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Access to Resources

Land and livestock are critical resources for production and differences in ownership across groups and can reveal systemic inequities in how these resources have been allocated. Other key resources could be of interest in specific locations, such as irrigation water, credit, or machinery.

How to operationalize the metric

Method of data collection and data needed to compute the method:

Household surveys are regularly used to collect information about land owned, land cultivated, livestock owned, and other agricultural resources (e.g, credit, machinery). Many baseline surveys collect this contextual data. Equity measures simply require the ability to disaggregate households and compare mean values (or distributions) among groups.

Open-ended questions can be part of a household survey where respondents are randomly selected;  this enables the use of qualitative analysis to make inferences on the average perspective (i.e., most people from Group A feel that Group B is favored by the chiefs in land allocation) or to categorize perspectives by quantitative values, such as livelihood strategy, age, or wealth (i.e., most people who said that bribery was the main cause of unequal access to land were from poorer households and under the age of 30).

Example 1: Surveying access to land by gender

It is common to compare the average area of land used solely or jointly by women to the average area of land used solely or jointly by men. Due to the complexity of intra-household labor allocation, it is not possible to assume that those who work the land have the decision-making power about the benefits from their labor. We therefore suggest the use of the ability to decide how to use the harvest (sale or consumption) as a feasible metric for access to that land.

Where possible, land quality should be taken into consideration. For example, farmers’ subjective assessment of soil fertility could be used to analyze the differences in quality of land that men and women have access to. The monetary value of the land would also show land quality, but accurately quantifying the market value for land is only possible where land markets are well developed.

Following Rao (2016) we focus on control over use of the harvest (e.g., home consumption, sale, trade). It is relatively simple in a household survey to add the question, “Who decides what to do with the harvest?” for each field, where multiple household members can be selected. Joint responsibility of a field should not be interpreted automatically as equity and will need to be interpreted in the local context.

Qualitative questions that could be useful for a deeper understanding of gendered responsibility include:

  • In this community, on which fields do men do most of the work? On which fields do women do most of the work? On which fields do men decide what to plant and what inputs to use? On which fields do women decide what to plant and what inputs to use? Why?
  • When someone says that they decide how to manage the harvest jointly as a household: What does that look like? How equal is the decision-making?

Example 2: Livestock ownership

Livestock ownership can either be separated by type of livestock (e.g., cattle, small ruminants, poultry) or combined using Tropical Livestock Units (Jahnke, 1982). In many agricultural surveys, the respondents are asked the number of all types of livestock. This could easily be followed up by the question, “Who is the owner of these livestock?” for each type. Asking about the monetary value for theoretical sale of each type of livestock could also allow for assigning quantitative values for comparing the value of livestock ownedamong groups.

Relevant questions adapted from Tanzania National Panel Survey (using the numbering system in that survey):

  • Who in your household decides what to do with these earnings?
  • In principle, who makes decisions about keeping or selling [ANIMAL]? (Indicate up to two people)
  • Who in your household provides labor for feeding/watering of [ANIMAL]?
  • Who in your household provides labor for selling the animals and animal products?
  • Who in your household mainly provides labor for grazing of [ANIMAL]?

Unit of analysis:

Individual, household, or group


Limitations regarding estimating and interpreting:

It should be noted that in some contexts, respondents may not truthfully reveal the quantity of land or livestock they own. For example, farmers with larger than average landholdings who are concerned about land redistribution may not mention all of the land that they own. On the other hand, respondents may exaggerate their livestock ownership due to its high social value.

Method of data collection and data needed to compute the method:

In-depth interviews with key stakeholders from the various groups of interest or FGDs with members from these groups can provide approximations of resource allocation, as well as detailed information about how and why these resources are allocated. Open-ended questions are best for encouraging rich responses that draw on the respondents’ lived experiences.

Qualitative interviews to understand equity in access to resources would aim to understand perceptions of the relative allocation across groups, how fair that allocation seems, and how and why there are differences. Purposively selecting respondents from various groups (or randomly selecting them from stratified lists) is important for qualitative methods regarding equity so that perspectives from all group of interest are obtained. In addition to selecting respondents from each group, in many contexts men and women will speak more freely in same-sex groups that are led by a facilitator who is of the same gender. FGDs may then be formed for Group A men, Group A women, Group B men, and Group B women. If age, wealth, or livelihood strategy is thought to be important then separate FGDs could be formed or the characteristics of the respondents in each different type of group, with the transcript designed to allow for analyzing differences in perspectives across these characteristics. Random sampling is not typically necessary with qualitative methods because statistical inference is rarely the goal.

Purposive sampling is important for targeting key informants with deep knowledge of a subject. Only well-informed individuals will be able to accurately estimate quantitatively the values of land and livestock resource owned by individuals in each group. For example, chiefs may have knowledge about how land has been allocated by ethnic group in their villages and the processes used for allocating that land.

During the interviews a secretary should take detailed notes and if possible the interview should be recorded so that respondents’ exact words are the data that is analyzed. The transcripts from each interview or FGD should then be analyzed qualitatively. It is beyond the scope of this manual to detail the various forms of qualitative data analysis methods, but we will outline a basic strategy for categorizing information for a simple type of analysis:

  1. Read through all of the transcripts and choose a few of the themes that you want to analyze in greater depth. These themes could come from your questions (e.g., response to how chiefs allocate land) or they could emerge from the responses to one or more of your questions (e.g., how migration to urban centers is differently affecting nomadic herders and settled farmers).
  2. Copy all of the text relevant to one of your chosen themes into a single document. Include a respondent ID at the start of each portion of text so that you can easily identify who made each statement. If there is too much text to do this easily with copy and paste in a text editor then you can use qualitative software to code the data and then retrieve it by code. QDA Miner Lite is a free version of such software (
  3. Highlight the key words that relate to your theme in each response. You may consider using colored highlighting based on a group of responses or different colors for opposing responses (e.g., green for statements indicating the land allocation is fair and yellow for statements indicating it is unfair).
  4. Summarize the diversity of responses in your own writing, – using quotation marks for direct quotes – aiming to fairly represent the breadth and depth of information as succinctly as possible. You may want to use numbers to represent the level of agreement on the statements (e.g., “…nine out of 12 respondents said…while the other three said…”). The written length of these summary statements depends on both the diversity of the responses being summarized and the detail necessary to achieve the purpose for which the summary is applied.

Unit of analysis:

Individual or group

Limitations regarding estimating and interpreting:

Qualitative interviewing and FGDs are time-consuming methods for collecting information about access to resources and typically are not used with hundreds of respondents. The purposive sampling strategy limits the usefulness of any quantitative data collected because inferences are limited to those similar to the respondents and leave the results open to critiques of selection bias. Analysis and/or quantification of the qualitative data can be overwhelming for scientists not trained in those methods, especially for assessing the complex causes and effects of unfair allocation of resources.

Method of data collection and data needed to compute the method:

Participatory mapping and transect walks are activities that can be used with each group of interest (e.g., men, women, male youth, female youth) to better understand the resources that they use and have access to. For example, if the project focus is on crop production, then a map of the village farmland might be most appropriate. If the project focus is an irrigation scheme, then a transect walk through the irrigated land or along the canal might be useful.

Participatory mapping is typically done as a group on the ground, with local/available materials representing the features of the landscape. Once the main features are in place, probing questions can be used to add visual elements (e.g., placing different colored stones for land managed by men, women, and youth). The final map can be transferred to a large sheet of paper, which can then be easily copied for the community to keep and to be included in a report. Mapping can generally be employedto understand how resources are used by each group. Maps can also be used for specific planning or evaluation exercises, for example, deciding on a location for an investment in marketing, storage, or irrigation.

A variation on participatory mapping is the use of aerial or satellite images of the community – printed and laminated – for community members to draw on with different colored markers. This approach was used to apply a gender lens to nutrition sources in the landscape by Estrada-Carmona (2014). Another variation had men and women map where negotiations happened in decision-making (Christie and Luebering, 2011).

Transect walks are group walks across a landscape to observe the full range of conditions in an area (e.g., from low to high elevation). The walk does not need to be in a straight line but can meander to observe interesting elements. Someone should take notes about observations during the walk. At the end, the notes can be listed under a diagram or aerial map of the transect with images to represent the features along the route. For assessing access to resources, the walks should be done by separate groups and at various points the community members should point out what resources in the landscape they have access to and which ones they do not have access to.  Further information on participatory mapping is available from Corbett (2009) and Willmer and Ketzis (2001).

Unit of analysis:

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Limitations regarding estimating and interpreting:

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