Challenging our built-in gender bias

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.

Danielsen and WongCarried 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.’

Models can help farmers decide how to adapt to climate change

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.

Angola: Shifting from landraces to improved maize varieties

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.

Angola2Angola 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.”

Spreading the gift of knowledge among women farmers in Bihar, India

Kisan Sakhi, meaning “a woman farmer friend,” is an initiative jointly started by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the Bihar Mahila Samakhya (Indian government program on women’s equality) that aims to disseminate new climate-resilient and sustainable farming technologies and practices to help empower women farmers in Bihar. Six areas have been identified – Bochaha, Bandra, Aurai, Gai Ghat, Musahri and Kudhni – in the district Muzaffarpur for the pilot work.

CKisan Sakhi members Bihar IndiaSISA has introduced new technologies to more than 300 Kisan Sakhi members such as improved weed management, intercropping in maize, intensification of cropping systems with summer green gram, machine transplanting of rice under non-puddled conditions and management of community nurseries. CSISA also aims to support champion women farmer entrepreneurs, who could deliver custom hire services for community nurseries and machine transplanting.