Getting gender issues into people’s heads and hearts–An expert assessment for agricultural development

The gender-specific disadvantages and inequities faced by rural women in poor countries create challenges for the research and development specialists working to help them empower themselves. Political, social and cultural environments all need to change before most women will be able to take a larger role in generating incomes. Men and women both need to be involved for that to happen. And when that does happen, men and women both will benefit from women’s empowerment.

The views of four women experts in the area, shown in this short (3 minute: 40 second) film, were recorded at a February 28–2 March workshop held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where a group of experts assessed the current state of gender-related agricultural research in Africa, particularly the experiences of a 5-year joint ILRI-Ethiopian government project called ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers (IPMS).

The following is a transcript

Ranjitha Puskur, Indian, agricultural economist at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
One of the major constraints that we saw that came in the way of helping women to take part in market-oriented agricultural activities is their lack of technical skills and knowledge.

Seblewongel Deneke, Ethiopian, sociologist at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)–Ethiopia Canada Cooperation Office
The project that we are looking at now from IPMS with ILRI has done a lot of experimenting on how to target women, how to target the household, how to get them engaged and how in some ways make people see the other side of things.

Ranjitha Puskur
One of the things that we tried to do was to make sure the women have more access to knowledge and skill development through a number of trainings—and also bringing actually both the husband and wife together for the training so that they have a shared knowledge. We have demonstrated that this is a good way of approaching knowledge and skill sharing with women and men.

Jemimah Njuki, Kenyan, sociologist
What we have recently done in ILRI in terms of women and livestock is tried to put together what is it that we know at the moment on women and livestock and how to use livestock as a pathway out of poverty for women.

Seblewongel Deneke
That I think is one of the gaps in this country—there isn’t much research happening. And on gender specifically, I think we look to ILRI for some of the research it’s done. And I think the approach that they are using, working with their development partners in getting those research works done, is excellent and it should be strengthened.

Anne Waters-Bayer, Canadian/Dutch, Ecology, Technology and Culture Foundation
I’m a bit surprised, I must say, to come to a workshop now in 2011 and to hear actually many of the same things being said that were said back in the early 1980s. We published this 30 years ago but publishing wasn’t enough. We obviously didn’t manage to get into people’s heads, into their hearts and into the materials that they are dealing with day to day our messages about the important role of women in agricultural development.

Jemimah Njuki
We are hoping that this then becomes a starting point from which development partners can then start saying this has worked before, this has not worked and research organizations can then say, these are the further questions that we need to address in terms of generating evidence.

Seblewongel Deneke
Education is important. The more educated the women are, the more they will have control over the number of family members they can have. Reproductive health, the population pressure, all those things—there are many factors out there: it’s not just agriculture in isolation. For the research side of things that interlink—inter-linkages between sectors may be looked at, and then, maybe the answers would come from different angles.

Ranjitha Puskur
There have been a number of projects, often localized—projects working on specific issues in specific areas and at specific times. So there’s all these pieces of the puzzle scattered everywhere, and this workshop is an attempt to bring all this together.

Seblewongel Deneke
Yes, IPMS has done quite a bit of work on making research linked with the development aspect, and we have other projects that are doing similar approaches, where research and the development partners have come together to actually do the work together. And I think that is the best way to go forward.

Jemimah Njuki
We have made a lot of progress in terms of at least understanding what the gender issues in agriculture are, of even identifying some of the strategies that could be used to address these gender inequalities. I think what remains to be done is to see how those strategies, how those interventions, can be done at a scale that’s large enough to reach millions of women—which we need to do!

8 films, 4 women, a 30-year-old problem: Where we are in gender research for agricultural development

ILRI Film Page on the web

Selection of filmed interviews of women on gender research for agricultural development, available on the ILRI Film page n the web (blip.tv screen capture).

To celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2011, ILRI produced and web-posted on 8 March the following eight very short filmed interviews of four women on where we are in gender-related research for agricultural development in poor countries.

The interviews were made at a recent conference, ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (31 January–2 February 2011), held at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and organized by ILRI and a project conducted by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian government: Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS).

Can complex gender issues be translated into enabling policies for women?
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that if we do not manage to find ways to place our understanding of gender issues in the context of environment, economy, agriculture, education and health, our well-meaning research might end up doing more harm than good. While gender is now on the agenda of every government and every big development project in the world, we don’t yet know what policies manage to empower women or how to implement them.

Evidence is needed to improve women’s development
Seblewongel Deneke (Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA]) says there are still misconceptions about rural women in developing countries, such as the idea that most farmers are men. The evidence that ILRI is providing will help to address these misconceptions.

Gender mainstreaming is just beginning
Seblewongel Deneke (CIDA) says that although many people are now talking about mainstreaming gender by including gender issues in research and policymaking, new laws around gender in Ethiopia are rarely enforced and research projects find it hard to expand capacity within extension workers and trainers and so meet the complex needs of women.

Rural women miss opportunities due to heavy household duties
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation (ETC) Netherlands) argues that gender research still struggles to help women manage their household and childraising work. Without targeting training in these areas, women will continue to miss out.

Women farmers held back by traditions
Jemimah Njuki (ILRI) explains that two facts have hindered women’s development in agriculture: lack of ability to inherit land and other rules stemming from traditional cultures and the fact that most policymakers are men; changes are now occurring in both areas.

Training men and women farmers together could help both make more money
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that when businesses become profitable, they tend to be taken over by men. This is one reason why women find it hard to make money from agriculture. Training male and female household members together may allow both to see that it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce gender inequities so that households can improve their income and nutrition.

30 Years of gender research—Are the conversations still the same?
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation [ETC] Netherlands) says the gender challenges faced by agricultural scientists in the 1980s are, unfortunately, similar to those we face today. Many women are still living in material want, struggling to send their children to school, to get good health care and to generate and control an income from their agricultural work.

For more information, visit ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture blog or IPMS blog.

AgriGender 2011 logo

Improving women’s participation in dairying: Lessons from the East Africa Dairy Development Project

AgriGender 2011 logo The East African Dairy Development (EADD) project, implemented by Heifer International in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), TechnoServe, the World Agroforestry Centre and the African Breeders Service Total Cattle Management, works to improve the lives of one million smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Started in 2008, the EADD project employs a ‘hub’ approach, in which farmers organize themselves in cooperative groups to pool resources and buy milk-cooling facilities. These facilities also provide services for improved animal breeds and fodder and offer farmers training in milk management practices. The project has successfully increased incomes for dairy farmers—including many women—in rural areas of East Africa.

The experiences of the project in working with women in the dairy value chain were shared by ILRI agricultural economist Isabelle Baltenweck in an on-going workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held this week at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The EADD project is driven by the collective action of farmers who come together in these hubs, which help them collect and bulk milk. Most of these hubs centre on milk chilling plants set up by funds contributed by farmers themselves with additional support from the project.

The project also supports the participating farmers with feeds and animal health services. Other actors in the milk business, such as milk transporters and hardware suppliers, soon form around these hubs, which helps to create dynamic dairy value chains.

This “hub approach”, says Baltenweck, has led to improved access to inputs and services for women and other smallholders; it has brought services closer to the dairy producers, and given them access to credit and obtained better milk prices for them. ‘However,’ she adds, ‘women’s participation in the chain is still much lower than men’s.’

‘More male- than female-headed households have joined the hubs, even though a large number of spouses in many male-headed households have registered,’ says Baltenweck. ‘And we are finding that women household heads are making less use of animal health, feed and breed improvement services than male household heads, which is likely to lead to lower milk yields and income for the women.’

The project implementers are working to address this gap in women’s participation. A new strategy aiming to put more women on the front lines of the project should lead to more women joining extension work, including working as trainers and helping to make decisions in hub budgeting and operations.

This strategy is already yielding fruit. More women are now taking up leadership positions in the hubs and in related services in the project sites. The project partners are also focusing on improving hub governance and encouraging more women to participate in hub management and operations.

View the presentation:

Improved fattening doubles incomes from sheep raising in western Ethiopia–Top two innovators are women

Yisehak Baredo at the AgriGender 2011 workshop, day 2

Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo gives evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia (picture credit: ILRI/Habtamu).

AgriGender 2011 logo
A success story was presented during the second day of a ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ being organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on its Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus.

Participants heard from Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia. The project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS), involved 117 farmers in Goma woreda (district).

Goma is a small coffee-growing district in Jimma Zone, about 400 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Farmers mostly depend on their annual sales of coffee, but they also need other sources of income, including sales of honey, animal products and crops. Even though most households keep livestock, they engage in husbandry practices that are centuries old, including free grazing and feeding animals household leftovers—both of which generate low yields.

Yiseshak Baredo explained how households in a small village in Goma have begun doubling their income from fattening sheep. The IPMS project loaned each farmer about US$100 (1,000 Ethiopian birr), which was enough for them to buy five sheep, veterinary drugs and services, and cottonseed meal from a nearby oil factory in Agaro. As a safety net, farmers also contributed US$0.75 (ETB7.50) per sheep for a community-based insurance scheme that protected them from loss or accidental death of the animals.

The project began in March 2008, when farmers were first offered the financial loans to buy the sheep. The improved feed supplements they used accelerated the fattening period, enabling the farmers to bring their sheep to market in an average of three months, instead of the usual eight to ten months.

Officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, greatly encouraged by the results, said that they now hope to extend the project to neighbouring villages, other parts of the region and eventually to other regions.

Aberra Deressa, former State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said last year, ‘We are a rural nation that depends on our farmers, and this kind of program will ensure two things: They will earn a good living from their livestock and the rest of the nation will have a steady stream of food from sheep and other livestock.’

The lives of the farmers participating in the project were greatly impacted. The added income from the quick fattening of sheep has improved nutrition, as women have more money to spend on household needs. The added income also allows farmers to make other lifestyle improvements.

Mesku Abafaris, one of the women involved, said, ‘I can now plan to build a tin-roofed house. I used to think that this was a far-away dream, but now I see that I can make extra money to achieve my dreams.  I have already rented a small land with the money I’m making from the sale of sheep, to plant corn on this small plot and make more money.  Most importantly, I no longer have to ask my husband for household expenses, because I am the one who controls the income from the sale of sheep and can decide on how to spend it.’

Yiseshak Baredo went on to tell of another impact of the project–—the greater acceptance of women’s involvement in farming.

In early 2008, several men resisted the inclusion of women in the project and some women dropped out. Still, women made up 38 of the 117 farmers in the program. IPMS and Ministry of Agriculture staff of the district worked with community leaders and elders to break the gender barrier, holding repeated discussions with men to persuade them to allow women to participate. In the end, most of the men grew to accept the women—and the women’s performance was among the best. In fact, women ranked first and second place for a ‘best-practice’ award organized by the district and IPMS, proving that given the chance, women can excel in innovative agricultural ventures. Observers particularly commended several women farmers for closely following best practices in the fattening process.

IPMS leads pilot projects in 10 woredas located in four regional states of Ethiopia. Funding for the IPMS project comes from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

For more information about the IPMS Goma sheep fattening project, contact Loza Mesfin (l.mesfin@cgiar.org) or Dirk Hoekstra (d.hoekstra@cgiar.org), or visit www.ilri.org or www.ipms-ethiopia.org

You may follow discussions at this workshop on the main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

‘It takes an orchestra to play a symphony’: Jemimah Njuki on making market-oriented agriculture work for women

Jemimah Njuki

Agricultural intensification in many parts of Africa has meant that traditional food crops such as bananas and beans have entered sophisticated market chains which, though they provide benefits, also carry certain risks for smallholder producers, most of whom are women.

Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that ‘despite women’s involvement in agricultural development in rural parts of Africa, how they benefit from this involvement is often unclear, because as commodity market chains become increasingly commercialized, they often end up marginalizing the women they sought to help in the first place.’

In a keynote speech at the opening of a workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Njuki noted that ‘with the emergence of regional and export markets, as soon as women’s crops become profitable, they are no longer women’s crops. And we can end up doing as much harm as good.’

Cautionary tale
Njuki told a story to illustrate this. It’s about a farmer named Mercy that she knew and worked with in Malawi. Mercy is a smallholder bean farmer from Chinseu Village who often intercropped her beans with maize on her small plot of land. Using little fertilizer or other farm inputs, Mercy produced between 50 and 100 kilogrammes of beans in a good year. Her family consumed half her bean crop at home and she sold the remainder on the roadside near her village. She used the money she earned from the sale of the beans to buy food and clothes for her family.

When a new farming project was started in Chinseu, Mercy got access to improved bean varieties and markets. Because the new bean variety could not be intercropped, she had to grow the beans on a different plot of land from her maize. The investment paid off, however, and in the first year she produced nearly one ton of beans. To sell the increased produce, she needed to find new markets, and these were far from her village. Her husband thus started to transport the surplus beans to the city for bulking and sale there. He began spending less and less time at home, and sometimes he spent the income from the beans before he reached home. Meanwhile, Mercy remained at home, often with less bean income than she had before she began to adopt the ‘improvements’.

Doing right by women does right by everyone
Njuki believes that market-oriented agriculture will succeed in helping women only if it moves beyond ‘doing right for women.’ ‘We should not include gender development in agriculture to help women only; we ought to focus on women because if we do not, there will be adverse repercussions for the incomes, nutrition and empowerment not only of women but also of households, communities and countries.’

To get market-oriented agriculture to work for women, Njuki suggests the following ways of raising the often under-recognized role of women in agricultural production.

Increase women’s decision-making in agricultural projects to enable them play a role in identifying markets and commodities in specific value chains. ‘We should not push any one commodity at women to bring about change; we must first understand from them what they need.’

Work with both men and women because women live in households and communities that include their husbands, brothers and other men. ‘If we do not put money in pockets of men, we will not manage to put money in the pockets of women.’

Raise women’s assertiveness and leadership skills by linking them directly with (especially urban) consumers who buy their products so that the women producers understand at first hand how markets work and what kinds of products their clients prefer.

Encourage women to come together in groups, which give them better bargaining power to access banking and other financial services.

Increase women’s access to technologies and inputs and services to ensure that they can on-goingly adopt production practices needed to meet new and changing market needs and demands.

Njuki recommends that projects widen their indicators of success beyond just increases in women’s income. ‘We need to expand our indicators to look at the distribution of this income. We need to know which households and individuals are benefiting. We need to pay attention to labour issues.’

Finally, Njuki warns that success in work aiming to redress gender imbalances depends on a multitude of actors working together. ‘No one (woman) can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it,’ she concluded, quoting Halford Luccock. ‘These initiatives need to be driven and replicated by many individuals and organizations working together to scale up community successes regionally.’

AgriGender 2011 logo

Working with women and men in agricultural market development: The missing link

View more presentations from ILRI CGIAR.
Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.

‘Fixing the gender imbalance in agriculture will yield high returns’–Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture

AgriGender 2011 logo The Hon. Wondirad Mandefro, Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture, today delivered a strong opening address at an international workshop being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this week.

The workshop, ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’, is being organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which for several years has been implementing a project of the Ethiopian Government on ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’.

The state minister made the following points.

  • Despite having made rapid progress over the last decade, Ethiopia was ranked 157th out of 168 countries in the Human Development Index prepared in 2010 by the United Nations Development Program.
  • Among Ethiopia’s urgent needs is the need to enhance the quality of life of its women, particularly the 85% of Ethiopian women who live in rural areas.
  • In the countryside, peasant farming is the main livelihood and it requires heavy labour that exacts a heavy physical toll on both women and children.
  • Only 34% of Ethiopian women have attended primary school; only 28% have any post-secondary education.
  • Only 8% of the seats in the Ethiopian Parliament are held by women.
  • Ethiopian women earn incomes (average of US$516) that are just half that of Ethiopian men (US$1008).
  • Ethiopia’s national targets for gender equality in agriculture, first set in 1993 in a National Policy on Women, are not yet met, due largely to women’s low education levels, low involvement in household and community decision-making, and low rewards accruing from the country’s agricultural and economic development.
  • Women’s access to markets is particularly constrained in Ethiopia, indicating that redressing the gender imbalance in the country’s market-oriented agriculture will yield high returns.
  • By removing the constraints Ethiopian women face in both education and the labour market, it is estimated that the country could add almost 2 percentage points to growth of its gross domestic product every year between 2005 and 2030.
  • If we consider in addition the effects of a ‘gender-equal’ agriculture on national growth, the expected economic benefits of including women in development strategies become huge.

For these reasons, the Ethiopian Government has instituted an Agricultural Growth Program that is focusing on increasing the involvement of women and youth in projects to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crops and livestock in selected woredas (districts) in the country.

A project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS), implemented by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, has led to several successes, such as doubling the income of women fattening sheep in Goma, benefiting women dairy and honey farmers in Ada’a, helping women in Dale start an initiative that is supplying pullets for semi-commercial poultry producers, and increasing the levels of butter production and sales by supporting women with livestock fodder interventions.

The lessons, strategies and approaches raised at this workshop, and an understanding of what makes them effective in the Ethiopian context, should be immensely helpful to us in designing strategies to scale them out for the agricultural transformation to which the Ethiopian government and people are firmly committed.

Find the whole speech by the minister on ILRI Gender and Agriculture Blog.

Follow discussions on this and related topics at a workshop being held this week on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

Top ten recommendations for helping Ethiopian women farmers break into the marketplace

AgriGender 2011 logo

Any development program or actions including women as major actors will have a higher chance of success in improving livelihoods, fighting food insecurity and poverty alleviation. While women are central to Ethiopian rural development, they typically receive an unequal share of the economic benefits from their efforts, an inequity particularly visible in the commercialization of agricultural commodities. A project of the Ethiopian Government implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) adopted calculated strategies in an attempt to ensure that a significant number of women targeted by the project benefitted from value-chain development. The project was more successful in some of the ten woredas (districts) targeted by the project than in others, but those in the project believe that the following ten recommendations stemming from this project apply broadly to the rural Ethiopian agricultural context.

Top ten recommendations
for helping Ethiopian women farmers
break into the marketplace

1 Change mindsets
Men and women both, and at all levels, need to change their traditional ways and to begin to actively involve women in Ethiopia’s rural development. In particular, professionals and other figures of authority, and women as well as men, tend to not see the full potential of Ethiopia’s rural women.

2 Provide incentives
Make increasing women’s participation in trainings and skill development be part of the development agents’ evaluation criteria.

3 Set high but realistic gender targets
At the beginning of development projects, set high but realistic targets for the numbers of women to be reached and involved in the projects.

4 Work with men and women together
Include both heads of households in all gender development work so that men and women together can learn and give each other support in increasing household income, which should then give them both real incentives for increasing the decision-making power of the women.

5 Take a stepwise approach to gender issues
Projects targeting women should focus on commodities such as dairy, small ruminant production, poultry raising, bee keeping and backyard fruit production, which have traditionally been the province of women; as their incomes raise, they may then take on other even more profitable production systems such as cattle fattening.

6 Tailor training for women
When designing capacity building work aiming to enlarge women’s participation in markets, take into account that women often lack the time, confidence, skills and networks that make it possible for them to participate in the training. We need to provide hands-on training at times and venues convenient to women and to link them with input suppliers and markets.

7 Facilitate services
By linking actors along the value chain and facilitating private sector and rural entrepreneurs, government agents will spur Ethiopia’s commercial agriculture.

8 Scale out successes by adapting them to particular contexts
Agricultural interventions and options that work in one place will often not work in another unless the approach to the innovation as well as a given technology is adapted appropriately to the new context.

9 Change self-perceptions
Help women to see that they are a vital link in the agricultural value chain. As in many other parts of the world, rural Ethiopian women typically view themselves more as farm labourers than as household providers and income- earners. To change this will require women accessing more and better- quality information and higher caliber networks as well as other women serving as entrepreneurial role models.

10 Link women to markets
Create opportunities that will involve women as well as men in market-led agricultural activities by, for example, bringing them into relevant discussions; attending to their concerns, needs and ambitions; and ensuring in particular that those ready to enter markets have the links and tools they need to do so.

Follow discussions on this and related topics at a workshop being held this week on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

What will it take for women farmers to break away from the hearth–and into the marketplace?

AgriGender 2011 logo

A three-day international workshop opens tomorrow (Monday 31 January 2011) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focusing on women’s place in market-oriented agriculture in developing countries.

The workshop is being convened by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of a project of the Ethiopian Government implemented by ILRI called ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS). It is being held at ILRI’s principal, Ethiopian, campus.

The workshop organizers hope to identify the most useful products of gender research for the commercialization of smallholder agriculture—and to get these into wider practice.

Most development experts agree that gender is arguably the biggest ‘missing link’ holding back agricultural development in poor countries. But as Madeleine Bunting argued recently in the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog:

‘It’s odd. There is now a powerful consensus about the central role of women in development. They are the key agents of change given their impact on the health and education of the next generation. Everyone is agreed that women’s empowerment is vital, and it crops up in countless speeches by politicians all over the world. And yet change is achingly slow—embarrassingly so. . . . Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest.’

The participants at this week’s workshop in Addis Ababa are aware of the danger of saying too much and doing too little. The workshop participants include scientists, development experts, donor representatives and policymakers already working in Africa and other regions to give women greater access to markets and agricultural ‘value chains’.

They will present and discuss research-based evidence on promising strategies for addressing this missing link and hope to begin work to develop a new paradigm for market-oriented research and funding that directly serves women’s interests.

The workshop will draw heavily on experiences of the IPMS project, which started six years ago with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.

IPMS published a full report of its gender research in a working paper that appeared in December 2010, ‘Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture’, and yesterday released a 13-page brief for the general public, ‘Empowering women through value chain development’, that highlights findings and lessons the project learned, and the good practices it supported, in its four years of implementing projects in ten pilot learning woredas (districts) in four regions of the country. In this work, an IPMS gender research team set out to ‘mainstream’ best gender practices, specifically by increasing access by rural Ethiopian women to market-oriented agricultural resources, technologies and knowledge.

The IPMS gender working paper adds significantly to the literature available on women and agricultural development, which despite demonstrable need, remains thin. Few studies have ever been conducted on women’s role in Ethiopian agriculture, for example. This is despite the fact that 85% of Ethiopian women live in rural areas where virtually all households are engaged in small-scale farming of one kind or another, and despite the fact that most Ethiopian women continue to have far fewer opportunities than men for personal growth, education and employment.

The unequal power relations in Ethiopia, as elsewhere, are maintained by policies, programs and information systems that reman directed primarily at men. A recent paper published by Agnes Quisumbing and Lauren Pandolfelli, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), demonstrates how dysfunctional it is to ignore or marginalize women in development interventions: reviewing 271 World Bank projects, the authors found that by addressing the needs of both men and women, projects increased by 16% the long-lasting value of the benefits the projects generated.

Across four major regions and ten pilot learning communities, the IPMS gender researchers worked with Ethiopian research and development officers to strengthen women’s leadership and negotiating skills not only in farmer groups and local associations but also in their own households. The specific aim was to increase the women’s participation in market-oriented agricultural production. The project and government staff encouraged women to organize themselves into producer groups for various agricultural commodities and into marketing groups that could collectively demand and get higher market prices than individuals could get.

Women throughout the developing world suffer from unequal access to agricultural training and other resources, despite recent World Bank estimates that they carry out 40–60% of all agricultural labour in the world. The lead author of the IPMS working paper, Ethiopian scientist Lemlem Aregu, says: ‘Having only second-hand information passed on by their husbands and other men greatly reduces women’s ability to innovate and fulfil their productive potential. And this, of course, holds back commercial agriculture in these countries.’

Ranjitha Puskur, an Indian scientist who has led a gender research team in the IPMS project and now leads an Innovations and Livestock Systems project in ILRI’s Markets Theme, says that one way to start to change this situation is to scale up women’s work in agricultural commodities that have traditionally been the province of women.

‘Women posses animal-raising skills honed by years of living in rural areas,’ Puskur says. ‘A good entry point for helping them to better market those skills is to focus on poultry raising and other agricultural work that is often left to women to oversee. These enterprises then become sources of self-reliance, providing women with the means of generating a daily small income, with which they can meet their household expenses. With this experience, women are encouraged to move further up the ‘livestock ladder’ and to begin participating in other, traditionally male-dominated, kinds of livestock production.’

Follow discussions at this workshop on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read the full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read the 13-page general brief: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

Read more of what Madeleine Bunting has to say on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog: Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest, 27 January 2011.

Empowering women in agriculture means sharing benefits with men–ILRI TEDx Talk

Jemimah Njuki gives a TEDx Washington Circle talk

ILRI's Jemimah Njuki gives a TEDxWashingtonCircle talk in December 2010 on gender and agricultural development (photo credit: IFPRI).

On 14 December 2010, Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a TEDxWashingtonCircle talk in Washington, DC, organized independently of TED events by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Njuki joined IFPRI's Agnes Quisumbing and Ruth Meinzen-Dick in a conversation, 'Igniting change: The gender match', arguing that gender remains the 'missing ingredient' in many development policies and programs.

In her talk, Njuki agrees that gender is still the missing link in agricultural development. But while gender mainstreaming has become 'a standard discourse' in agricultural development, she says, we have moved from gender-blind approaches to focusing exclusively on women. 'We have forgotten,' says Njuki, 'that women are situated in societies, that women live with men in their households, that women have to get power from those that are holding power within these communities.'

Focusing exclusively on women to advance their development is a mistake, says Njuki. A mistake for women. A mistake for men. A mistake for families. A mistake for their communities. A mistake for development projects aiming to empower women.

'Men have to be part of the solution', says Njuki. If we're going to put money in the pockets of women, she says, we have to put money also in the pockets of men. We won't elevate women without elevating whole households and communities.

Njuki provides a cautionary tale from Malawi, where a project to empower women through better marketing of their bean crops was soon taken over by men, disempowering women's involvement in, and benefits from, this traditionally female crop. She describes taking home that lesson in a subsequent project in Africa 'to change the face of women in agriculture' that made its starting point not problems (there were too many of them) but rather with opportunities—opportunities for both women and men. The project managed to improve food security and women's empowerment, but not at the expense of men.

Leadership and assertiveness training for women? Check. Training for women in group organization skills? Check. Gender training for households and villages? Check. But also—training in gender equality rather than 'women's empowerment'.

Watch this 19-minute TEDxTalk by ILRI's Jemimah Njiuki.

The role livestock play in women's livelihoods in Africa and Asia: New review

Maasai woman holds her calf immunized against East Coast fever

A Maasai woman from northern Tanzania holds one of her calves she has paid to have immunized against East Coast fever (picture credit: ILRI/Mann).

A new discussion paper on Livestock and Women’s Livelihoods: A Review of the Recent Evidence has just been published by a group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led by agricultural economist Patti Kristjanson.

This paper synthesizes evidence of the contributions that livestock make to the livelihoods of poor women in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and identifies factors that enhance or constrain livestock-related opportunities for women. The scientists apply a gender lens to three livestock-related pathways out of poverty—securing livestock assets; increasing livestock productivity; and enhancing participation in livestock markets. For each pathway, the authors summarize what is known and what this knowledge implies for programmatic and policy interventions.

Assembling this information, say the authors, 'is a first step towards identifying some of the large gaps in our evidence base as well as some indications of the kinds of research and development interventions, made in relation to which species and value chains, that appear most likely to benefit poor women and their families.'

The following is the introduction to this paper.

'After several years of relative neglect, livestock in livelihood studies are in the limelight, as the realization dawns—once again—that livestock are important for livelihoods and have significant potential for poverty alleviation, often in areas where few other options exist of the 2010. However, there is also an increasing awareness that certain types of livestock systems are associated with important downsides such as environmental degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases, or food-borne illnesses. There is a need to balance these positive and negative aspects as is made clear by the title of the recent State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report ‘Livestock in the balance’ (FAO 2009). Gender will be central to achieving this balance.

'Livestock are important in women’s livelihoods and asset portfolios. The fact that past livestock interventions appeared to not benefit women led to the inception of considerable research on gender and livestock systems in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, subsequent livestock development projects became better targeted, focusing on species (poultry, small ruminants, dairy cows) and using approaches (participatory, group-based) that make them, at least in theory, more appropriate for and accessible to women. 

'This is now an appropriate time to review past and current research on gender and livestock in order to identify pertinent issues and knowledge gaps for the livestock R4D agenda in coming decades.

'Although two-thirds of the world’s 600 million poor livestock keepers are rural women . . ., little research has been conducted in recent years on rural women’s roles in livestock keeping and the opportunities livestock-related interventions could offer them. This is in contrast to considerable research on the roles of women in small-scale crop farming, where their importance is widely recognized and lessons are emerging about how best to reach and support women through interventions and policies . . . . In the past decade, some researchers provided some evidence on causal relations between gender and livestock production . . . but, as this review demonstrates, there remains a dearth of quantitative information on this subject, especially for the mixed crop-livestock systems where most livestock and livestock keepers are found and where the major increases in production will have to occur if the global demand for meat, milk and other animal products in coming decades is to be met . . . . Furthermore, the multiple roles livestock play in livelihoods of the poor make generalizing about women’s roles in, and economic contributions to, livestock development problematic, and prioritizing livestock research and interventions for women’s development both challenging and necessary . . . . By applying a conceptual framework that allows us to organize and better understand existing knowledge about this complex subject, we aim to help identify research for development gaps and opportunities, made in relation to which species and value chains, that appear most likely to benefit poor women and their families.'

Read the whole paper: Livestock and Women’s Livelihoods: A Review of the Recent Evidence, ILRI Discussion Paper No. 20 by Patti Kristjanson, Ann Waters-Bayer, Nancy Johnson, Anna Tipilda, Jemimah Njuki, Isabelle Baltenweck, Delia Grace and Susan MacMillan. Nairobi: International Livestock Research Institute.

If pigs could fly: Reducing the ‘gender asset gap’ in agricultural development–the beginnings of a ‘transformative gender’ paradigm shift?

10GenderWorkshop_AtPresidentialRedCarpet_GroupPhoto1

RED CARPET WELCOME: His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya, generously allowed his presidential red carpet to be briefly used for a photograph of a group of pro-women agricultural scientists this month at the International Livestock Research Institute (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

Unusually, and, if truth be said, thrillingly, the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute and BecA—a Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub that ILRI hosts and manages—have, within the space of 12 months, been visited by two very seriously important persons: Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in early December 2009; and Mwai Kibaki, president of the Republic of Kenya, early this month (November 2010).

Biotech men
Both VIPs expressed excitement in, and support for, BecA’s recently launched state-of-the-art biosciences facilities, which they happily toured, donning crisp white lab coats to inspect BecA’s ultra-modern, super-molecular laboratories, including a half-million-dollar ‘454’ DNA sequencer, a space-agey-looking biosafety containment facility and a shiny brand-new greenhouse.
 

Bill Gates visits the BecA Hub at ILRI in December 2009

BILL GATES, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and former CEO of Microsoft, toured the ultra-modern laboratories of BecA at ILRI last December (2009) (photo credit: ILRI/Ouma).
 

BecA official opening, 5 November 2010

HIS EXCELLENCY Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on a tour of the same labs this November (2010), led by BecA Hub Director Segenet Kelemu (third from left) (photo credit: ILRI/Masi).
 
The feminization of biotech
While the entourages of both Gates (who was on a private visit) and Kibaki (on a State visit) were mostly male, BecA’s director, Ethiopian Segenet Kelemu; as well as a key initiator and supporter of BecA, Australian Gabrielle Persley; and some half the students and African scientists the VIPs met and interviewed while they toured the labs, were female. On both visits, our male VIPs appeared impressed by the high 'girl power' in these high-tech labs. And so they should have been, both VIPs coming of age (Gates is 55 this year, Kibaki, 79) when such visible expression of the closing of the gender gap was rare.

BecA official opening, 5 November 2010

POLITICIANS AND SCIENTISTS: Segenet Kelemu, director of the BecA Hub at ILRI, explains to President Kibaki the significance of a metal and glass sculpture of a DNA helix unveiled by the president at the official opening of the Hub earlier this month (5 November 2010) (photo credit: ILRI/Njuguna).
 
Closing the gender gap
Fortuitously and aptly, then, on the morning of President Kibaki’s visit to ILRI on 5 November 2010 to officially open the BecA Hub, another meeting, arranged by research groups much earlier than the State visit was arranged, was starting in another venue on the same ILRI campus, far from the imposing presidential dais, marching band, schoolgirl choir and guest and refreshment tents erected and assembled down the hill, in front of ILRI’s Mara House office building.
 
Back up the hill, then, in a meeting room adjacent to a quiet quad and out of the fray, a group of (mostly) women experts on gender and agriculture in developing countries opened an ‘inception’ workshop for a new scientific project aiming to reduce inequalities between men and women (and boys and girls) in agricultural development.
 
We know that Bill Gates supports this work, because his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the project. And we suspect that President Kibaki would also be supportive. (Upon learning that a schoolgirl choir, standing near the presidential dais, had awaited his arrival from the labs for several hours to sing for him, Kibaki admonished his staff that the girls ought to be in school, this being a Friday, and instructed them to have all the schoolgirls immediately seated under the tents.)
 

10BecA_Opening_SchoolgirlChoirPassesTheRedCarpet

GIRL POWER: A schoolgirl choir walks past one of several red carpets laid out in honour of a visit to BecA and ILRI by President Mwai Kibaki (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
 
Historic beginnings for closing the gender gap in agricultural projects
The gender research project being quietly kicked off in ILRI’s N’Dama Lounge was, in its way, as much an historic beginning as the advanced labs being opened further down the hill. Scientists at ILRI and elsewhere have known for years that more—much, much, much more—should be done to address women’s issues in agricultural development. And they have struggled for years to incorporate women’s issues into their research programs. With little success.
 
Women continue to have fewer assets than men
If small-scale agriculture remains the backbone of most developing-country economies, women remain the stuff that makes up that backbone. Across nationalities, cultures and religions, women more than men tend to invest their time and energy and income in the stuff that matters most to most of us, with the greatest benefits provided to the greatest numbers of poor. Yet women have fewer assets than men—whether we look at land, natural resources and other tangible assets or less tangible ones like human capital. This gap between men’s and women’s assets not only reduces agricultural productivity, but also restricts women’s decison-making power, which affects such vital matters as sustainable food production, children’s nutrition and education, and economic development. 
 
That’s what we know. Not what we do. And the disconnect between what we know to do in ‘gender’ issues in agricultural development and what we do do has been getting bigger and more glaring every year.
 
When pigs fly, we used to say, not so long ago, we will all be working to help women help the rest of us in development—just because that’s what women tend to do, regardless of their material circumstances. The disjunct between what women do for agriculture and what we in agricultural research and development do for them, we said, was a disgrace. And then we would sigh and crawl back into a ‘what to do?’ cynicism. What our staff lacked, we said, was the training and technical assistance needed first to identify and then to address disparities in agricultural development and in assets. That’s now changing. At ILRI the change is due to the institute’s recent hiring of people who know what to do—and are ready to do it.
 
These new staff and positions include some of the best scientists in the world who are champions of gender research in agricultural development. These relatively new ILRI staff include Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan leading sociologist in gender and agriculture studies; Nancy Johnson, an American agricultural economist and poverty analyst; and Canadian Patti Kristjanson, a long-term ILRI economist who just two years ago launched a 'Women and Livestock Challenge Dialogue'. (In January of this year, Kristjanson moved to the World Agroforestry Centre, across town from ILRI, to lead a research team that is part of a new global climate change initiative involving all 15 centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, to which ILRI belongs.) These three women formed a Gender, Poverty and Impacts research team which, despite starting only one-and-a-half years ago, has already created the momentum across ILRI for re-focusing on gender and agriculture.
 

10GenderWorkshop_AtPresidentialRedCarpet_JohnMcDermottAndJemimahNjuki

ILRI PUTS WOMEN'S ISSUES FRONT AND CENTRE: Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan expert in gender and agriculture and impact analysis working for ILRI, waits with ILRI's deputy director general-research John McDermott, a Canadian veterinary researcher, beside the red carpet laid down at ILRI's entrance for the presidential visit happening at the same time, in front of an office building down below (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
 
Can a few women make a difference?
Can a few committed women and some supportive men make a big difference in gender research for development? With institutional support, we're betting on it. ILRI’s seriousness about, and new serious expertise in, empowering women farmers and marketers got the attention of other groups working toward the same goal. The ILRI group has joined forces with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) team of Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Agnes Quisumbing, long-time researchers on gender and agriculture.
 
This inception workshop for the ‘Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project,’ held from 5–7 November 2010, is a 3-year initiative of IFPRI and ILRI funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The overall aim of the initiative is to improve rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by helping agricultural development programs significantly reduce inequalities, including disparities in assets, between men and women.
 
The workshop brought together research and development partners from different organizations. In addition to IFPRI and ILRI, these included BRAC, CARE Bangladesh, East Africa Dairy Development project, Fintrac Inc, Grameen Foundation, Helen Keller International, International Rice Research Institute, Kickstart International, Land O’Lakes, Rural Development Institute, Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility initiative at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the World Vegetable Centre (AVDRC), as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the United States Agency for International Development.
 
As part of the initiative, the team will evaluate some 10 agricultural research and development projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and others to identify the impacts of these projects on women’s assets and to clarify which strategies have been successful in reducing gaps between men and women in access to, and control of, assets.
 

10GenderWorkshop_RuthMeinzen-Dick2_IFPRI

THINKING BIG: IFPRI's Ruth Meinzen-Dick gives an overview of the ambitious aims of the Gender Assets Gaps project (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
 
The project is based on several premises: (1) that control over, and ownership of, assets is a critical component of well-being, (2) that increasing control or ownership of assets does more to help create pathways out of poverty than increasing incomes or consumption alone and (3) that the different kinds of assets addressed by a project—whether tangible or intangible, for example, or whether defined as natural, physical, financial, human, social or political ‘capital’—matter. Project staff are investigating the control of assets because who controls assets in households matters a lot. Household members typically do not pool all resources or agree on what their scarce resources should be used for. The benefits of policy changes in any given household or community are determined largely by who in the household or community is the main beneficiary of the new resources. And we now have evidence from many countries that increasing the resources under the control of women not only improves the nutrition and health of children, but also increases agricultural productivity and household incomes.
 
Astonishingly, although women make a significant contribution to agriculture in developing countries and are much more likely than men to use their (scarce) resources to improve the nutrition, welfare and well-being of their families, they are still neglected in most agricultural research and development programs. At a Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, held in Montpellier, France, last March (2010), IFPRI’s Ruth Meinzen-Dick argued that accounting for gender in our research and development work is not an option but a necessity if we are going to reduce world poverty and feed the world’s growing populations (which are expected to peak at mid-century, falling after that): ‘Changing agricultural research and development from male-dominated to gender-equitable is not merely an issue of political correctness or ideology; it is a matter of development effectiveness that can benefit everyone.’
 
Although getting reliable, accurate and timely statistics disaggregated by gender remains a formidable challenge for most countries (in 2010, the United Nations found that no census had been carried out in the last three decades in 41 per cent of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa), what we know is probably enough to be getting on with. The following should give a flavour of the depth and scope of the issues.
 
More women than men:
  • own no land
  • are poor and hungry
  • are illiterate
  • are refugees
  • are living with HIV (in Africa)
  • are caring for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Most women:
  • work longer hours than men
  • work in jobs with lower pay, status, power and authority than men
  • get paid less than men for doing the same work
  • provide most of the family labour and are unpaid for that labour
  • bear double responsibility for household and farm work
  • receive a fraction of the agricultural extension and support services provided to men
  • have half the education levels of men
  • have less access to health care services than men
  • have fewer legal rights than men.
Flying pigs?
Fortunately, as detailed and dissected in this inception workshop, projects from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal) and sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) have potential to address such asset disparities.
 
These projects are working across the spectrum of women’s rural livelihoods and concerns in these regions, from animal husbandry to vegetable genetics, from nutrition and sociology to agricultural economics and development management. An enumeration of some of the more obvious specific topics tackled in the projects presented at this workshop gives some idea of the broad disciplinary expertise demanded by those working to help women use agriculture to better their lives. These include dairy development, land transfer to girls, vegetable production, development and dissemination of nutrient-rich foods such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, value addition and processing, market information systems, high-value horticulture, crop management and irrigation.
 
Some of the opportunities described in overviews of these projects include the following.
  • Fully 94 per cent of the vendors in vegetable markets in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
  • Twice as many women as men in Uganda cultivate sweet potatoes, most sweet potato traders in towns as well as villages are women, and women tend to be less risk-averse in crop choice than men.
  • Contrary to previous reports, information tips delivered by mobile phone delivery of market and other agricultural information in Uganda show female farmers are very interested in receiving, and acting on, timely market information.
  • Legumes, once considered a 'woman's crop in much of Africa, can directly benefit the nutrition of poor households.
  • With increasing migration of men from rural to urban areas in South Asia, the roles of women are shifting from unpaid farm labourers to de facto farm managers.
  • Seedling nurseries are an opportunity for women because they require relatively little labour and can be established close to homesteads.
  • East African women dairy producers have most control of the milk they sell informally in the evening.
According to this group of scientists, the gender research areas in greatest need of addressing are:
  • Training in methods to integrate gender and asset-based approaches in agriculture development programs.
  • Evaluating agriculture development programs to understand what works and what does not work in building women’s assets and scaling out those strategies that work.
  • Collecting gender-disaggregated data. 
  • Initiating, and training in, gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation work. 
  • Expanding measurements of income and consumption to include evaluations of how projects build assets.
 

Village food seller in Nigeria

THE TARGET, THE BENEFICIARY, THE HOPE: A young girl sells food to villagers outside Kano, Nigeria (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).
 
The gender and agricultural assets initiative wants to learn from the most promising successes in these projects so as to help redress imbalances in power. The project leaders are dreaming and thinking big. They aim no less than pushing a ‘paradigm shift’ in agricultural development programming from ‘gender exploitive’ to ‘gender accommodating’ to ‘gender transformative’. This will of necessity mean taking on a lot, including ‘challenging the ideological, socio-cultural, economic, political and institutional frameworks and structures that create and recreate gender inequalities’. The project leaders are well aware of the danger that such targeting, if not done well, can lead to a backlash that further marginalizes rather than supports poor women. And they recognize the role of men in achieving gender equality.
 
This project will train teams of experts in how to use tools to assess the assets held by men, women and households as a whole and in how to integrate and measure the effectiveness of strategies for increasing the assets of women. To this end, IFPRI’s Ruth Meinzen-Dick proposed a conceptual framework for analyzing assets while ILRI’s Jemimah Njuki presented different strategies for addressing gender in agricultural programs, explaining why and how to complement quantitative tools in monitoring and evaluation with qualitative tools. IFPRI’s Dan Gilligan described methods for evaluating quantitative impacts and ILRI’s Nancy Johnson and IFPRI’s Agnes Quisumbing discussed different types of assets, data needs and data collection instruments. Project implementers and evaluators in this initiative are expected to work hand in hand over the life of the selected projects, using both qualitative and quantitative methods  to assess and document changes from baselines in levels of control and ownerships of assets.
 
And pigs, then, will perhaps have a chance to start to fly.
 
For more information, visit, the following:
The Gender Assets Gap project’s blog:
 
ILRI’s Gender & Agriculture blog:
http://agrigender.wordpress.com/
 
All slide presentations given at the workshop:
http://www.slideshare.net/genderassets/slideshows
 
Pictures of the workshop:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri/sets/72157625322903538/
 
News of a forthcoming ILRI-organized workshop on ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture’, 31 Jan to 2 Feb 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
http://agrigender.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/workshop-on-gender-and-market-oriented-agriculture-revised-dates/
 
Announcement of a forthcoming TEDx event at IFPRI, on 14 Devember 2010, in Washington, DC, with talks by ILRI’s Jemimah Njuki and IFPRI’s Agnes Quisumbing and Ruth Meinzen-Dick on gender as the ‘missing ingredient’ in many development policies and programs:
http://genderassets.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/upcoming-tedx-event-on-gender/
 
A filmed presentation by ILRI’s Jemimah Njiki making the case that animal agriculture can be used to help redress skewed resources available to rural women worldwide (in societies where women are unable to own anything else, farm animals provide women with incomes; and when those women’s incomes rise, the health, nutrition and education of their whole families also rise, with everybody winning):
http://ilri.blip.tv/file/3418393/

Making research matter: Seven ways to link knowledge to action

Influential PNAS chooses ILRI and partner research on 'linking knowledge with action' for its latest issue (31 March 2009).

Making research matter Institutionalization of systems approaches and scaling out of project results arguably remain our greatest challenges in more successfully linking knowledge with action resulting in sustainable poverty reduction.

Is that true? A new paper published by Patti Kristjanson and colleagues at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, thinks it is and argues for seven principles that might help us institutionalize and scale out what works best.

Researchers have traditionally focused on research outputs–articles, methods, technologies, trainings–rather than research outcomes. But it is by jointly defining with project partners the desired outcomes of a project–including changed behaviors, policies, and practices–that links between knowledge and action can be discerned and strengthened.

A group of 19 ILRI and partner researchers have analyzed a broad range of projects using a framework that discloses some helpful lessons. The synthesis of results published in PNAS is entitled ‘Linking International Agricultural Research Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development’.

Patti Kristjanson, lead author of the paper, says, ‘This article describes ideas, principles and approaches I wish I had been exposed to when I began leading research teams tackling agricultural development and poverty issues across Africa 20 years ago’.

The researchers applied an innovation framework to sustainable livestock development research projects in Africa and Asia. The focus of these projects included pastoral systems, poverty and ecosystems services mapping, market access by the poor, fodder and natural resource management, and livestock parasite drug resistance. The framework arose from a series of propositions advanced at  a workshop organized by the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability of the US National Academies, led by Bill Clark who directs Harvard University’s Sustainability Science Program.  

So what helps to close gaps between knowledge and action? What helps take research knowledge beyond the realm of ‘knowledge for knowledge sake’ and convert it to changes in behaviour, practices, policies, institutions and uptake of new technologies?

“The framework is important because it is pragmatic and results oriented. In applying this framework we found that strategies key to closing gaps between knowledge and action include: combining different kinds of knowledge, learning and bridging approaches, strong and diverse partnerships that level the playing field, and building capacity to innovate and communicate” said Bill Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In examining what approaches, processes, tools and methods helped this very diverse range of project teams be successful in linking knowledge with action, the researchers found that 7 broad principles apply.

 How to ensure success or failure of getting your research into use

  1. Problem definition.
    DO: Define the problem to be solved in a collaborative and user-driven manner.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Separate yourselves (scientists who produce knowledge) from the decision-makers who use it.
  2. Program management.
    DO: Adopt a project orientation and organization and appoint dynamic leaders accountable for achieving user-driven goals.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Let your ‘study of the problem’ displace ‘creation of solutions’.
  3. Boundary spanning.
    DO: Use ‘boundary-spanning’ organizations, individuals and actions to help bridge gaps between research and research-user communities, construct informal arenas that foster producer-user dialogues, develop joint ‘rules of engagement’ and define products jointly.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Allow dominance by groups committed to the status quo.
  4. Systems integration.
    DO: Recognize that scientific research is just one ‘piece of the puzzle’ and apply systems-oriented strategies.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Don’t engage partners best positioned to help transform knowledge into useful strategies, policies, interventions or technologies.
  5. Learning orientation.
    DO: Design your project as much for learning as for knowing and to be frankly experimental, expect and embrace failures to learn from them throughout the project’s life.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Punish or fail to fund or reward risk-taking managers
  6. Continuity with flexibility.
    DO: Strengthen links between organizations and individuals operating locally, building strong networks and innovation/response capacity.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Leave development of communication strategies and products to the communication experts to do and development of research products for the researchers to do.
  7. Manage asymmetries of power.
    DO:  Level the playing field by generating hybrid, co-created knowledge.
    HOW TO FAIL?: Don’t deal with the often large (and largely hidden) asymmetries of power felt by stakeholders.

Boundary spanning
Boundary-spanning work takes place between two or more groups that work to different standards and objectives (e.g. basic scientists evaluated by peers versus action people who are validated by political processes). Boundary objects are joint creations at the interface of communities (e.g. models, maps, assessments, contracts, posters). Even more important than ‘boundary-spanning organizations’ are boundary-spanning individuals and efforts. Having said that, individuals work within institutional frameworks, and these need to be supportive of such work (or at the very least, not block it). We need to better understand what kinds of institutional change, if any, encourage or accelerate boundary work. As boundary-spanning activities, behaviors and approaches can be learned, developing courses and training materials in this area may profit research for development. These are environments where partners come together to solve problems and create joint outputs and reach agreement as to new rules of engagement that encourage and support creativity and innovation.

Tools and processes for boundary spanning. Examples of tools and processes that can help span boundaries efficiently and effectively via collaborative efforts include: outcome mapping (<http://www.outcomemapping.ca>), participatory impact pathway analysis (Douthwaite et al, 2003), farmer impact assessment workshops (Kristjanson et al, 2002), challenge dialogue process (<http://www.innovationexpedition.com>), policy evaluation framework (Cohan et al, 1994), adaptive management (www.adaptivemanagement.net), policy-focused assessment process (Schegara and Furrow 2001), joint fact-finding (<http://www.beyondintractability.org/>), value of information approach (Yokota and Thompson, 2004), institutional histories (<http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/riiweb/>), negotiation support (van Noordwijk et al, 2001), and appreciative inquiry (<http://www.cgiar-ilac.org>). ILRI’s community facilitator-researcher approach is another useful model (Nkedianye et al, 2008).

Systems integration
One way to produce both international public goods (those with significance across borders) and local poverty impacts is for research projects to engage local partners in multiple strategically selected sites to ensure the knowledge generated can be extrapolated more broadly. Does mission-oriented research always require a systems approach (e.g. involving public- and private-sectors, non-governmental organizations, community members, scientists, and policymakers)? All our case studies suggest the answer is yes.

There is certainly a role in sustainability science for both traditional, curiosity-driven research as well as for context-specific problem solving-so long as both are conducted within a larger framework that ensures rigor and usefulness. Many scientists fear that their adopting a systems approach will reduce their comparative advantage (e.g., in-depth knowledge of a disciplinary field) and lead to their spending all their time on partnership building and other processes. This risk is real. Our case studies all point to the need to use rigorous processes, ‘tried and tested’ tools, and world-class expertise in facilitating stakeholder engagement, building teams, and establishing ways to measure and communicate impacts and outcomes.

Learning orientation
All organizations interested in transforming themselves (or their self-perceptions) from knowledge producers to knowledge learners face challenges in doing so. Management must support a learning culture and provide incentives for adopting learning approaches, as it has at ILRI, where research performance criteria now include collaborative partnerships and communication outputs beyond scientific journal articles. But ILRI and other institutions ambitious to transform themselves into learning cultures need to go further in supporting and rewarding failures (as often encouraged in private sector research). Initiatives are needed to fund collaborative teams experimenting with different learning approaches to find those that help them link knowledge with action. A cultural and institutional environment that discourages risk taking and finds failures generally unacceptable adds considerably to the challenge of taking a learning-based approach. Convening the right team and committing to co-learning and co-producing ‘hybrid’ knowledge (e.g. a combination of indigenous and scientific knowledge) for action at the beginning of the project is absolutely critical to success. ILRI’s  pastoral project is a good example of how institutional ‘protection’ is needed to truly encourage innovative and risk-taking behavior; ILRI management and large external financial support effectively provided a safe space in the sense that the team was protected from external criticism concerning a livestock institute working on wildlife conservation issues.

The issue of improving incentives and rewards for individuals that are successful ‘boundary spanners’ arose in all the case studies. A critical challenge to institutionalizing boundary spanning functions within an organization is to do so while maintaining flexibility to adjust and organize according to constantly changing needs for specific information products. Many institutions are not eager to invest in boundary functions (e.g. workshops, forums, reports) that are perceived to be not a core part of their mission, nor do government or private funders want to invest in the creation of freestanding boundary organizations. We also saw ‘informal communities’ of actors who play no explicit role in the system-often making one-on-one connections between explicit actors who otherwise might not meet-creating key relationships. Because of their ‘stealth’ nature, these are very difficult to identify, yet can be important for successful boundary-spanning, and the links from knowledge to action, to occur.

Conclusion
We believe that projects aiming to improve livelihoods in sustainable ways will increase their likelihood of being successful if they incorporate most if not all of these seven propositions. The working paper explores some of the tools, processes, approaches and strategies that can help research teams apply these principles.

The good news is that these ILRI-partner results indicate that boundary-spanning work is most effective when it is regularized yet flexible and when it enlists the support of informal communities of actors. More research is needed on what kinds of institutional change are likely to encourage and accelerate boundary work, what kind of incentives are needed to encourage individuals to pursue such work, and what kinds of courses and training materials will build capacity in this area.

References
Cohan D, Stafford RK, Scheraga JD, Herrod S (1994) The Global Climate Policy Evaluation Framework. Air and Waste Management Association: Pittsburg, PA. <
http://sedac.ciesin.org/mva/iamcc.tg/articles/DC1994/DC1994.html>

Douthwaite B, Kuby T, van de Fliert E, Schulz S (2003) Impact Pathway Evaluation: An approach for achieving and attributing impact in complex systems. Agricultural Systems 78: 243-265.

Kristjanson P et al. (2008) Linking international agricultural research knowledge with action for sustainable poverty alleviation: What works? Joint Center for International Development and International Livestock Research Institute Working Paper, CID Faculty Working Paper 08-173 (Cambridge: Harvard University CID and ILRI) <
http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidwp>

Kristjanson P, Place F, Franzel S, Thornton P (2002) Assessing research impact on poverty: The importance of farmers’ perspectives. Agricultural Systems 72:73-92.

Nkedianye D et al. (2008) Linking knowledge with action and alleviating poverty sustainably using researcher-community-facilitators to span boundaries: Lessons from the Maasai in East Africa. Joint Center for International Development and International Livestock Research Institute Working Paper, CID Faculty Working Paper 08-174 (Cambridge: Harvard University CID and ILRI). <
http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidwp/ >

Schegara J D, Furlow J (2001) From Assessment to Policy: Lessons Learned from the U.S. National Assessment. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 7(5):1227-1246.

van Noordwijk M, Tomich T, Verbist B (2001) Negotiation support models for integrated natural resource management in tropical forest margins. Conservation Ecology 5(2):21.  <
http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss2/art21/>

Yokota F, Thompson K (2004) Value of information literature analysis: A review of applications in health risk management. Medical Decision Making, Vol.24, No.3:187-298.