In Ethiopia, the public sector and NGOs have been exerting efforts to mainstreaming gender in different sectorial programs and projects over the decades. The level of the gender mainstreaming endeavors ranges from national policies to grassroots development interventions. In recent decades, the Ethiopian government has given much emphasis on gender inclusive moves into policy and development interventions by creating appropriate structures in government institutions and sectoral offices. As a solid instrument, the government has put in place policy and legislative measures that help empower women so that they are able to access productive assets, mainly land, credit facilities, extension services, and improved agricultural technologies. However, despite the political commitment concretized by legal support and institutional arrangements, gender norms, socio-cultural structures, customary rules and capacity factors continue to constrain an effective implementation of gender inclusive extension service delivery in the agricultural sector. In addition to the influence of social norms and customary practices, there is limited capacity of experts to mainstream gender and to see extension delivery with a transformative gender lens. Thus, a lot more effort is needed to identify and fill gender equality gaps in extension programs. In this paper, we present the experience of the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project in reaching out to women in male and female-headed households and the efforts made to influence the public extension service to adopt gender transformative extension delivery approaches. The paper is based on information drawn from project reports, field based case studies and key informant interviews with project staff, development agents, and male and female smallholders. The paper finds that couples training and household coaching and mentoring increase women’s access to extension services. Finally, it concludes that adoption of innovative methods that create more opportunities for women farmers requires working on the broader institutional context of extension services to address gender capacity gaps in policy and programs.
Keywords: Couples training, household coaching and mentoring, value chain, Ethiopia.