspective, one cannot separate the interests of women from those of their communities in the face of the greater enemy in their view: the outside investor and often the corrupt government go-between [9]. The land question became even more central because land deprivation goes hand-in-hand with food insecurity. According to participatory action research conducted by Kihacha in Shinyanga Rural, Ngorongoro and Njombe districts during 1998–2002, land is a gender as well as a national and class question. More than half the village households researched lacked food security throughout the year [10]. In all three districts, women and men farmers and livestock-keepers agreed that food security depends on access to and control over land and achieving participatory democracy at home and at community and national levels. They collectively designed and organized a campaign, ‘The Right to Food, Land and Democracy’ and won support from activist NGOs, including TGNP and many Fem Act members. TGNP led a major campaign, ‘Return Resources to the People’ during the 2000s which linked HIV/AIDS, gender and resources. Women’s economic empowerment was understood as essential to reducing their vulnerability to HIV infection, which arises partly from lower immunity due to poor nutrition, and diseases like Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs), malaria, anemia, and water-borne parasite infections all of which are enhanced by insufficient income for food security and health services. Moreover, many women in both rural and urban areas are forced to engage in risky sexual practices because of their economic dependence on male partners or involvement in commercial sex work. Independent access to productive property such as land, as well as housing and cash incomes, are essential aspects of economic empowerment. Hence, the ‘Return Resources to the People’ campaign embraced women’s efforts to access and control land and other natural resources such as water, minerals, forests, and wildlife.

There is considerable evidence in Tanzania that women predominate in the agricultural sector, and that women do most of the farm work. Sector policies

and programs need to recognize and act on gender differentiated structural roles in agricultural explicitly. Women lack access to and control over productive resources (land, credit, and other business support services) seriously undermining their economic empowerment. Currently, in most of the developing nations within the African continent including Tanzania, rural women are really marginalized to concentrate on small hand hoe farming, fire wood collection, water fetching and cooking throughout the days, with limited access to land, limited income, lack of division of labour and lack of decision making on the type of crop for plantation. Hence such a situation limits the ability of women to produce enough food for their families. Unfortunately, little is known as to why women are disadvantaged. This study therefore attempted to investigate some of the factors that cause persistent inequalities between Men and women in performing agricultural activities in order to maintain food security in the selected wards in Kisarawe District Tanzania.


 Research Design

This study employed descriptive correlational research design. It was descriptive because the researcher intended to systematically describe the characteristics of the population in line with independent variables; gender and agricultural activities and the dependent variable household food security. Correlation analysis was employed to statistically (numerically) show the extent to which household food security can be determined by gender and the type of agricultural activities.

Research Population

In this study, the target population comprised of households from selected wards of Kisarawe District, agricultural coordinators, the district agricultural officer. The District has a total population of 101,598, where males are 50,631 and females 50,967 respectively with an average number of household of 4,787 (Report from the District Headquarter 2012). The district is however divided into 15 wards with their total number of householdsrespectively;Cholesamvula, Kibuta,Kiluvya,Kisarawe,Kirui,Mafizi,Maneromango,Marui,Marumbo,Masaki,Msanga,Msimbu,Mzenga,Vihingo and Vikumbulu. Three out of the fifteen wards were purposively selected because they are known for agriculture and hence they form the target population. The three wards are; Kisarawe, Masaki and Msimbu.

 Sample size

In this study the researcher obtained data from a sample of a population in which case the study become a sample survey. Regarding sample size calculation from 1263 households using Slovene’s formula a samples of 304 households was obtained.


n = N/ (1 +N (e)2


n = Sample Size

e = Level of precision (5%)

N = Population

From each household, the head of the family was considered. On top of these households, agricultural coordinators and Kisarawe district agricultural officer were also considered as part of the study. Thus the total numbers of respondents were 308.


This study was carried out in order to establish the relationship between genders, agricultural activities on household food security in Kisarawe District Tanzania. The study was conducted in selected wards of Kisarawe including Kisarawe; Masaki and Msimbu.The study employed a correlational descriptive research design. It was descriptive because the researcher intended to systematically describe the characteristics of the population in line with independent variables; gender and agricultural activities and the dependent variable household food security. Correlation analysis was employed to statistically (numerically) show the extent to which household food security can be determined by gender and the type of agricultural activities. For effective data collection, research administered questionnaires and interviews and observation were used. The three methods were used for purposes of complementing each other in collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. The response to the questionnaires was good in that 304 out of 308 questionnaires issued to respondents were completed and returned to the researcher on time. Of those returned only 4 questionnaires had serious errors and were not included in the analysis. As it was highlighted in the previous chapter of this report, the study came up with a number of significant findings and the most important ones have been summarized in the following ways; The respondents’ perception on the first objective which was to identify the gender roles in food security  in selected wards of Kisarawe District Tanzania was viewed as being one of the major challenges of food security since it has been confirmed that there is gender imbalance in resource ownership like land and on decision making is always in the hands of men which is a great challenge when it comes to what type of crop for plantation and where due to limited land ownership and this has been among the challenges that have caused food insecurity and as supported by the interviews conducted and the questionnaires administered many people living in  these wards can not afford three meals per day. The respondent’s perception on the second objective which was to assess the contribution of agricultural activities n agricultural activities still women are the major participants in farm activities like in land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting though some people agreed on some statements that men also play some part especially, in land preparation, land cultivation and attending agricultural meetings and workshops  but they had some doubt which was clearly supported by the interviews conducted among the ward coordinators that women play a great role and men normally come in when it is time to make decisions on selling of the produces which continually brings an imbalance in resource ownership and that has also been among the factors that have caused persistent food insecurity in the country. The respondent’s perception which was on the to establish the relationship between Gender, agricultural activities and household food security most people highly rated that there are a variety of food crops that are grown with in the community but with some doubt since the seasons for their crops are some times not favourable with no adequate rainfall that can support them throughout the year. And for the information pertaining modern methods of farming the respondents had little information like on the use of tractors and irrigation methods they had very little information about it. People are not concerned with environmental conservation and the households can not store food for three months and above hence there is persistent food insecurity. Finally, the respondents were much needed to give their response on the level of food security in the community by focusing at gender roles in food security, the contribution of agricultural activities in food security and then the researcher was required to test the relationship between these two variables and this has been correlated by testing the hypothesis of which in testing this it has clearly given the results that there is a significant relationship between gender roles and food security and the same case with agricultural activities which was found to have a significant relationship with food security and the level of significance being 5%.This shows that on average respondents expressed their confidence in responding to the level of food security in the community though there are some respondents who remained undecided especially on statements pertaining food security but the information given to the researcher  has clearly been measured to show the level of food security in the community.


From the findings, It is concluded from this study that unequal ownership of means of production between men and women and the burden of women’s domestic work as compared to men and the poor participation of men in non-farm income generating activities and the limited involvement of women in decision-making were some of the contributing factors on household food insecurity revealed from the study. It is also concluded that the major factors causing food insecurity in the study area are; lack of division of labour, bad whether conditions, poor technologies (using hand hoe), lack of capital and a limited crops diversification (cassava and maize mainly grown) these crops require sufficient rainfall (especially maize which was grown by majority of households) when rainfall is not sufficient people are likely to have food insecurity. Furthermore, it is concluded that both men and women have little information pertaining  modern farming methods the use of tractors, irrigation where most of the farmers still relay on the use of local tools like the use of hoes,axes,panggas among others in clearing the land and planting which at the end of the day limits the level of production and in turn many people in the community are able to only produce for their own consumption which is not even enough since some people can not even afford three meals per day and there is no surplus for sale.

Further still, it has been concluded that there is a significant relationship between gender roles, agricultural activities and food security where by all these have been found out to have contributed towards the problem of food insecurity in that, gender imbalances have acted upon the problem of food insecurity and poor agricultural means of production which have also acted upon food insecurity.


A number of recommendations have been raised out of this study. They address themselves to be the findings of the study and how the study was conducted. The author also recommends on some research areas or topics that she finds relevant and prompting for better actions and results in order to reduce or if possible to eliminate the problem of food insecurity, the following should be addressed:

Recommendation 1-Decision making and resource ownership

Since the study concludes that ,there is unequal ownership of means of production between men and women and the burden of women’s domestic work as compared to men and the poor participation of men in non-farm income generating activities and the limited involvement of women in decision-making has been one of the major factors causing food insecurity then, there should be equal ownership of means of production should be addressed so as to enable women to own land  and even get  involved in decision making so as to  increase food production.

Recommendation 2-Equal division of labour and adequate information

Pertaining the workload of women in as far as agricultural activities in terms of land preparation, planting transplanting weeding up to harvesting it has been concluded that women participate much in these activities compared to men and still women are seen to do a lot of house work at home when they are already tired from farms they again go home to do cooking, cleaning the house, washing clothes and all sorts of things which even limits their time for agricultural activities, therefore equal participation in agricultural activities and non-agricultural activities at home should be addressed between men and women for example men also should participate much in small business so as to over come food shortage when it happens, and reducing the burden of domestic work among women through mens’ participation in order to increase agricultural production.

Recommendation 3-Crop diversification

Since in this community it has been concluded that most of the crops grown are cassava and maize which sometimes are not enough for home consumption and for sale, it is good to have crop diversification. In which, apart from growing cassava and maize as the main crops, farmers in the study area should grow other crops especially those which can persist drought like rice and sorghum and this will help households to store food for at least three years and above and further still people can be able to have many produces both consumption and for sale.

Recommendation-4: Technological advancement

Due to the fact that most of the respondents were not even aware of modern farming methods and in the interviews conducted the coordinators were giving the idea that the government is giving tractors atleast at each and every ward plus power tillers but people did not have any information about it, then it means there is  need to extend services to rural farmers and more so lowering the costs of input like fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides and also improving their technology, e.g. instead of using a hand hoe, the farmers, could use drought animals and tractors. This will enable them to cultivate a large area and hence improve food production and thus food security.


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CITE AS: Ainebyoona Christine and Kiweewa Emmanuel (2023). Refocusing on Gender Roles in Agriculture and their Impact on Household Food Security: An in-depth Analysis of Chosen Wards within Kisarawe District, Tanzania. IDOSR JOURNAL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 8(2):109-124.