Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Building Capacity for Gendered Agricultural Research

Feed the Future fosters agricultural researchers’ skills to conduct gender-responsive research in topics as diverse as seed breeding, adoption of better farming tools, and food storage and processing. This post highlights several Feed the Future partners’ approaches to bringing gender issues into their agricultural research.

The Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) and Penn State University have collaborated for the past two years to offer a greater body of gender research expertise to young agricultural scientists. Gender Research and Integrated Training (GRIT) aims to strengthen the quality of research by bridging biophysical science and social science, including gender theory. GRIT brings together CGIAR gender post-doctoral scholars in a three-week training on gender-responsive research. Scholars are paired with a Penn State faculty mentor who guides the scholar in conducting their own research and advises on design, data analysis plans, drafts of articles and proposals, and publication. Participants from GRIT’s 2017 training workshop reflected:

“A key learning for me is about the use of gender indices and the reasons as to why they are necessary. A lecture on unitary and collaborative models … offer[ed] in-depth understanding as to the effects of policy on intra-household dynamics and women’s empowerment. I’ve also learned more about secondary data acquisition. The Indonesian Family Life Survey seems to me to be underutilized — it’s a gold mine!” says Harold Valera of the International Rice Research Institute.

“I came to GRIT with the hope of learning concrete methods for integrating gender in biophysical research both through the formal sessions as well as from other gender researchers and experts from a variety of backgrounds. This week’s sessions took us into a broader forum where we prepared grant proposals with a different group of scientists. The sessions on research methods and bridging the disciplinary divide were especially inspiring!” says Mamta Mehar of World Fish.

Africa RISING’s research objectives of finding and evaluating demand-driven options and innovations for sustainable agriculture and sharing experience to promote successful approaches requires carrying out research that understands women’s and men’s roles and needs in agriculture and engages both women and men in the research process as the ultimate end-users of new technologies and approaches. In 2015, Africa RISING, a multi-stakeholder project, began a self-assessment of its gender capacity. Although a majority of partners regarded gender as significant to their everyday work, capacities in gender analysis for research programming, access to gender analytical tools and familiarity with gender-transformative approaches were notable challenges. Moving forward from the assessment’s results, Africa RISING has since published:

The Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) launched in 2013 to provide the science necessary for women and men smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to share in rising demand for soybean as a cash and household food crop. To gauge how SIL considers gender in its own activities, the SIL Socioeconomic and Gender Equity Research team conducted a gender-responsive agricultural development assessment through an anonymous online survey for SIL leadership, researchers and implementing partners. Forty percent of respondents noted a success they had in supporting gender integration, including purposefully working with women’s associations and with women in leadership roles, such as champion soybean farmers. Challenges included identifying such women champions and cultural practices that limit women farmers’ participation in SIL activities, extension services that focus on men farmers, and collecting consistent data on how many women farmers and men farmers SIL serves. These baseline findings will define the needs for communications, training, tools and resources among SIL researchers and partners in order to support gender-responsive agricultural research.

African Women in Research and Development (AWARD) has an established fellowship program and network of African women scientists and scientific mentors. A special issue of the Agri-Gender Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security includes several articles by AWARD that focus on approaches to build the scientific and leadership capacities of women scientists, the outcomes of these interventions and methodologies for measuring women’s empowerment at this professional level. Now, AWARD is expanding its approach to the institutions and systems that fellows work in more broadly, including local universities and government research organizations. AWARD’s Gender Responsive and Agricultural Research and Development (GRARD) initiative, launched in 2017, aims to promote gender-responsive agricultural research through building a constituency of research leaders and practitioners and creating guides for their institutions to conduct gender-responsive agricultural research. One example of gender-responsive research is AWARD Fellow Dr. Fetien Abay Abera’s work with both women and men farmers to select the varieties of drought-resistant barley that best meet their needs.

If you have experiences and favorite resources to share building capacity for gender-responsive agricultural research, please share on Agrilinks!