Female farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa display relatively low rates of adoption of modern crop varieties in comparison to male farmers. This gender gap in modern crop adoption prevents women from receiving higher crop yields and improving their standards of living, which is detrimental to women’s empowerment in the region. A study published in the April 2014 edition of Food Policy sought to investigate the gender gap in modern maize adoption in Malawi and whether or not Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) had influenced this gap.
By Katrine Danielsen and Franz F. Wong, Gender Advisors with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)
In order to understand gender-based dimensions and differences in MAIZE and to leverage this knowledge so that interventions can better address gender-specific needs, MAIZE undertook a gender audit of its activities in 2013.
Carried out by researchers from KIT (a Dutch knowledge institute), the audit comprised surveys, documentation analysis, focus group discussions and more than 100 individual interviews involving a variety of organizations and program partners (including women and men farmers). The Gender Audit was based around four key questions: how is gender currently addressed and how can this be strengthened; the capacity of project teams to conduct gender-aware research; how different program functions affect gender integration; and how the CRP’s approach to gender is influenced by its understanding of what counts as ‘knowledge.’
Farmers in most of southern Africa can expect to see lower yet more erratic rainfall challenge their ability to grow crops, according to a majority of predictions on the effects of climate change. This could spell great hardship for populations already vulnerable to food security, whose demand for key crops such as maize will only increase in the future. New drought-resistant varieties can go some way to help them adapt, but only by combining them with new cropping systems will their challenges be overcome.
In a study published in the November 2014 issue of Soil and Tillage Research, a team of researchers set out to test whether crop simulation models can identify the best farming practices to counter the effects of climate change. Traditional experiments are expensive and time consuming; given the limited resources available to researchers, modeling is seen as a viable way of ensuring that farmers in differing agricultural conditions have access to technologies that they can use.
CIMMYT, in partnership with the Instituto de Investigação Agronómica (IIA), the Angolan national agricultural research institute, is helping the country shift from using maize landraces to locally adapted materials.
Angola is rebuilding its infrastructure after a prolonged civil war that slowed down agricultural production. During the war, farmers could not access improved maize seed and relied on landraces. “After the war, they started shifting from the landraces to open-pollinated varieties (OPVs),” explained Peter Setimela, CIMMYT seed systems specialist. “Five years ago, there were no improved maize seeds in Angola. Now, we have some good OPVs and hybrids.”