The past decade has seen a renewed and more comprehensive interest in gender equality and women’s empowerment in agricultural development. This drive has created a unique opportunity to advance gender equality and institutionalize gender research within agricultural research for development (AR4D) organizations. A new book, “Advancing Gender Equality through Agricultural and Environmental Research: Past, Present, and Future,” has been released as part of this overall drive and the growing body of evidence and ideas generated.
The book highlights the over 30 years of history and wealth of gender knowledge by over 55 gender researchers from CGIAR and partners, including IITA. The book will help discover how agricultural and environmental research and development contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment. For CGIAR, this is an opportune moment to take stock of progress and articulate a forward-looking agenda for future gender research with gender equality and women’s empowerment at the center.
The book was launched in a virtual meeting organized by IFPRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM). During the launch, the moderator, Frank Place, Director of CGIAR Research Program on PIM at IFPRI, stated that the book is timely as its insights are indispensable for the One CGIAR’s aim to contribute to the ambitious gender equality targets. He added that the book indicates a shift away from a typical instrumentalist outlook focused on how gender analysis can contribute to research objectives, such as improved productivity.
Co-editors and authors, CGIAR Senior Expert and Advisor Rhiannon Pyburn and Senior Associate Anouka Van Eerdewijk, both from KIT Royal Tropical Institute, gave an overview of the book. Pyburn mentioned that the book began with an idea from the second scientific conference in 2018. She further shared details of the book’s three sets of thematic chapters: technical research topics that have integrated gender; research themes where gender integration is pivotal like nutrition, climate change, and agriculture; and gender-specific themes such as women empowerment.
Eerdewijk added that one central point made in the book is the importance of being explicit and comprehensive in conceptualizing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In her presentation, RTB CIP Gender Research Coordinator Vivian Polar shared insights from Chapter 2, “Examining choice to advance gender equality in breeding research,” which she co-authored. She said the chapter focused on how breeding research can promote gender equality. “Technological options available to women are usually not in line with their needs and priorities. Hence, for empowerment to happen, people must have the option to choose,” she said.
Iliana Monterroso Ibarra, Co-Coordinator of Gender and Social Inclusion Research, CIFOR, shared from Chapter 6, “A gender-natural resources tango: Water, land and forest research.” She mentioned that the chapter analyzes the theoretical work that led to major shifts in policy discourse- such as shifts from management to governance, recognizing plurality and diversity, and focusing on intersectional inequalities, which is strongly influenced by political ecology scholarship. “The chapter highlights how it is no longer possible to conceive Natural Resources Management (NRM) initiatives without taking equality or inclusion into account,” she said.
Cynthia McDougall, Senior Research Fellow- Gender, Environment and Development, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), spoke about chapter 10, “Toward structural change: gender transformative approaches (GTA).” She mentioned that the chapter shows the need for a change in approach as gender approaches in agriculture, NRM, and other areas, leading to gender equality, is not doing well enough. “Not a single country is set to achieve gender equality by 2030; hence there is a need for change in approach,” she said.
Susan Kaaria, Senior Gender Officer, Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division at FAO, also shared her thoughts on the book. Kaaria stated that the book offers an opportunity to change and reframe the global debate on gender equality. She highlighted two things that should be put in place for the book to influence the future agenda for gender: First, the need to widely disseminate the book so that it influences practice; second, ensuring that this innovative thinking influences global and national policy debate.
Jemimah Njuki, Director for Africa at IFPRI, another discussant, said a major contribution of the book is that it defines the partnership that people have to build in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment as a goal. She added that another interesting thing is the evolution of the scope of research, moving from the thought of what women’s roles are to transformative change. “This is a fundamental shift in CGIAR gender research,” she said.
Concluding the event, the moderator mentioned that CGIAR is already recognized as a powerhouse in gender research. He added that CGIAR is working as a system and with other partners engaged in gender research in various capacities. “We are positioning ourselves to become a stronger voice on gender in the future,” Place said.
IITA gender scientists contributed to four chapters of this book. Béla Teeken co-authored chapter 2, Sounkoura Adetonah contributed to Chapter 4, Steven Michael Cole contributed to chapter 9, and Gundula Fischer co-authored chapter 10.