Cover Image
close this bookFamine, Needs-assessment and Survival Strategies in Africa (Oxfam, 1993, 40 p.)
close this folder2 A case of crying wolf?
close this folder2.1 Some distortions in the process of needs-assessment
View the document2.1.1 Estimating production, food availability and population
View the document2.1.2 The 'food balance-sheet' approach
View the document2.1.3 Donor fatigue/scepticism
View the document2.1.4 Gender biases

2.1.4 Gender biases

A significant source of bias in needs-assessments—perhaps tending to encourage underestimation of needs in some contexts—is the fact that such assessments are typically made by men. Whether information comes from key informants in central or local government or at village level, it is very likely that the information comes from men. Oxfam's Gender Adviser for Africa and the Middle East, Bridget Walker, offers an example of the distortions this can create. As part of Oxfam's ongoing nutritionalassessment programme in Darfur, Sudan, separate teams of interviewers were used (men interviewing men, mostly village notables, and women interviewing women). It was found that village notables appeared to be overestimating the harvest substantially, whilst women were making much lower estimates. The reasons for this were not clear. It may be that the men interviewed were unrepresentatively wealthy, and relatively unconcerned about harvest shortfalls. Or it may be that they were out of touch with what was going on in the fields. The fact remains that differences in assessments of production were dramatic.

WaLker also notes that there has been some tendency for women to give greater estimates of household needs, including in their definition of the household many people who were on the fringes of the household. By contrast, men have tended to give a more limited definition of the household, including only those people for whom they felt directly responsible. Women's direct involvement with processes of food production and consumption can be contrasted with their habitual exclusion from processes of needsassessment, and constitutes a major weakness in current systems of assessment.