Agricultural research is changing. In order to have a greater impact, research must be relevant to a greater variety of farmers in different contexts, while being both applicable and adaptable.
Ways must also be found to solve institutional constraints, which are very often beyond the researchers’ sphere of control. Policies can be changed to allow community seed production, better connections established between maize producers and traders, extension systems strengthened or willing agro-dealers found to commercialize new seeds.
By Frédéric Baudron, System Agronomist, CIMMYT
The goals of the Farm Power and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI) project are to address the issue of declining farm power in eastern and southern Africa, and reduce the labor burden that comes with low farm mechanization, by promoting small-scale mechanization based on two-wheel tractors. Farm power is particularly scarce for female-headed households (FHHs), who have limited access to human labor and often don’t own (or are culturally forbidden to operate) draft animals. FHHs are often the last households to access land preparation services, which leads to lower yields. Even in households headed by men, women supply most of the farm labor and perform highly labor-intensive tasks, such as weeding, threshing, shelling or transport of inputs and agricultural commodities to and from the market by head-loading.
The persistence of gender disparities in access to resources, markets and technologies, even after decades of research and interventions, calls for a gender transformative approach, says Paula Kantor, WorldFish Senior Gender Scientist and keynote speaker at the 12th Asian Maize Conference* to be held in Bangkok next October 2014.
Being ‘gender transformative’ means addressing the underlying causes of gender inequality in order to set the scene for the sustained achievement of positive agricultural development outcomes. It takes on the task of fostering community-led changes in unequal gender relations to promote shared power, control of resources and decision-making.
15 October 2014 marks the sixth celebration of the International Day of Rural Women, a United Nations (UN) day dedicated to recognizing “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” CIMMYT and the CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT acknowledge the importance of understanding and recognizing the important role of women in agriculture, and is committed to the inclusion and participation of women – especially rural women – in its research and programs.