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.’
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.
CSISA 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.
Capable of being grown on sloping fields, without need for terracing or irrigation, maize is a vital crop in the mid-hills of Nepal, particularly among poorer families and disadvantaged groups. It accounts for 20 percent of calorie intake in the country, and is typically grown in small fields (average land holding in the hills is half a hectare) by families who spend 75 percent of their income on food. Harsh climate, poor infrastructure and market access, and worsening shortages of labor, are just some of the challenges they face, with crop yields also constrained by poor access to a supply of quality seed. In recent years, however, work by the Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP) is helping to address these constraints and have a positive impact on farm productivity.
“We’re in charge. Women know very well how to farm here,” explained patiently a young woman from San Gabriel de las Molinas, a hillside village three hours west of Mexico City where maize is critical to local livelihoods. Part of a focus group discussion that CRP MAIZE was facilitating, the woman was directly challenging a question suggesting that the village men were more productive farmers than the women. Indeed, this was not an ordinary focus group about local farming. This was part of the first pilot exercise to get the data collection tools ready for exploring gender norms and capacities for agricultural innovation in potentially 60 other villages around the world.