Integrating women into the value chain
Many projects, including the ICRISAT-HOPE project, carry out agricultural research and develop technologies for adoption by farmers. However women and men may have different perspectives, different capacities and different needs-which may not be taken into account unless special attention is given to this. The project has recognized this and is making a big effort to understand the gender differences and use methods to specifically integrate women into the whole value chain that they are addressing for sorghum and millets.
Since it is an imperative that the needs and concerns of both women and men farmers are mainstreamed, the project has a dedicated set of activities around gender mainstreaming including having a gender specialist to assist in developing an action plan for the project, and provide training to the scientists on how to implement of the plan . The idea is to involve both women and men in all stages of the project cycle – from needs identification to the implementation of the project.
Between 27and 29 June 2011, ICRISAT scientists together with the National Agricultural Research & Extension Systems (NARES) partners from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, attended a gender training held in Nairobi, prescribed by the ICRISAT-HOPE Project Gender Action Plan of action that is expected to be carried out in all the three regions covered by the project – ESA, WCA and SA. The ESA training was conducted by Ms. Susan Bakesha, a gender specialist appointed by the project to help scientists in the mainstreaming of gender in the project activities. The objective of the training was to raise awareness and sensitize project staff and partners on issues of gender in agricultural research and technology dissemination. It was also an opportunity for the project staff to discuss the ICRISAT-HOPE Project Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan (GMAPs), and develop plans specific to each project objective.
What is gender mainstreaming?
Gender mainstreaming is about understanding the different needs and concerns of men, women and children in a project process and come up with appropriate interventions to attend to those needs. And the goal of gender mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality in the development processes.
In a discussion with Susan, she indicated that “scientists ought to use gender sensitive approaches in all stages of the project process, and engage both women and men, especially during technology selection, as the different genders have different needs”. “If you base your design on one side, you might end up developing technologies that are not appropriate for the other side,” she explains.
Susan Bakesha was pleasantly surprised by the response from the participants. “They are very active and enthusiastic about the gender mainstreaming process,” she said, adding that the scientists’ enthusiasm reflects their interest in integrating gender in the project activities. “My hope is that the process will not end here. I want to know that there is going to be implementation of the gender mainstreaming
action plans,” she added optimistically.
As the implementation of the project continues, scientists plan to continue enlisting participation of women in identifying crop varieties whose attributes meet their needs. They call this process participatory variety selection (PVS). The capacity of women farmers will be strengthened through training in seed production, agro-enterprises development, labor saving food processing and grain marketing activities.
One of the objectives of the project is to improve markets for sorghum and finger millet, thus stimulating the adoption of improved technologies by smallholder farmers. The scientists plan to continue promoting the participation of women in collective marketing and producer groups. The project will specifically work towards empowering women through training to enhance business and marketing skills and access market information through ICT tools. It is expected that during the project life, women farmers will be empowered and become key decision makers
from production to marketing of sorghum and finger millet.
Picture courtesy Christine Wangari (ICRISAT)