Free Online Course Explains the Role of Gender in Agricultural Development
A new course developed for the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab offers an introduction to the important role that gender plays in all development activities, particularly international food security and agricultural development.
Using case studies from experiences in the field, the course is designed for anyone working in development, including practitioners, researchers, students and private sector business partners. The course, Increasing Your Gender Responsive Agricultural Development Capacity, is free of charge and accessible to all.
"The course demonstrates how a program, a policy, a law or a planned action may impact women and men, boys and girls, differently," said Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale, the gender impacts lead with the Soybean Innovation Lab and director of the Gender Impacts Lab at the Social Science Research Center of Mississippi State University. "It’s recognizing both the similarities and differences of women’s and men’s lived experiences, and how their lived experiences both shape and are shaped by their cultures and societies."
One of these differences is in control over resources. Across sub-Saharan Africa, women who are smallholder farmers are typically responsible for feeding their families but are less likely to share control or ownership of the land that they themselves till, sow and harvest. However, research has shown that when female farmers have some ownership and decision-making powers, food security and agricultural development programs see better outcomes for everyone: men, women and children.
In Ghana for example, the Soybean Innovation Lab helped groups of women farmers gain access to mechanized threshers that can decrease the amount of time spent threshing crops by 80% — as compared to threshing by hand by beating with sticks, which is the norm in many sub-Saharan countries. As a group, women were better able to earn greater profits on their crops, reduce the amount of back-breaking labor it takes to hand-thresh crops, get crops to market quicker and have greater access to credit.
Women in this program reported having greater authority within their farming community. One participant explained: "The men in our community have seen our importance, and they can’t believe we have a thresher to ourselves. When they want to use our thresher, they come, and we negotiate in a meeting."
Similarly, in an example from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish, researchers found that although women are equally as likely to pursue fishing, processing and selling fish as livelihoods, they are less likely to have ownership and control of fishing assets critical to their economic and nutritional success.
With the goal of improving nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women and for infants and young children in rural Zambia, where stunted growth is very high, the FishFirst! Zambia research team is investigating the specific ways women entrepreneurs might start or expand businesses while filling an important gap in high-quality, low-cost and locally available fish-based foods for mothers and children.
"We found that providing real-world examples of outcomes resulting from gender responsive practices can trigger a 'lightbulb moment' for a lot of people. Everyone wants to see their projects have more and longer-lasting impacts, and the course gives them the platform to begin to think about ways that they can accomplish this," said Dr. Mary Read-Wahidi, co-director of the Gender Impacts Lab.
The Feed the Future Innovation Labs, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), draw on the expertise of top U.S. universities and developing country research institutions to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security.
The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) provides researchers, extensionists, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and funders operating across the entire value chain the critical information and technology needed for the successful advancement of soybean development in Africa. SIL provides support to the Gender Impacts Research program at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center.
The Innovation Lab for Fish at Mississippi State University works to provide researchers, extensionists, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and funders operating across the entire value chain the critical information and technology needed for the successful advancement of aquaculture and fisheries sectors in East Africa, West Africa and Asia.
Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale is a research professor with the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. She is the director of the Gender Impacts Lab, the gender impacts lead with the Soybean Innovation Lab and the gender and youth engagement lead with the Innovation Lab for Fish.
Contact number: 1+662-325-9168 Email: [email protected]
Dr. Mary Read-Wahidi is an assistant research professor with the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. She is co-director of the Gender Impacts Lab, the gender impacts co-lead for the Soybean Innovation Lab and the gender and youth engagement co-lead for the Innovation Lab for Fish.
Contact number: 1+662-325-3760 Email: [email protected]