Soil health and gender: Why and how to identify the linkages

Healthy soils play a critical role in supporting agricultural productivity, climate change mitigation and resilience, and a range of ecosystem services. Degraded and poorly responsive soils cover large areas of Africa and represent the majority of poor farmers’ fields in certain regions. While many technical options for soil improvement or restoration sit ‘on the shelf’, there are many sociocultural, institutional, economic, and policy barriers hindering their adoption at large scale. Gender inequality is deeply embedded in and reinforces these barriers, and represents a wicked problem requiring context – and culture-specific understandings and approaches. This study reviews relevant gender literature and proposes a conceptual framework to help illuminate important gender considerations for soil health management. The framework highlights how a range of separate and joint assets held by men and women in households, and the intrahousehold distribution of use, management, fructus, and alienation rights shape the management practices that contribute to, or undermine, soil health. These considerations are essential for identifying gender-based constraints, opportunities, and unintended consequences in promoting soil management technologies. Applying the framework, we make several recommendations for setting priorities for gender-soil health research.