Gender and food security in Honduras


Agricultural economist focused on rural development, conservation, and gender equality.


In a sample of rural households in three departments in Honduras, women were found to have low dietary diversity and food security. Women’s empowerment is hindered by work responsibilities and limited decision-making power regarding accessing credit and productive activities.

This study obtained information on a range of topics associated with food security and nutrition, gender, and water access in selected villages of Honduras that were of interest to local civil society organisations in terms of understanding the constraints and planning their programs.

Key Findings

The data collection, done in 2018, covered 647 households across the departments of Choluteca, Lempira, and Ocotepeque. Most households surveyed faced high levels of food insecurity and inadequate nutrition. The majority of households had experienced food insecurity within the past 30 days.
Of the households sampled, 71% have changed their diets due to a lack of resources, and 65% have worried that they will not have enough food in the last 30 days.
Only 26% of the women between 12 and 49 years received the minimum dietary diversity.
Access to water and sanitation is also limited, with 30% of the households sourcing their water from a well or river and 51% not treating the water before drinking.
Finally, the results of the Abbreviated Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (A-WEAI) found that 66% of women are disempowered (which is very similar to the results reported from two large studies in Western Honduras).

How to use

Given the constraints on women's decision-making power, women should be explicitly included in outreach and planning for agricultural programs, and constraints to their participation should be evaluated and considered in project planning.
Given the inadequate dietary diversity seen for a majority of women in these rural communities, it is important to understand the factors driving limited diet diversity and provide the necessary resources to improve diet diversity for women.
Agricultural programs need to directly account for time constraints already faced by women in rural areas.
These findings could help inform the development of agricultural development programs in rural areas of Central America where women's responsibilities are high but their decision-making power is constrained.
These findings could help inform planning for food-security focused programs in Honduras such as USAID's Feed the Future program and WFP activities.
These findings could help support the need for targeted nutrition education and support programs for women (and children) in rural areas to increase diet diversity.

Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

Allen, Summer and Luciana Delgado. (2020). ‘Gender and food security in Honduras’. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1949. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). 

About this research

This discussion paper was part of a collaborative effort

Luciana Delgado

This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

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About this research

This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

This paper was co-authored


Luciana Delgado

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What it means

Disempowerment is primarily driven by workload and lack of group membership for both women and men but women are further hindered by the inability to participate in credit and productive decisions.

For example, although women participate in livestock and non-agricultural economic activities, many do not have the power to make decisions in these activities. While the results are not representative at the departmental or municipality level, they provide some insight into the constraints for these rural communities. These constraints include access to safe drinking water, sanitation, adequate diets, and income opportunities.


A survey of 647 randomly-selected households was conducted in selected villages of Choluteca, Lempira and Ocotepeque in August and September 2018.

Interviews were done with men and women in each household and modules included the Abbreviated Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (A-WEAI), the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS), and the Minimum Dietary Diversity of Women (MDD-W).


Diet diversity of women
A component of diet quality for women; can be a conservative measure of nutritional security for the household
Food security
A measure of food access in a household

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Jasmyn Spanswick prepared this research following an interview with Dr Summer Allen.