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Assessing How Agricultural Technologies Can Change Gender Dynamics and Food Security

In Nepal, hundreds of thousands of men have migrated from their farms. [1] In their absence, rural women have taken on the farming, often relying on other women to keep up with time-consuming agricultural tasks. The Ministry of Agricultural Development in Nepal and CIMMYT disseminated a small mechanized plow, called a mini-tiller, that can help farmers with limited access to labor. But women in the Kavre District weren’t using it. Why not?

The INGENAES technology assessment toolkit can help answer that question.

As part of the Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES) project, Cultural Practice, LLC (CP) developed a three-part toolkit titled, Assessing How Agricultural Technologies can Change Gender Dynamics and Food Security to aid practitioners and researchers in assessing whether agricultural technologies are gender-responsive and nutrition-sensitive.

The first part of the toolkit discusses the relationships between gender, nutrition and agricultural technologies. It focuses on three areas: time and labor; food availability, access, quality and safety; and income and assets.

The second part introduces a framework that considers the social context of the agricultural technologies and the specific challenges that women and men farmers face in using the technology. Building on the framework, this section also contains a range of tools that can help agricultural researchers and practitioners uncover men’s and women’s different needs and preferences in agricultural activities and assess if an agricultural technology can meet these needs. This information can be used to improve the design and dissemination of agricultural technologies to increase adoption by men and women farmers.

The third part of the toolkit is a guide for facilitators to design and conduct a workshop on the methodology, including slides and exercises.

The Need for the Toolkit 

While much has been written about how agricultural technologies can impact women’s lives, there are few guides that help agricultural researchers and practitioners analyze the potential impacts of these technologies on men and women. The INGENAES technology assessment toolkit fills this gap. The toolkit outlines a process for understanding how agricultural technologies can be designed and disseminated to reach both men and women farmers with the ultimate aim of ensuring that all farmers can improve their productivity and benefit from agricultural investments. It refocuses attention on the needs of the men and women farmers who are meant to use the technology.

The Development of the Toolkit 

The development of the INGENAES technology assessment toolkit was a multi-year effort to design and test the methodology in collaboration with researchers and practitioners. The process began in 2015 with an initial framing of the methodology and a set of data collection tools that were introduced to a group of undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Davis and the University of Florida. These students traveled to Bangladesh and Zambia, where they applied the methodology to seven agricultural technologies. With the support of Cultural Practice they produced the first set of technology profiles. Following this effort, Cultural Practice refined the methodology through a series of workshops with the researchers and practitioners in Bangladesh, students and practitioners from the Master in International Cooperation and Development (MICD) program in Nepal, Njala University in Sierra Leone and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Moving Forward

Sumana Parui, a consultant working with CIMMYT in Nepal, commented that the issues raised by the assessment are a “stepping stone for studying the involvement of women with technology… not only in the rural hilly areas of Nepal but also in other developing countries like Nepal.”

As it turned out, the women farmers in Nepal weren’t using the mini-tiller because they believed they weren’t strong enough to use it. Some also believed that their farms would be negatively affected if women were allowed to plow. However, many men and women felt confident that with proper training, women could use the mini-tiller. Student researchers from Nepal’s Master in International Cooperation and Development program used the technology assessment methodology to uncover these perceptions and identify contextually appropriate strategies to encourage women to use the mini-tillers.

Use the toolkit to support your investments into agricultural technology.

[1]  Labour Migration for Employment, A Status Report for Nepal: 2014/2015. Government of Nepal: Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2016. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---asia/---ro-bangkok/---ilo-kathmandu/documents/publication/wcms_500311.pdf

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