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What is the role of agricultural research in bridging the gender gap?

Agricultural research plays major roles in bridging gender gaps. Agricultural research should occupy very important position to narrow and even eliminate the existing gender gap in agricultural sector. Failure to recognize the different contributions of men and women in agriculture is costly because it results in misguided projects and programs, forgone agricultural output and incomes, and food and nutrition insecurity. Ensuring that both men and women are heard in research and policy processes through meaningful representation in decision making and policy bodies, in management positions, in research and development is an important component of reducing gender inequalities.

Specifically, the role of agricultural research should:

  • Incorporate adequate gender analysis in the project/planning cycle(conception to evaluation)
  • adequate knowledge or capacity to understand gender issues should be developed/strengthened – collect, interprete and use gender disaggregated data
  • Use methodologies in research should capture and interprete genderissues
  • Instruments for data collection should integrate genderindicators
  • Provide adequate instituitional support for research on gender issues which should move beyond who, when and where.
  • Structure in terms of staffing (female to male ratio; more gender experts)
  • More gender savvy women should be adequately supported to assume and excel in research leadership position to influence policy
  • Provision of adequate incentives at the agricultural research level for gender consideration.

What are the implications of this gender gap, especially for women in subsistence agriculture?

The implications of gender gap, especially for women in subsistence agriculture is that women and most probably their households would be perpetually trapped in poverty and food insecurity.



How have these realities been integrated into interventions and projects to reduce the gender gap in agricultural productivity and address the challenges of subsistence agriculture?

Gender issues in agriculture is becoming more prominent in recent times, projects and interventions are becoming conscious of the related and the attendant gender gap that exist in agricultural sector among others. There is a need to be more affirmative and transformative in their approach. Some of the issues to consider is that are project and interventions addressing the issues of gender gap the right way? Are such interventions and projects just speaking gender language and paying lip services to narrowing gender gaps? are gender issues treated as cross cutting issues without ‘crossing any issues’? Do gender issues have separate budgets in such projects and interventions without lumping the issues of gender together with other issues ’preferred’ has most relevant? Who is accountable or should be held responsible to address narrowing gender gap? Are the implementers of such projects and intervention gender savvy? Etc. it is when such projects and interventions can correctly answer the listed questions correctly and many more, then we can they may likely be addressing the issues of gender gap and their positions in addressing the challenges of subsistence agriculture.

How should the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy; through its flagship initiatives and programmes be used to reduce the gender gap in agricultural productivity and support a strong foundation for Africa’s agricultural transformation?

Strategic targeting capacity strengthening/utilization of partners (in application of gender concepts in programs and projects, accountability framework at all levels and especially at the Directors’ level and ensuring gender budgeting from the beginning of each project and interventions so that gender will not be an add on).

To ensure more commitment, the programme should:

  • Employ a qualified gender expert who is very gender savvy to manage the gender component and portfolio of the project
  • Lay more emphasis on the crucial importance of affirmative, transformative targeting and strong periodic and constant monitoring and evaluation.
  • Document approaches used for participatory research and gender analysis in order to apply good practices to accelerate learning and adaptation of methods for farmer led participation
  • Design, disseminate and utilize gender strategy and policy with specific Africa gender marker code for the performance evaluation of AfDB and its partners.
  • Enhance capacity of AfDB members to undertake gender responsive research actions that address gender related problems
  • Enhance the M&E capacities of partners to monitor the outputs and outcomes of mainstreaming gender in ARD.
  • Establish and strengthen linkages between gender agricultural research and extension to address and close the gender gaps identified by various members of AfDB.
  • Strengthen the partnerships with various institutions working on gender and development to influence external constraints outside the agricultural domain affecting achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • Support and monitor the AfDB members to plan, implement operational budget of at least 20%- 35% of its budget should be for gender focused actions.
  • Collaborate and partner with donors who have commitment for financing gender and agriculture.
  • Management and coordination responsibility (up to executive director) should be held responsible and accountable to gender issues
  • Building capacity of partners and staffin gender mainstreaming competences.



How does the gender gap in agricultural productivity occur and why?

Gender gap occur in agricultural productivity because there are consistent gender disparities in access to and benefits from agricultural proceeds and assets such as tangible and non-tangible agricultural assets such as land, new agricultural technologies and are less likely to use agricultural inputs. This is because of lack of money to access assets such as non-family land. These constraints set limitations on the depth of involvement of women in agricultural production and practices. Men made decisions on the allocation of type of land, type of crops to grow and could easily reclaim land given to spouses especially if such land is seen to be very fertile. There is power imbalance in decision making over assets the agricultural household perpetrated by culture, local customs and religion beliefs where women are seen as supportive farm hands (not recognized as ‘serious’ farmers), providing cheap agricultural family labour with little or no remuneration. The identity of who a farmer is by researchers, agricultural extension agents and farmers themselves constitutes wrong interpretation of gender to be a feminist concept and therefore misinterpretation on who constitute, who should benefit or can be identified as a farmer is positively skewed to men.

Ownership and control of agricultural assets is positively skewed to men who make final decisions on assets owned by women and those jointly owned due to culture, inability to be formally educated (women) and religion misinterpretations.

Women are considered as economic asset by spouse in farm households and only have right of use and negotiation privileges over agricultural assets and give most credence to the household heads (men). Societal expectations and beliefs is that a woman admitting and ceding ownership and control of resources to her spouse is securing the future of her children (male) who will later inherit the agricultural assets. Men have access to extension services on crops that have economic and commercial importance and women have access to information on domestic issues. Men owned mechanized farm implements and women owned simple and local implements such as hoes and cutlasses.

Continued promotion of subsistence agriculture for women famers in African regions is giving wrong impression that smallholder farmers of which women are in the majority is wrong and perpetrating poverty and feeling of helplessness. Most times, agricultural extension messages are packaged with different contents for men and women. Men are particularly taught on cash crops and women on food crops. Women are mostly not given options to choose preferred crops to cultivate. Also, women farmers do not benefit fully from existing channels for technology dissemination particularly when access to these channels conflict with their household responsibilities.

There is little resultant change or support from the mainstream agricultural advisory services for women compared to the gender specific agricultural services received by men. The need to develop suitable extension services that is gender specific and tailored to women farmers cannot be over emphasized. Success stories of women farmers who have used their environmental conditions to overcome poverty are rarely captured or documented. These players are not given incentives at the grassroots to share their success stories and mentor other smallholder farmers.

Women’s role in agriculture has increased but they have strong constraint to develop into large scale production or key totally into and benefit maximally from opportunities that agricultural formalized markets offer. Over the last few decades, women have broadened and deepened their involvement in agriculture in many developing countries. They increasingly shoulder the responsibility for household survival and respond to economic opportunities in commercial agriculture with many constraints. This happens as rapid changes in the agricultural sector in many parts of the world makes smallholder production less viable and men therefore to a high degree, migrate into other sectors and away from the rural areas, leaving women to take responsibility for the farms and take over also men’s tasks such as land preparation and cash crop production. However, as this is happening and changing the roles of women in agriculture rapidly; there have been almost no changes in the women’s access to agricultural services, credits, inputs and technologies and the result is therefore re-enforcing the problems of low productivity and difficulty in producing adequate food on the smallholder farms.

There is gender gap in participation in and benefits from agricultural markets. Though, women participate in agricultural markets, they are more prominent in the local and informal markets where prices of agricultural produce are controlled and dictate by market forces. The volume of traded goods at local and doorsteps markets are not large enough to make meaningful impact for women compared to the volume of sale made by their male counterparts who have better access to information on prices and marketing systems through their intensive marketing networks in formal and contractual markets at domestic, regional and international markets where prices are stable, better negotiated and formalized. Women also lack important information on prices for marketing systems which is often provided by extension agents who have little more interactions with men more than women.

Again, men and women are impacted differently by technologies and other interventions: Many agricultural projects still fail to consider the basic questions of differences in the resources, status of men and women, their roles and responsibilities and the potential impacts of interventions on these. Often there is an assumption that as long as there are improved technologies or interventions, they will benefit men and women equally when in fact they are usually not. Men and women are also impacted differently by and have a role to play in managing emerging threats, shocks and seasonality such as climate change, family members getting sick and women need to stay back to nurse them to good health rather than working in their farms and urban-rural migration that takes men away from farming to a more formal and diversified incoming generating livelihood opportunities (this leaves women to be overworked and heavily burdened with multi-tasks on and off-farm to cater for the household alone)that may result into backlash for women and others.

Also, men are not seen as strong and partners for advocacy or those who will start challenging societal orthodoxies in gender gap. They are presently seen as strange bed fellows. It is not enough to empower women, the question at the back of our minds is to ask that who owns and controls the owner of the wallet (in African context), are men involved, considered and carried along at the grass roots to help narrow gender gap?! This consideration could mean a win-win situation for projects and interventions where transformative approach of players playing together and proffering answers to how problems can be solved is ensured.