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Rethinking gender mainstreaming in agricultural innovation policy in Nepal: a critical gender analysis


Gender mainstreaming has been prioritised within the national agricultural policies of many countries, including Nepal. Yet gender mainstreaming at the national policy level does not always work to effect change when policies are implemented at the local scale. In less-developed nations such as Nepal, it is rare to find a critical analysis of the mainstreaming process and its successes or failures. This paper employs a critical gender analysis approach to examine the gender mainstreaming efforts in Nepal as they move from agricultural policies to practices. The research involved a structured review of 10 key national agricultural policy documents, 14 key informant interviews, and two focus group discussions with female and male smallholder farmers. Results suggest that gender mainstreaming in national agricultural policy and practice has largely failed. The creation of the Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) section within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development is paradoxical to gender-responsive agricultural innovation because it has received limited human and financial resources with an expectation for women to manage this policy development in informal and largely unrecognized ways. At the regional and local levels, implementation of fundamental gender equity and social inclusion procedures—such as gender-responsive planning and budgeting—has become staff responsibility without requisite formal training, gender sensitization, and follow-up. In Nepal, women as smallholder farmers or agricultural labourers are recognized as a vulnerable group in need of social protection, but the welfare approach to gender mainstreaming has achieved little in terms of gender equity, social inclusion, and agricultural sustainability. This paper concludes that what is generally missing is a systemic transformation of gender roles and relations in agriculture, with policies that would support rural women's empowerment through the provision of economic and political rights and entitlement to productive resources.

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Equity, diversity and inclusion


Feminist political ecology


Gender equity and social inclusion


Gender and development


Gender transformative approach


Ministry of agriculture and livestock development


National agriculture research council


Women in development


Women and development


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Sincere thanks to Prof. Manish Raizada, Prof. John FitzSimons, and Prof. Silvia Sarapura from the University of Guelph, Canada and Prof. Bipasha Baruah from the Western University, Canada for their valuable inputs and editing. We thank the female and male farmers, governmental officials, and local officers of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of Nepal for providing the data for this research. We are grateful to IDRC, CIFSRF, GAC, in particular Dr. Kevin Tiessen and Dr. Marco Rondon, and to David and Ruth Hopper and Ramesh and Pilar Bhatia for funding to conduct this research. Thanks to the SAK Nepal Team including LI-BIRD for providing necessary logistical support for the study preparation and data collection.


RD was awarded the David and Ruth Hopper and Ramesh and Pilar Bhatia Canada Research Fellowship for PhD studies from IDRC (Ottawa). Additional financial support was from a grant to Prof. Manish Raizada, University of Guelph, Canada from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), jointly funded by the International Research Centre (IDRC, Ottawa) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

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Conceptualization, RD and LPP; methodology: RD, LPP and HHO; validation: HHO, KB, and BRP; formal analysis: RD; investigation: RD; data curation: RD; writing-original draft preparation, RD; writing-review: LPP, HHO, KB, and BRP; writing review and editing: HHO, KB, and LPP; Supervision: HHO; Project administration: RD; funding acquisition, RD. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rachana Devkota.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Guelph. The University of Guelph Research Ethics Board approved this research as a part of “Innovations for Terrace Farmers in Nepal and Testing of Private Sector Scaling Up Using Sustainable Agriculture Kits (SAKs) and Stall-Based Franchises” project. The Research Ethics Boards (REB) approval number was 16-12-566. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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See Table 4.

Table 4 Summary of gender analysis of major agricultural policies

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Devkota, R., Pant, L.P., Hambly Odame, H. et al. Rethinking gender mainstreaming in agricultural innovation policy in Nepal: a critical gender analysis. Agric Hum Values (2022).

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  • Gender mainstreaming
  • Small-scale agriculture
  • Agricultural innovation
  • Gender analysis
  • Public policy
  • Nepal