Gender, household food security, and dietary diversity in western Honduras


Janelle Larson



Penn State University

Dr. Larson's research focuses on international rural development, with work primarily on gender in development, land markets and value-chain analysis.


Impact Summary

Key Points


    Larson's Expert Advice

    • Try to implement gender transformative programmes and recognise the importance of intra-household decision-making to achieve development outcomes.
    • Often assumed that gender norms are so entrenched that we cannot do anything about it, but we found it is possible to change their perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. This can be achieved by farmer-field schools, and other types of workshops, which combine technical training with workshops on gender. The workshops on gender look at gender norms, how they can change over time, leadership, and roles and resposibilities within the household.
    • Make sure to look at individuals. This includes individuals within households, gender groupings and also intersectionality. It is important to look beyond any one category.

    Main Findings & Conclusions

    We found that some aspects of women’s empowerment, specifically access to and control over credit, and over income, is correlated with greater dietary diversity and food security.
    It is important to look at different aspects of women’s empowerment, rather than just looking at women’s empowerment as a whole. Using the WEAI Index allowed us to break down women’s empowerment into different components, such as control over income, control over credit, group leadership and control of assets.

    Another finding was that it is important to look at individuals within a married household. Men and women from the same household reported different levels of food security and dietary diversity. Women in a dual-headed household are also frequently ignored, however they often have different experiences than their husbands. It is also important to look at women in both single-headed and dual-headed households, because their experiences differ from each other. As a result, you cannot assume that all women are the same, or that all people in married couples are having the same experiences.

    Research's methodology

    Conducted household surveys with 953 individuals from 562 households. Typically surveryed both the husband and wife in the same household, if and when they were available. Also included single women households, but did not include single men households. They were all small farmers, with less than 10 manzanas. All from the high poverty region of Western Honduras. Conducted a random sample to get to those households, and oversampled in areas that have horticultural production.


    Not able to develop causal relationships, just correlations.

    GenderLooking at roles and responsibilities, and household decision-making, of both men and women. Not looking solely at women.
    Gender disaggregated dataImportant to get data by individuals, rather than by households.
    Food SecurityFood security does not mean that a person has adequate dietary diversity.

    Reference this research

    Larson, J. B., Castellanos, P., & Jensen, L. (2019). Gender, household food security, and dietary diversity in western Honduras. Global Food Security, 20, 170-179

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