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Experts set minimum standards for gender equity in agricultural research for development


Photo credit: CIAT/Neil Palmer.

Last week, while leaders of CGIAR research program were meeting with donors and partners in Montpellier, France, to discuss progress and directions for their programs, gender specialists in agricultural research for development were also meeting in this Mediterranean coastal city. The gender experts came from the CGIAR Consortium, centres and programs, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank and universities. They described their successes and challenges in setting a tighter focus on gender equity, shared useful methods and proposed minimum standards for high-quality research in gender and agriculture.

Among the achievements the assembled gender experts described are:

  • including women’s preferences for rice varieties and traits in breeding trials leading to the production of new rice varieties in the Philippines
    by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • mainstreaming gender in collaborative forest management to give women and other marginalized groups opportunities to drive change in Uganda
    by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • release in 2012 of a Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index used to determine a ‘disempowerment gap’ between men and women and now tested in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda
    by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Kathleen Colverson, a senior gender scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya, said capacity development is one of four outputs the gender strategy of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish is working towards. The Livestock and Fish gender working group works with internal and external partners to identify gaps in gender capacity and facilitate use of gender analysis tools and approaches to increase gender equity within livestock and fish value chains.

Before joining ILRI, Colverson conducted gender mainstreaming workshops in many countries and in recent months she has facilitated workshops for the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, which ILRI leads, in Thailand, the Philippines and East Africa for professionals working in agricultural research, agricultural extension agents and some university professors.

Building awareness of how gender is involved in all aspects of the livestock production value chain is as critical to ensuring gender equitable interventions as is integrating gender into projects from their inception.’ — Kathy Colverson, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

It’s now well understood that new seeds and practices in agriculture must increase food security and income for women just as much as for men if we are to successfully reduce rural poverty. So understanding how gender relations can help or hinder that from happening has to be a routine part of how we develop those innovations.’ — Jacqueline Ashby, CGIAR senior advisor on gender and research

In this meeting, the participants identified a minimum set of survey questions that researchers must include in their household or individual questionnaires if they claim to be addressing gender. They also agreed on basic standards that must be met for qualitative and participatory methods. A set of common standards, they say, will not only ensure the quality of gender research but also allow researchers to scale and draw broader lessons from their work across studies. This, they believe, will be especially helpful for CGIAR research programs as they implement gender strategies across diverse regions.

Markus Goldstein, of the World Bank, said that one of the big opportunities to improve gender equality in agriculture is to understand how new technologies can improve women’s control over their own time. ‘Yet it’s often considered too expensive to interview a woman as well as the male head of household in a survey even though we know this causes serious underestimation of the staggering amount of unpaid work women do in agriculture. We need to hold ourselves accountable for not cutting corners like this.’

We’ve done good diagnostic research. Now it’s time to do research in a way in which we will have more impact. Our questions need to be driven by communities’ needs.’ — Patti Kristjanson, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

More information
This post is taken from reports on a Methods and Standards for Research on Gender and Agriculture Workshop, which took place in Montpellier in mid-June 2013.

Read the whole articles on the CGIAR Consortium website: Showcasing success; CGIAR gender research, 26 June 2013, and No cutting corners; methods and standards for research on gender and agriculture, 21 Jun 2013.

Read the CGIAR Consortium Level Gender Strategy, 2011.

Read more gender and agriculture posts on

Read a related recent post on the ILRI News Blog: Keepers of the flame: Women livestock keepers, 3 Jun 2013.

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