Researcher Alejandro Ramirez records the life experience of a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Sam Storr/CIMMYT
With its twisted cables and flickering computer screens, the room commandeered by the GENNOVATE study team at the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City looks more like a Silicon Valley hackathon than what most would understand as gender research. Yet up on the main screen, questions are being asked of around 8,000 participants as part of a global gender study.
It is often a mystery why a new agricultural technology or practice can be successful in one community yet fail to have the desired effect in another. Social expectations of how men and women should behave may affect their ability to adopt or benefit from such innovations.
By Brenda Wawa and Johnson Siamachira
For International Women’s Day 2016, CIMMYT and MAIZE celebrate women farmers in Africa, who through their resilience, bravery and commitment have weathered challenges in maize farming to put food on the table. These women contribute to enhancing agricultural growth and food security.
Valeria and her daughters and part of their bountiful maize harvest from ‘ngamia’ seed.
Photographer: CIMMYT/Brenda Wawa
An international team of CGIAR researchers will delve deeply into the causes of gender disparity in the agricultural sector with a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This grant adds to the investments of 11 CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), the Government of Mexico; the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); the World Bank and the CGIAR consortium office, to support an international collaborative research initiative known as “GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation.” The project is engaging gender and social development specialists with 11 CRPs to identify practical actions which can strengthen the ability of agricultural research for development organizations to support poor rural women, men and youth to expand their power and capacity to access, take up and benefit from improved agricultural and natural resource management technologies and practices.
When designing and implementing agricultural development projects, it is difficult to ensure that they are responsive to gender dynamics. For Mulunesh Tsegaye, a gender specialist attached to two projects working on the areas of nutrition and mechanization in Ethiopia, participatory approaches are the best way forward.
“I have lived and worked with communities. If you want to help a community, they know best how to do things for themselves. There are also issues of sustainability when you are not there forever. You need to make communities own what has been done in an effective participatory approach,” she said.