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On Rural Women’s Day, 15 October 2019, CRP-GLDC celebrates the indomitable spirit, resilience and conviction of smallholder rural women. It also heralds the launch of the newsletter Gender Research in the Drylands, with its rich content on how CRP-GLDC together with its partners empowers rural women.

Esther Njuguna-Mungai, Gender CO-Ordinator, CRP-GLDC

Esther Njuguna-Mungai, Gender CO-Ordinator, CRP-GLDC

As we celebrate the international day of Rural Women in 2019, the Gender team is excited to launch an inaugural newsletter based on ‘Gender Research in the CRP-GLDC’. We create this space to share stories of process, impacts and outcomes in the research work that is implemented by Gender Researchers in the CGIAR Centre’s and partners that are members of the consortium implementing 4 flagship projects of the CRP-GLDC. The work that will be reported in this newsletter will include gender research activities implemented by the CRP-GLDC as well as bilateral projects that are mapped to the CRP-GLDC.

The theme of the 2019 International Rural Women’s Day is: sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and empowerment of the rural women. We have reviewed the activities that are being implemented in the CRPGLDC that contribute directly or indirectly to this theme. We share on two pieces of research work that illustrate our commitment to empowerment of rural women in the drylands by contributing to creating structures and services that expand the room for maneuver and lead to benefits and ultimately to various pathways of empowerment.

Gender research in the GLDC program is anchored on two theories, among others: the theory of access and the theory of intersectionality. We have a short article that gives a sneak pre-view to the understanding available in literature about these two theories. We then share an inspiring story of how the Ethiopia Agricultural Researchers, in collaboration with TLIII/GLDC created structures to enable access to technologies, challenging intersecting negative factors on chickpea farming by rural women – specifically widows – in the Rural Ethiopian landscapes where chickpea is an important crop. We then share a story of how the CRP-GLDC is supporting capacity building for young researchers in an interdisciplinary environment. The CRP is investing in the future of gender research – creating structures and enabling capacities of young scientists both social scientists and agricultural economists to grow their experiences and outlook on gender research and integration to other disciplines – seed systems and breeding. We believe they are transformed in their research implementation approaches and will lead to empowering outcomes for women and men in the drylands rural landscapes or any other environments where their careers lead them in the future. We conclude this newsletter by sharing about the youth engagement strategy we are designing in the CRP-GLDC and some of the snippets of findings are starting to emerge

Congratulations to all the rural women in the drylands, whose resilience and commitment continues to give hope and provision to the people, the livestock, the environmental elements in the rural dryland landscapes as well as the all those that are linked to the dryland value chains.

Congratulations again global rural women,

Sustainable infrastructure and services for rural women: What theories guide our work in the CRP-GLDC?

Access is a term that is used in most daily conversations, in formal and informal settings. It’s a term that has application across many contexts, situations and scales. The use of the term access sends different signals for different audiences, especially when conjoined with negative or positive descriptors e.g. enhanced access to services or declined access to inputs. Access has been used as a measure of progress (or lack thereof) for many development activities. It’s a term that either brings joy or not very joyful emotions depending on the situation. It can be used with other words to demarcate boundaries for conversation and intellectual exchange: for example education access or access to markets or access to financial credit. Two scientists1 wrote a paper in 2002 in the Journal of Rural Sociology that have helped us understand access broadly and as a theory. In the paper they defined access as a the ability “to derive benefits from things’’. Access, following this definition is likened to “a bundle of powers” that includes a wider range of social relationships that constrain or enable benefits from resource use. ‘Access to technologies’ is one of the most common phrases I hear in conversations I engage in with breeders, with seed specialists and all the persons that deal with agricultural

value chains. How do we ensure rural women have ‘access to technologies’ become a central area of conversation for gender researchers. As we delve into solving the access challenges, another term starts becoming truly important: Intersectionality! It may not be a very common term like access, unless one has been doing social justice and equity work where it’s an integral and common in the lingo. Intersectionality theory conceptualizes a reality where a social issue is affected/impacted by a set of factors (e.g. age, class, gender, race, education level among other identity markers), that are independent and yet overlapping – each with impact that results in complexities of outcomes. In understanding the sustainable infrastructure and services for rural women, we propose that it is essential to understand access as informed by various intersecting factors of means, relations and processes that enable various actors, and especially rural women, to benefits from access to resources or technologies. In our examples, we present the broad issue of ‘technology access as we focus on access to quality seeds of improved chickpea as well as agronomic knowledge, in a complex social economic setting in rural Ethiopia, where intersecting issues become part of the challenge and also the solution.

Sustainable infrastructure and services for rural women widows growing chickpeas in A’daa district, Ethiopia.

The Challenge

This story is an account of the ‘structures’ that the scientists2 at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) at Debre Zeit employed to deal with a challenge they were facing: low women participation in the Tropical Legumes III project3 organized activities. Tropical Legumes III project required each project implementer to ensure that they reached and impacted (benefited, empowered) at least 30% women among their beneficiaries. Farmers were expected to participate in ‘participatory varietal selection’ (PVS) activities – farm level forums that allowed male and female farmers to have a voice in choices made about what legume varieties the program prioritized and developed. It was Intersecting Categories Multi-level Analysis Gender Reflexivity Time and Space Diverse Knowldedge Social Justice Equity Guiding Principles of Intersectionality -Based Research hoped that in this farm level forums, the special needs of women in the chickpea varietal characteristics would be highlighted. But the women would not show up for the PVS forums. The teams designed incentives that allowed participating men to come to the meetings with their wives and still, the women didn’t show up for the forums. The frustrating point in this process, the scientists would witness women playing a role in the chickpea fields – land preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting, transportation, threshing, processing – when they visited the fields in the Ethiopian country side. Indeed, there are documentations in science that women in Ethiopia make up about half of the labour force. Their contribution to agriculture in general are plentiful and in chickpea specifically, it was high. Chickpea is the 3rd most important food legume in Ethiopia, both in area and production area. Chickpea is an excellent source for proteins. It was not only important that science knowledge is shared with women chickpea farmers, it was indeed strategic if rural communities were to improve their use of high quality seeds of improved chickpea varieties leading to higher production and greater impacts on nutrition and income. But: the women were not showing up at the training venues.

The opportunity

Women Chickpea farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: R. Gitundu, ICRISAT.

Women Chickpea farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: R. Gitundu, ICRISAT.

The question of low women participation in chickpea production trainings continued to be a challenge for the chickpea breeding program and a dedicated gender research study was commissioned in 2015. Insights4 into a strong patriarchal social arrangement in rural households emerged out of the study, where the ‘image of a good wife’ who doesn’t spend time away from home emerged as a key factor that kept women away from the trainings. Short radius of movement and short time away from home meant that married women wouldn’t be able to attend trainings away from home. Their husbands would most probably attend the meetings on behalf of the family and so negotiating for the women to attend instead was a challenge to the power relations in the house. The labour needs for productive and reproductive activities that were main responsibility of the rural women meant a time poverty on the women’s side. That the agents in the delivery of the PVS trainings being ‘predominantly male’ was also another challenge and because married women value harmony at home, they didn’t want to be accused of interacting with ‘other men’ outside of their homes. The husbands were more likely to represent the women at the PVS trainings. Because of the strong patriarchal social norms and practices that influence household relations in A’daa, married women were subjected to more customary barriers to public participation.

Mr Girma Nigsie, Chickpea Breeder with the Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research during a field visit. Photo: G.Waithira, ICRISAT.

Mr Girma Nigsie, Chickpea Breeder with the Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research
during a field visit. Photo: G.Waithira, ICRISAT.

The break came in an interesting way. The chickpea breeding program was sponsoring the bureau of agriculture (Ministry of Agriculture in many countries) to do extension work with farmer groups and the program leader imposed a criteria that only those (bureau agents) that had women groups would be supported. It was a gamble and considering the social relations in rural A’daa district, the researchers were wondering if this gamble would lead to an opportunity or it would be a killer. To unlock the release of the funding, the bureau officers had to navigate the rural social landscape and they soon realized it would be difficult to negotiate the attendance of the married women. As a last and almost desperate resort, the Bureau officers somehow managed to get a ‘women group’ together, but with an interesting twist: all the women were single [either widows, unmarried or divorce]. For purposes of sharing this story we shall identify them as ‘single women’ henceforth. That the selected women were single for this experiment was strange, almost interesting, but from the research done earlier not surprising; these category of women would be able to participate in chickpea PVS activities without long consultation, decision making process and potential backlash at the household compared to married women. While these first huddle was jumped (women group formation), no one was sure that this would be a good idea, not even the female researchers at Debre Zeit ZARC were enthusiastic about this experiment. The lead scientist said,

my female colleagues were laughing at me, they were asking why I had to do this, what did I expect to achieve with these women’. Chickpea breeder, DZARC, 2019.

The chickpea program cautiously started planning training activities for the ‘singles women’ group and involving them in agronomic knowledge sharing and seed production activities, since 2016. In two and a half years, positive impacts have been observed among the single women, not only in terms of chickpea production, utilization of high quality seeds of improved chickpea varieties, participation in production of high quality seeds of improved chickpea varieties and income generation. There were also shifts and flexing of attitudes and cultural norms restricting women participation not only among the ‘women folk’ abut also among the ‘men folk’ in the community as well as among the development practitioners.

Early impacts of single women participation 

Interviewing a Chickpea Farmer in Ethiopia. Photo: G.Waithira, ICRISAT

Interviewing a Chickpea Farmer in Ethiopia. Photo: G.Waithira, ICRISAT

A study was commissioned to assess the early impacts of this intervention in 20195 and a team designed two tools for early impacts assessment interviews – the outcome harvesting approach6 and the ladder of life and freedom7 approach. Three categories of farmers were interviewed: i. the program participating single women; ii. male farmers living with or near the single women, before and after the program, and iii. married women living with or near the single women. While the outcome harvesting results are indicative of progress in terms of chickpea production improvement and expansion of economic opportunities for the single women and their families, this article focuses on the improvements reported on the ladder of life and freedom tool.

The single women’s capacities ‘unlocked’ to everyone’s surprise!

The single women group took advantage of their training to believe in themselves and their own abilities. They received training on appropriate agronomic practices and also received 35kgs high quality seeds of improved chickpea varieties each as the initial investment of a seed revolving initiative. They planted their seed, supervised the work done on their farms and grew chickpeas resulting to an average of 1 ton per ha. With the improved yields, they sold grain and generated income that they re-invested in different family needs. Fifty percent of the women interviewees 8 explained that at the beginning of their participation in the program, they would place themselves at the lowest step of a 5-step-ladder (invincibility in the community, difficulties in accessing formal services without the help/support of men, low levels of crop, production, children not going to school, poor housing), but after 2 years, they had progressed to the 3rd or 4th step on the ladder (improved their production levels, used high quality seed, became seed producers, generated own income, took children back to good schools) and all in the village, including the men and the development agents took notice. Women in the program soon became decision makers around issues such as land utilization, chickpea varieties to plant as well as how to use the produce realized. The single women now have a new identity of ‘teachers’ and role models. They were being consulted by their village mates on how to grow chickpeas successfully. Since they had seeds of improved varieties, other farmers were getting seeds from them. At any public meetings, they were given opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in chickpea seeds and production. They also got positions such as secretaries in farmer mixed gender farmers. They were also involved in activities with other development organizations implementing activities in their regions. In one of the villages, one women shared the transformation in social relations and said,

‘….since we started working with DZARC and became successful, whenever we walk into a farmers’ gathering in this village, other farmers ‘stand up to welcome us’, including the men, which is the highest level of respect in our village….. before, no one recognized us….’. (Program participating woman in a Female FGD t in Gende Gorba village, August 2019)

While sharing his experience in working with the ‘single women’ with the impacts assessment team, the lead breeder in retrospect said:

‘ In two and a half years, I have attained impacts that I never attained in 15 years working with male heads of households in the same villages……’ Chickpea breeder, DZARC, August, 2019.

1 Ribot, Jesse C.; Peluso, Nancy Lee. Rural Sociology, v68 n2 p153-181 Jun 2003
2 Acknowledgments: Mr Girma Nigusie, Ms Wubishet Chiche. Dr Asnake Fikre, Dr Chris Ojiewo, Dr Mekasha Chichebyalu, and the entire
Chickpea breeding and seed systems program at Debre Zeit ZARC.
4 Njuguna et al, 2016. Exploration of cultural norms and practices influencing women’s participation in chickpea participatory varietal selection training activities: A case study of Ada’a and Ensaro districts, Shewa Region, Ethiopia Vol 1, Issue 3, pp 40-63, 2016
5 Acknowledging the participation of Mr Nigusie Girma, Truayinet Mekuriaw, Almaz Meseret, Woginie Birhanie, Nega Gebre, Dereje Mengistu, Aderaw Tiruayinet, Rachel Gitundu, Isaiah Okuku, Phillip Miriti Geoffrey Murichi, Chris Ojiewo and Esther Njuguna-Mungai for critical inputs at different stages of the study.
6 Outcome harvesting is a method that enables identification, formulation, verification, and assessment of outcomes. It is a method that looks at outcomes as a change in the behavior, relationships, actions, activities, policies, or practices of an individual, group, community, organization, or institution (Wilson-Grau & Britt, 2013). Further, it is a learning-focused evaluation method that explores the cause and effect relationships underlying outcomes (positive and negative, intended and unintended).
7 The ladder of life and freedom on the other hand, is a focus group tool conducted with poor women and men to explore their understandings and interpretations of the different wellbeing groups and the poverty trend in their community, and the key factors and processes seen to shape these dynamics (Ladder & Ladder, 2018). Asking a before and after question for ones placement on the ladder helps visualize progress.
8 The program had 126 women in total identified by the bureau, but only 98 managed to embark on training activities. On this number, 24 were randomly sampled for the early impacts interviews. They were interviewed along 23 married women and 28 men in the same locations.

‘Can our wives participate too?’ Norms have shifted among the men.

When the project first started, men did not see any value in women participating in any public activities including trainings and they instituted norms that prevented their wives from public participation. Two years after the participation of the single women, they witnessed a difference. Women who participated in trainings were making their own income, instead of lending their land out, they were renting land in to expand production. Women were investing in oxen for draught power at the farm. The men of A’daa village had witnessed single women demonstrate their personal agency and successfully transform their families’ lives. Men started realizing that

‘…keeping our wives home meant they were not doing much to generate income anyway, but they end up demanding a lot from us – men…‘…Male Focus group discussion respondent from Gende Gorba, August, 2019.’

Norms are flexible and can change! For the first time in the history of the community, the men were asking for the incorporation of their wives into the next phase of the program. They cited the independence gained by the single program implementing women who, have activities to run outside the home, who were generating income, being self-sufficient and not dependent on the men for provision. The men had witnessed the single women’s families improve as they managed big tasks like constructing brick-house or sending their children to district level schools. Norms had flexed in the village. Men praised the single implementing women from their villages; they talked of the women being very hardworking and meticulous in the way they handled their farm work. Particularly, these women were admired for how they would be in their fields from morning to evening supervising implementation of field activities. To the surprise of the evaluating team, some men admitted that the commitment shown by these single women was even more than what the men do. The program will continue to monitor the trends of the participation of married women.

I can take visitors to the ‘singles women’s farms’: declares  the bureau officers!

Evaluation of the Bureau agents’ work is usually based on the performance of their farmer beneficiaries. To hedge against risk of failure by the farmers, the bureau agents traditionally skewed their selection of farmer participants that systematically avoided the single women’s participation. They didn’t have confidence that single women could learn and implement what they learnt without the help of the men. They would therefore seek out men heads of households. Since most of the Bureau agents were men, it was easier to navigate the social cultural norms by interacting with the male heads of households and avoiding the married women and the single women. When there were visitors to be guided to farms, they would also consciously keep selecting farms where the men were heading the households. When the chickpea program insisted on getting the women group, the bureau agents reluctantly identified the single women in the community, not sure what the results of this exercise would be. After two and a half years, the bureau agents shared with the evaluation team that ‘they can confidently take any visitors to a single woman’s farm’. They have witnessed that women can attain success in farming given the opportunity. The bureau agents have acknowledged their conscious and unconscious biases against single women in the communities where they serve.

In the CRP-GLDC we acknowledge this example that demonstrates that factors of access and intersectionality needs to be challenges, on step at a time, if we are to attain sustainable infrastructure and services for rural women in all spheres of work.

 The GLDC- Gender Internship Program

University training doesn’t always prepare a graduate for the challenges of field integration of disciplines that is required in the field. In CRP GLDC, we have designed an internship program to encourage an interest in Gender Research for social scientists (sociology, anthropologists) and agricultural economists. The program has the following characteristics: The participants are young graduates at Msc level. The participants are both men and women. We also ensure that they get joint assignments that creates an opportunity of negotiating best tools and approaches from across disciplines. After 12 months of participation in the program, we asked Isaiah, Rachel and Phillip to share their personal experiences.

Okuku, Isaiah Odhiambo Junior Economist,  The Natioal Treasury, Government of Kenya.

Okuku, Isaiah Odhiambo Junior Economist,  The Natioal Treasury, Government of Kenya.

During my internship at the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), I did acquire quite a number of benefits. One that stands out is the importance of qualitative research method. Being a quantitative research oriented person, I have learnt that qualitative approach allows a researcher to drive deep insights that can hardly be measured through quantitative approach. Some of these insights relate to personal opinions, beliefs, and suggestions. Observing the tenets of collecting, handling and analyzing qualitative data is as vital as the final output of the research. The other important thing that I have learnt is the need to consider the aspect of gender (where gender implies men, women, youth-men and women, and children) when carrying a research project or any other development-related project within a society. This is important because having diverse but coherent opinions, thoughts, suggestions, personal perception contribute to the quality and symmetry of information gathered, and allow everyone to benefit from the project. Last but least, it is interesting to learn how young people transition to adulthood. The aspirations they have and how these aspirations are shaped by challenges and opportunities within their environment. Finally, the opportunity has widened my social capital. I have interacted and established networks with a number of professionals in the research community, especially those in the gender research field, who have shaped me and made me think broadly and appreciate the place of men, women and youth in our society.

The knowledge that I have gained through the internship will allow me grow in my career. One key thing I do truly take to the government is the importance of gender aspect in any community project. In this regard, I do believe that the Government of Kenya do consider women, men, young women, young men and children when implementing any community development project as this will for sure accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):- No poverty; Zero hunger; Good health and well-being; Quality education; Clean water and sanitation; Affordable and clean energy; Decent work and economic growth; Reduced inequality; and Peace and justice strong institutions, among others.

Rachel N. Gitundu, Msc student, Development anthropology University of Nairobi, Kenya. GLDC-GIP Intern Sept 2018.

Rachel N. Gitundu, Msc student, Development anthropology University of Nairobi, Kenya. GLDC-GIP Intern Sept 2018.

Engagement in the study of human societies, cultures that govern them and later specializing in their development as an anthropology student, has led to concepts of gender mainstreaming, gender equity and equality becoming a meaningful aspect of my vocabulary. From class discussions to review of scholarly writings, I have constantly argued for the inclusion of women in all socio-economic activities, knowing they are key to solving the development challenges in the world. This has largely been theoretical but my attachment in the CRP-GLDC Gender Internship Program has changed all that. Interning as a gender student and studying the role on women in agricultural seed systems has afforded me the opportunity to practice my theoretical training. I have engaged in research work both in Uganda and Ethiopia among a diverse communities. As an anthropologist, this is equivalent to being immersed in a gold mine. I have seen people in their natural and cultural settings and gotten in-depth understanding of the intricacies of culture.

When one is born into a family that affords them the life basics such as an education, as such a shot at empowerment, it’s often lost to us how rare or golden this chance is. We get lost in books and theories always disassociating ourselves from the realities of the world’s poor in their social, economic and political inequalities. Engagement with these rural poor in data collection listening to them, putting a face to ‘them’ as well as getting a hands on experience of how curtailing retrogressive cultural norms and beliefs has been transformational for me. Listening to chickpea women farmers in and women in Uganda when they lament of their lack of access to and control over resources has turned me into an advocate for the world poor more so rural women, making me have an interest in evidence based research with the aim of making socio-cultural and institutional policy changes to scale down if not eradicate these inequalities. This I know may sound like a tall order especially as it comes from a young and probably over ambitious student but I figure most of the work is cut out for me for many have come before me and paved way. Moreover, and as my mentor Dr. Esther Njuguna is fond of reminding me, ‘we may not take up the world in one go but we are at a position to make a little difference one day at a time so let’s make full use of the chance given to us.’

Phillip Miriti, Msc student, Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya. GLDC GIP Intern 2019.

Phillip Miriti, Msc student, Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya. GLDC GIP Intern 2019.

The GLDC – GIP has given me an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of gender dynamics and why gender mainstreaming in projects is important. Insights on gendered approach through implementing a wholesome method that incorporates the importance of women and unique roles that they play in the society has been valuable for me. More specifically learning about gender gaps that are predominant in rural developing countries and how formal organizational systems are biased against women and the potential that the world could gain if these gender gaps more so in agricultural production were bridged has been astounding for me. The program has allowed me to be mentored and interact with gender scientists which has been valuable. Through various engagements in the program, I have had an excellent opportunity to network and meet new people, learned new methods used in gender analysis especially qualitative data and given me professional experience that has enhanced my on job skills. Through the internship program, gender insights have allowed me to appreciate the roles of women and their contribution to the economic welfare of societies despite the harsh cultural environment they operate in. What has stood out for me was learning that, if cultural and regulatory barriers were dealt with and women given the same opportunities as men in access, utilization, and control over resources, they are as productive as men as we saw in the Ethiopia study. Personally, I appreciate concerted efforts from development partners as well as laws aimed at encouraging women to express their democratic rights, social and economic potential.

Being a man in the gender internship program has been an awesome learning experience. The transformation of rural women and the establishment of sustainable income-generating ventures by formally disempowered women in Ethiopia has been an eye-opener. What if all rural women were empowered? I keep pondering on this as I imagine how much positive impacts we could experience in rural communities.

Welcome to the GLDC Gender Research Team

We take this opportunity to welcome Dr Stephen Micheal Cole, who joined IITA in July 2019 as a Gender Research Coordinator, to the CRPGLDC research team. Dr Cole has a PhD in Biological Anthropology. He previously worked at WorldFish, stationed in Zambia and did extensive gender research in Aquatic Systems. Dr Cole joins the GLDC Gender Research team to advance the work Dr Therese Gondwe initiated and certainly curve his own niche. We also take this opportunity to wish Dr Gondwe all the best as she pursues other interests.

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