The Effect of Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture on Household Nutrition and Food Poverty in Northern Ghana


The study examines the effect of women’s empowerment in agriculture on household nutrition—i.e. the availability of carbohydrates, protein, and fat—and household food poverty measured by monetary food shortfall. The analysis is done by applying instrumental variable estimation to a sample of 2642 households from a 2012 population-based survey conducted in northern Ghana. Overall, the results indicate that women’s empowerment positively influences nutrient availability and negatively influences monetary food shortfall. By decomposing women’s empowerment into its component domains, this study identified that the domains of Income, Production, and Leadership are areas for intervention to influence households’ nutrient availability and monetary food shortfall outcomes. The effect of the Time and Resources domains reveal that some intra-household trade-offs may exist. Thus, policies aimed at empowering women to ultimately improve household nutrition and food poverty need to be based on the understanding of these specific interactions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Source: Zereyesus et al. (2014)

Fig. 2

Source: Malapit et al. (2014), Zereyesus et al. (2014)


  1. 1.

    For readers who are interested in seeing the full estimation results for all the 24 models, as well as the STATA syntax utilized for the analysis, the corresponding author will provide them upon request.


  1. Alkire, S., Meinzen-Dick, R., Peterman, A., Quisumbing, A., Seymour, G., & Vaz, A. (2013). The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. World Development, 52, 71–91. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.06.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alsop, R., Bertelsen, M. F., & Holland, J. (2006). Empowerment in practice: From analysis to implementation. World Bank Publications. Accessed February 23, 2015.

  3. Amu, N. J. (2005). The role of women in Ghana’s economy. Accessed March 30, 2017.

  4. Anderson, T. W., & Rubin, H. (1949). Estimation of the parameters of a single equation in a complete system of stochastic equations. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 20(1), 46–63. doi:10.1214/aoms/1177730090.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Anderson, T. W., & Rubin, H. (1950). The asymptotic properties of estimates of the parameters of a single equation in a complete system of stochastic equations. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 21(4), 570–582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Baum, C. F., Schaffer, M. E., & Stillman, S. (2015). IVREG2: Stata module for extended instrumental variables/2SLS and GMM estimation. Statistical Software Components. Boston College Department of Economics. Accessed October 2, 2015.

  7. Buskens, I., & Webb, A. (Eds.). (2009). African women and ICTs investigating technology, gender and empowerment. Ottawa: Zed Books, International Development Research Centre.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cragg, J. G., & Donald, S. G. (1993). Testing identifiability and specification in instrumental variable models. Econometric Theory, 9(2), 222–240. doi:10.1017/S0266466600007519.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. de Brauw, A. (2015). Gender, control, and crop choice in northern Mozambique. Agricultural Economics, 46(3), 435–448. doi:10.1111/agec.12172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Doss, C. (2013). Intrahousehold bargaining and resource allocation in developing countries. The World Bank Research Observer, 28, 52–78. doi:10.1093/wbro/lkt001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. FAO, IFAD, & WFP. (2013). The state of food insecurity in the world 2013. The multiple dimensions of food security. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, FAO.

  12. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2011). Women in agriculture: closing the gender gap for development. In The state of food and agriculture 20102011 (pp. 7–22). Rome: FAO.

  13. Foster, J., Greer, J., & Thorbecke, E. (1986). A methodology for measuring food poverty applied to Kenya. Journal of Development Economics, 24(1), 59–74. doi:10.1016/0304-3878(86)90144-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Foster, J., Greer, J., & Thorbecke, E. (2010). The Foster–Greer–Thorbecke (FGT) poverty measures: 25 years later. The Journal of Economic Inequality, 8(4), 491–524. doi:10.1007/s10888-010-9136-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hausmann, R., Tyson, L. D., & Zahidi, S. (2011). The global gender gap report 2011. Geneva: World Economic Forum.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hayashi, F. (2000). Econometrics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Ibrahim, S., & Alkire, S. (2007). Agency and Empowerment: A Proposal for Internationally Comparable Indicators. Oxford Development Studies, 35(4), 379–403. doi:10.1080/13600810701701897.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jejeebhoy, S. (1997). Women’s autonomy in rural India: its dimensions, determinants and the influence of context. In Paper presented at the seminar on female empowerment in demographic processes: Moving beyond Cairo. Lund, Sweden, 21–24 April 1997.

  19. Kabeer, N. (1999). Resources, agency, achievements: Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment. Development and Change, 30(3), 435–464. doi:10.1111/1467-7660.00125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kleibergen, F., & Paap, R. (2006). Generalized reduced rank tests using the singular value decomposition. Journal of Econometrics, 133(1), 97–126. doi:10.1016/j.jeconom.2005.02.011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Lee, J., & Pocock, M. L. (2007). Intrahousehold allocation of financial resources: Evidence from South Korean individual bank accounts. Review of Economics of the Household, 5(1), 41–58. doi:10.1007/s11150-007-9004-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Malapit, H. J. L., Kadiyala, S., Quisumbing, A. R., Cunningham, K., & Tyagi, P. (2015). Women’s empowerment mitigates the negative effects of low production diversity on maternal and child nutrition in Nepal. The Journal of Development Studies, 51(8), 1097–1123. doi:10.1080/00220388.2015.1018904.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Malapit, H. J., & Quisumbing, A. R. (2015). What dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture matter for nutrition in Ghana? Food Policy, 52, 54–63. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.02.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Malapit, H. J., Sproule, K., Kovarik, C., Meinzen-Dick, R. S., Quisumbing, A. R., Ramzan, F., et al. (2014). Measuring progress toward empowerment: Women’s empowerment in agriculture index: Baseline report. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Accessed February 16, 2015.

  25. Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA). (2013). Agriculture in Ghana: Facts and figures (2012). Accra: Ministry of Agriculture.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MWCA). (2004). National gender and children policy. Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MWCA), Ghana. Accessed 21 May 2017.

  27. Narayan-Parker, D. (2002). Empowerment and poverty reduction: A sourcebook. World Bank Publications. Accessed February 23, 2015.

  28. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2015). About the SIGI. Accessed March 30, 2017.

  29. Pollak, R. A. (2005). Bargaining power in marriage: Earnings, wage rates and household production. Accessed October 24, 2015.

  30. Quisumbing, A. (2003). Household decisions, gender and development: A synthesis of recent research. Abingdon: Routledge. doi:10.1080/13545700601075203.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Quisumbing, A. R., & Hallman, K. (2003). Marriage in transition: evidence on age education and assets from six developing countries. Policy research division, population council working papers. Accessed March 30, 2017.

  32. Quisumbing, A. R., & Maluccio, J. A. (2000). Intrahousehold allocation and gender relations: New empirical evidence from four developing countries. FCND Discussion Paper.

  33. Quisumbing, A. R., & Maluccio, J. A. (2003). Resources at marriage and intrahousehold allocation: Evidence from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and South Africa. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 65(3), 283–327. doi:10.1111/1468-0084.t01-1-00052.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Ross, K. L., Zereyesus, Y., Shanoyan, A., & Amanor-Boadu, V. (2015). The health effects of women empowerment: Recent evidence from northern Ghana. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 18(1), 127–144.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Sathar, Z. A., & Kazi, S. (1997). Women’s autonomy, livelihood and fertility: A study of rural Punjab. Islamabad: Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Sen, A. K. (1976). Poverty: An ordinal approach to measurement. Econometrica, 44(2), 219–231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Smith, L. C., Ramakrishnan, U., Ndiaye, A., Haddad, L., & Martorell, R. (2003). The importance of women’s status for child nutrition in developing countries. International Food Policy Research Institute Research Report 131.

  38. Sraboni, E., Malapit, H. J., Quisumbing, A. R., & Ahmed, A. U. (2014). Women’s empowerment in agriculture: What role for food security in Bangladesh? World Development, 61, 11–52. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.03.025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Stock, J. H., & Yogo, M. (2005). Testing for weak instruments in linear IV regression. Identification and inference for econometric models: Essays in honor of Thomas Rothenberg, February (pp. 80–108).

  40. Thomas, D. (1994). Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter: Parental resources and child height. Journal of Human Resources, 29(4), 950–988.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2010). Human development report 2010: 20th anniversary edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Accessed March 30, 2017.

  42. Vaz, A., & Alkire, S. (2012a). WEAI dataprep (.do file), prepared for the calculation of the women’s empowerment in agriculture index of USAID. Oxford: Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI). Accessed March 30, 2017.

  43. Vaz, A., & Alkire, S. (2012b). Calculating the WEAI (.do file), prepared for the calculation of the women’s empowerment in agriculture index of USAID. Oxford: Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI). Accessed March 30, 2017.

  44. Zereyesus, Y. A., Ross, K. L., Amanor-Boadu, V., & Dalton, T. J. (2014). Baseline Feed the Future Indicators for Northern Ghana 2012. Monitoring, Evaluation and Technical Support Services (METSS). Manhattan, KS. Accessed March 30, 2017.

  45. Zimmerman, C. (1932). Ernst Engel’s law of expenditures for food. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 47, 78–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to acknowledge funding support from USAID-Ghana Mission Economic Growth Office through USAID Grant No. BG3824 and Project No. GAGE603117. However, this paper does not reflect the views of the USAID and its programs.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Francis Tsiboe.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tsiboe, F., Zereyesus, Y.A., Popp, J.S. et al. The Effect of Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture on Household Nutrition and Food Poverty in Northern Ghana. Soc Indic Res 138, 89–108 (2018).

Download citation


  • Women
  • Empowerment
  • Nutrition
  • Food poverty
  • Ghana