Agricultural research for development must foster deep, structural and systemic change in gender-based power relations
A provocative new article in the journal Development In Practice uses evidence from the global comparative research initiative GENNOVATE to make a powerful call for changing the way development researchers work to reach greater gender equity in agricultural innovations.
A diverse and inclusive agricultural framework can
be fostered by involving both women and men from different socioeconomic
backgrounds and age groups in agricultural innovation interventions. Such an
approach can ensure equitable access to resources while stimulating local
innovation and development outcomes. Achieving this aim is a complex task.
Gender-focused agricultural research for development can inform and streamline
A special issue of the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security comprises a set of six studies drawing on data collected for the GENNOVATE initiative – a CIMMYT-led, cross-CRP global comparative research initiative, part-funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE). The initiative gathered the perspectives and experiences of over 7000 women and men from diverse backgrounds and varied age groups in 137 rural communities across 26 countries during individual interviews, focus groups and community discussions. The special issue reveals a lot about what influences women’s and men’s agency and empowerment to utilize agricultural innovations to improve their livelihoods.
Central to the studies is the concept of gender
‘norms’ which are social rules surrounding women’s and men’s expected roles and
behaviors. Such ‘norms’ can influence a person’s ability to access,
adopt, adapt and benefit from innovations in agricultural and natural resource
Just in time for International Women’s Day, a series of videos have been published by the GENNOVATE initiative to raise awareness about and explore the interlinkages between gender norms, agency, and innovation in agriculture and natural resource management. The videos include stories of men and women from Mexico, Tanzania, and Nepal from the perspectives of local women and men themselves.
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.