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Engendering bigger impact: making the other half count
Thursday, 2015/02/05 | 08:32:02

CIAT 27 January, 2015 by Georgina Smith (comments)

 

Women account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries depending on the region.

 

Gelia Castillo has had her fair share of challenges as a female scientist. Now aged over 80, she remembers when, as one of the earliest pioneers of the social sciences in the patriarchal agricultural system, she was greeted by astonished colleagues: “Hello, but where is Dr. Castillo?”

 

And yet, decades later, according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, although women account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries depending on the region, they do not benefit equally from investment in agriculture.

 

Remarkable steps have been taken in investigating the inequalities that prevent poor rural women from realizing their full potential to improve farm productivity and manage natural resources. Those steps are being made by no less remarkable women and men, who believe in challenging power structures so that research responds to inequality.

 

Among them, Jacqueline Ashby, Senior Advisor on Gender and Research at the CGIAR Consortium, gathered at the annual meeting of the Gender and Agriculture Research Network at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines last week. At “the pit face” of gender research, Network members are working to change the way research is managed and funded for bigger impact.

 

Shifting the balance of power

 

It takes time, reflected members during the week’s discussions, which focused on key themes of capacity building, climate change, gender and plant and animal breeding and collecting sex disaggregated data.

 

“What we’re trying to do is change is behavior – culture – reminds Kathy Colverson, International Center Associate Director of Program Development at the University of Florida. “Cultures change very slowly, especially where power relations are concerned. It takes careful, shrewd planning and the ability to change and adapt as things change.”

Women’s control over natural resources such as land and water is crucial for more equitable agricultural production and natural resource management.

 

Improving social and economic returns on agriculture through new knowledge, technologies or practices developed by the CGIAR and partners, does alter the balance of power in gender relations. Yet women’s control over natural resources such as land and water – especially in the light of climate change and dwindling resources – is crucial for more equitable agricultural production and natural resource management.

 

Vicki Wilde, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Founder of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development career-development program, said: “We know that when women earn an income that they control, you will see more investment in food, and education needs within the household.” Research suggests, she notes, women are ten times more likely to invest their income in nutrition and education than men.

 

Breeding empowerment

 

That said, stereotypes need to be avoided. It shouldn’t be assumed that women only look for nutritious traits in a crop, it was discussed. “Women also want to make a profit and opportunity to turn a crop into something else,” noted Gordon Prain, gender and partnerships theme leader for the Roots, Tubers and Bananas Central Research Program.

 

For example, some women prefer growing rice varieties that are easier to pound to those which might be more nutritious. The labor required to process rice in those cases takes priority, a trait which should be combined among others for breeding purposes. Farmers usually have “a portfolio of varieties,” explains Prain, better suited to babies, livestock or certain seasons.

 

Increasing productivity is also not always about increasing economic opportunity – this has to be done within a set of cultural values and social context. Agricultural production involves beliefs and not just the target to maximize productivity – considerations which need to be fully understood and integrated in crop and livestock breeding programs.

 

- See more at: http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/2015/01/27/7830/#sthash.98uiRx2F.dpuf

 

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