GOAT POWER: Can top-down intensification of goat production for climate resilience empower women in Zambia?

Last changed: 07 June 2024
Goat in front of small houses in Zambia. Photo.

This project critically evaluates the assumption that goat intensification programs in Zambia contribute to women farmers' empowerment through a mixed methods research approach.

In this project, we will investigate the gender transformative outcomes of the Government of the Republic of Zambia’s (GRZ) recent initiative to intensify the country’s goat production by targeting women farmers and supporting the formation and training of women-based goat rearing cooperatives.

The project locates itself at the interface of two research fields in sustainable development: (i) climate resilient agricultural intensification and (ii) empowerment and gender transformative approaches. To achieve sustainable agricultural development, it is critical that no one is left behind. Yet, women are often disadvantaged in relation to agricultural intensification interventions and disproportionately affected by climate change.


The GRZ initiative is a unique, top-down goat intensification programme (GIP) with considerable potential for women’s empowerment and building resilience to climate change through agriculture in smallholder communities.

Goats are more resilient and adaptable than other ruminants to extreme weather events such as long-term droughts. Intensifying goat production can therefore constitute an important pathway to poverty alleviation and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa in the context of climate change. Women are often more likely to own or manage goats and other small stock than larger animals. At the same time, previous research warns that increasing intensification and commercialization of farm products risk eroding women’s control over these due to male capture, with negative impacts on e.g. women’s empowerment and household food security.

Hence the gender impact of the GRZ GIP interventions must be carefully assessed in order to ascertain that they do achieve what they aim for and do not contribute to further marginalization of women smallholders.

The project

The aim of GOAT POWER is to understand and evaluate the actual empowerment outcomes of climate resilient goat intensification using an innovative mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. The project will at the same time make an important methodological contribution by comparing and contrasting the results from extant approaches to measure empowerment in agriculture, including testing and evaluating the applicability and validity of the Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Index (WELI).

Furthermore, it will bring true scientific novelty to the research field and facilitate further development of integrative livestock research by connecting to and collaborating closely with an SVA (Swedish Veterinary Agency) project in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine investigating the impact of the GRZ goat intensification programme on goat rearing practices and animal health ('Sustainable intensification of Zambian goat production in a changing world'). This creates opportunities for a truly multi-disciplinary understanding of the complex issues emerging in relation to this programme at a time when changes in weather and climate patterns are becoming more acute and threaten to derail development gains, calling for climate resilient agricultural measures and solutions.

The project is divided into 4 sub-projects aimed at

  • measuring empowerment status between 300 participants and non-participants in GIPs using Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Index (WELI);
  • a qualitative assessment of empowerment status of 60 participants and non-participants, and participants’ subjective perceptions of GIP impacts on empowerment;
  • evaluating the adequacy of using WELI to measure empowerment in relation to qualitative approaches; and
  • bringing together stakeholders to discuss how challenges to women’s empowerment in livestock intensification can be overcome, and how opportunities for gender transformative approaches can be upscaled and replicated across contexts.

Thus the project’s purpose is to identify opportunities, threats and barriers to women’s empowerment in relation to the intensification of goat production for climate resilience, as well as explore how the gender transformative potential of such initiatives can be harnessed, enhanced and replicated across contexts.

The project is guided by the following research questions:

RQ1: What are the (dis)empowerment outcomes of women smallholders’ participation in the Government of Zambia’s climate resilient goat intensification programme (GIP)?

RQ2: How can current methods of measuring empowerment in agriculture be developed and improved, with a particular but not exclusive focus on the Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Index (WELI)?

RQ3: How can project findings be drawn on to enhance the gender transformative potential of ongoing and future (climate resilient) livestock intensification programmes?

Hence, GOAT POWER will contribute important knowledge and recommendations in relation to the gender transformative potential of climate smart resilient livestock intensification and programming for building resilience in smallholder communities where both women and men benefit and are empowered in the face of expanding climate risks such as drought and rainfall variability.


Project leader

Johanna Bergman Lodin, Researcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU

Read more on Johanna Bergman-Lodin's CV page
Send an e-mail to: Johanna Bergman-Lodin

International project leader

Bridget Bwalya Umar, senior lecturer and researcher, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Zambia

Read more on Bridget Bwalya Umar's CV page
Send an e-mail to: Gwendolyn Varley

Project participants

Gwendolyn Varley, Post Doc, Division of Rural Development, SLU
Read more on Gwendolyn Varley's CV page
Send an e-mail to: Gwendolyn Varley

Cecilia Fåhraeus, Post Doc, Department of Urban Studies, Malmö University
Read more on Cecilia Fåhraeus' CV page
Send an e-mail to: Cecilia Fåhraeus

Jonas Johansson Wensman, associate professor, Swedish Veterinary Agency
Read more on Jonas Johansson Wensman's CV page
Send an e-mail to: Jonas Johansson Wensman

Project time


External funding

Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsrådet

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