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Publication | 2023

How gender mainstreaming plays out in Tanzania's climate-smart agricultural policy: Isomorphic mimicry of international discourse


Gender mainstreaming is often promoted internationally as the vehicle of choice to achieve gender equality. Concepts of mainstreaming are commonly seen in climate-smart agriculture (CSA), where it is proposed that they can bridge gender gaps in agricultural input use and productivity. The rhetoric of mainstreaming, however, often relies upon and perpetuates gender myths and assumptions.


We investigate how gender mainstreaming has spread into Tanzania's agricultural policies. We ask whether the government has the capacity to put these concepts into practice to address gender inequality. We explore this in the context of CSA, an increasingly important aspect of agricultural policy.

Methods and approach

Using the literature on policy transfer and isomorphism, we critically analyse gendered discourse in Tanzania's CSA policies to explore how gender is problematised and governed within policy. We use NVivo 12 to inductively code policy documents. We support these insights with the observations of key informants.


We find little evidence that gender has been effectively mainstreamed in Tanzania's CSA policies. We see a gap between the normative goal of gender mainstreaming and the practices intended to address gender (and intersectional) inequalities. The gap is made all the wider by limited recognition within government-from national to local—of how such inequalities affect agriculture. Not only are policies detached from local contexts leading to infeasible plans, but also local government lacks both resources and capacity to implement them.

Policy implications

Our study calls into question much of the global discourse on gender mainstreaming, especially the myths that support it. It shows how representing the problem in a particular way can lead to dysfunctional policy.

A better approach would be to start with understanding the various inequalities seen in agriculture in Tanzania, inequalities of gender but also of class. It would take into account the capacity to implement policy in the field. A more practical approach, tailored to the realities of rural Tanzania, would benefit the people of Tanzania more than just imitating questionable international discourse.