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Q&A: Using Household Methods to Promote Inclusivity in Agricultural Value Chains

This post was originally published by Agrilinks.

In this Q&A, Genet Admassu, Gender and Youth Manager for the activity and consultant for Banyan Global, shares her first-hand experiences with the tool. 

This Q&A explores the Transformative Household Methodology (THM) (1), a tool that aims to create awareness of intrahousehold gender relations among women, men, girls and boys, and how its use has affected Ethiopian families and communities through the Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain Activity. Genet Admassu, Gender and Youth Manager for the activity and consultant for Banyan Global, shares her first-hand experiences with the tool.

How did you first learn about THM?

Genet Admassu, Gender and Youth Manager, Banyan Global: As a gender and youth technical specialist, I learned about THM when I joined the Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain Activity in 2018. Early on, the gender and youth team came together for a two-day retreat that allowed us to meet one another and learn more about the organization and the project. During this event, THM was one of the topics that was introduced and demonstrated. I was in a small group with the three other regional gender and youth inclusion specialists (at the time I was the Oromia regional specialist), the senior specialist based in Addis, and the project manager from Washington, DC. The senior specialist had previous experience with the THM tool and approach. She taught us how to use THM to open up conversations with different community members and households related to gender roles and responsibilities. We learned about possible impacts to household workload, decision-making, communication and more. Soon after, we started practicing and demonstrating the methodology everywhere. It became one of our key tools!

In your opinion, why is THM important and what sets it apart from other behavior change approaches?

Genet: THM is a practical tool that is easy to understand and implement. THM activities are not abstract. They touch on the day-to-day realities of the participants. When we conduct THM, we reflect on and show pictures of things that happen every day in families like cooking, washing, and cleaning the house, so the methodology is not abstract but rather based on reality; it’s very tangible. When people talk about THM, they talk about their own contributions in the household. What also makes THM different is that it can be conducted with locally available materials. Its simplicity makes it comprehensible by anyone, no matter a person’s education level. Other behavior change approaches might not be applicable for all types of people, especially for women, because when you go to remote areas, the majority of women do not know how to write and read. Because of this, one has to teach them only verbally and they may not capture all the messages. But with THM, you can use sticks, stones, ropes, household materials like brooms, dishes, and so on. When you teach people with objects they know, it helps them better understand the messages. Finally, with THM, everybody contributes. People are not passive or silent; everybody speaks. These make THM unique and how it can bring change in a very short time.

How have you shared THM with others?

Genet demonstrates Transformative Household Methodology during an annual review meeting with high-ranking government officials in Oromia region. Photo Credit: Genet Admassu
Genet demonstrates Transformative Household Methodology during an annual review meeting with high-ranking government officials in Oromia region. 
Photo Credit: Genet Admassu

Genet: I have conducted THM many times! Over the last three years, I have used this tool for gender mainstreaming. I have facilitated THM on different occasions such as farmer field days, trainings, trade fair events, and meetings. I also led THM as a training of trainers for groups including male and female development army members (who perform similar tasks to agriculture extension agents), value chain role models, cooperatives and unions, and government partners. Whenever there is a project activity plan, THM is there. I also shared THM with project staff so that whenever they go to do different activities, they can also conduct or share the messages of THM with the people they meet. I know that THM reaches beyond the project activities because my male colleagues have shared about the changes in their own households. Some managed to surprise their wives by cooking meals! Finally, I use THM in my own household to share chores so that when I’m not around, not all of the household work is left for me when I get back. Whoever is in the house can accomplish that work. Thanks to THM, the work in my family is shared.

What aspects of THM do you feel resonate the most with people? Have you experienced challenges when conducting the exercises?

Genet: When you demonstrate household chores, men feel speechless because the majority of household chores are done by women. Then when you demonstrate the decision-making part, they see that most of the decision-making is done by men. During the demonstration though, you can see people’s faces changing when they start to realize the reality in their homes. This can also be a challenge though. Sometimes people, especially men, become aggressive because they perceive that the tool has shown light on some of their inferiorities in front of people. They will say that ‘it is true that the demonstration shows the reality, but they never realized the workload women face at home is not fair to women at all.’ At the same time, they will bring up that they were “not taught (or brought up doing) household chores so it is not their fault.” When such challenges arise, I typically stop the demonstration and start explaining the different types of gender gaps that can be found in our communities, typically related to culture and religion. It is great that THM opens the space for dialogue, but you have to be able to navigate some difficult conversations in a sensitive and constructive way.

How might others learn more about THM? Do you have any resources to share?

Genet: As I shared, THM can be done with locally available materials. However, through the project, we managed to produce updated, colorful, and portable materials — a facilitation guide, an activity board, household activity cards, and family member profile cards — which are long-lasting and easy to demonstrate and explain. The gender and youth team also conducted workshops for government partners and development army members who are working with local government structures to train them to lead THM too through house-to-house visits and other platforms. These groups also teach THM to the wider community. Recently our team also produced an instructional video (available on YouTube) about how to lead THM activities. The video can be shared widely through different channels like social media. It is a great resource for anyone who wants to strengthen their THM facilitation skills, and it also serves as a refresher tool for our partners. Finally, we just released a technical learning brief that provides a deeper look into THM and its impacts on the communities and people we work with. This document will be especially helpful for partners continuing THM and other development practitioners interested in adopting or adapting the tool and approach! 

Banyan Global is a subcontractor on the five-year Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain Activity. Led by Fintrac, the activity contributes to the government of Ethiopia’s objective to improve agricultural productivity and commercialization of smallholder farmers in four regions of the country – Amhara; Oromia; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region; and Tigray. The project emphasizes increasing nutrition-sensitive productivity of targeted value chains (chickpea, coffee, dairy, meat and live animal, maize and poultry) inclusive of women and youth; making market systems and trade more inclusive; and improving the enabling environment in support of agricultural transformation.

1. Transformative Household Methods was initially developed by Send a Cow Ethiopia in 2009.