Home > International agricultural research, Priority setting > Addressing gender in priority setting for agricultural research

Addressing gender in priority setting for agricultural research

An interesting contribution to the first Global Conference on Agriculture and Rural Development discusses when and how to address gender in agriculture. While it is worthwhile to read the whole paper, in particular the demands towards priority setting for agricultural R&D that are formulated attracted my attention:

  • Where and how are the differential needs, interests, and priorities of women and men reflected? For example, are women farmers’ associations consulted at any point? Do female farmers have a voice in male-dominated farmer associations?
  • Who makes the decisions regarding the kinds of agricultural R&D that will receive investment? This leads to consideration of the representation of women in management at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and national agricultural research centers.
  • Are there mechanisms to take the needs of women and men as both producers and consumers into account? We will address this question in detail in the following section of the paper; however, it is important to note that it relates even to the way “agricultural research” is defined. Conventional definitions have been gender biased, focusing on activities most likely to be dominated by men, such as the production of field crops. Activities of greater salience to women—such as homestead gardens, postharvest processes, supply chains, and nutrition outcomes—have, in comparison, been neglected. Thus, thinking of “agriculture” in terms of “food” is likely to lead to a more gender balanced picture. In addition, research priorities on postharvest processing and the broader food sector—which includes fish, livestock, garden production, water, trees, soils, and natural resources—needs to be conducted not only with the aim of reaching high-value markets, but also to ensure food safety and reduce drudgery (which tends to be borne most often by women).

The first point highlights the importance of getting the voices of women heard. The second point concerns the influence of women in the decision making at the level of the research institutions (good question: how well are women represented at the research management levels of the CGIAR?). The third point asks about the potential impact of the products of agricultural R&D, i.e. how women are affected by a particular output of agricultural research. It also calls for orienting agricultural research towards areas where women can benefit.

With his analysis, the authors certainly hits the mark. At the operational level of priority setting, however, the last point is probably the most challenging. How can we adequately assess the gender impacts of a particular research activity? Taking into account that priority setting often takes place at a relatively aggregate level, how can we deal with the complexity of gender, which very often depends on micro-level factors, such as power relationships within a household?

Comments are highly welcome!

  1. 07/12/2012 at 10:52 am

    I think it requires systematic gender analysis of needs in the field as well as a balance of women’s and men’s voices in consultations at all levels of decision making…….

  2. 08/12/2012 at 8:36 am

    Its a good point that as the research agenda moves to food then gender or at least the role of women becomes more center stage because of their role as food preparers and care givers. There is an aggregation problem though as we have dispersed and probably unrepresentative gender analyses available at the field level which is hard to bring coherently into global or even regional priority setting. There are some technologies which implicitly target women such as varieties with high Vitamin A availability. These are probably a minority though and targeting women doesnt get to the intrahousehold power imbalances which Ulrich mentions.

  3. Ulrich K.
    10/12/2012 at 11:56 am

    Graham, thanks for making that point a bit clearer. From a methodological point of view, the challenge in any regional or global priority setting exercise is indeed to find a way to adequately incorporate gender aspects.

    So far, in applications of priority setting gender has been either fully neglected or dealt with only marginally. All I could find was the work by Kelley et al. (1995), for instance, who use an indicator of female illiteracy, but only as a proxy for general welfare and only for weighting purposes. Or the study by Diagne et al. (2009), who include gender as part of a broader indicator of poverty alleviation which formed part of a scoring model application.

    What would be required is a set of indicators for assessing gender impacts for their own sake and at the scale at which priority setting is usually carried out. Making good use of meaningful gender indicators in scoring models might be a good start, but something that allows us to come up with more quantitative assessments would be really great.

  4. Ulrich K.
    19/12/2012 at 7:54 am

    I just noted that the original source of the work cited above was not the blog post initially mentioned but a paper presented at the first GCARD conference and made the necessary corrections in the text.

    The full reference is:

    Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Agnes Quisumbing, Julia Behrman, Patricia Biermayr-Jenzano, Vicki Wilde, Marco Noordeloos, Catherine Ragasa and Nienke Beintema (2010), Engendering Agricultural Research. Paper prepared for the Global Conference on Agriculture and Rural Development Montpellier, France 28-31 March, 2010.

    It is also available as an IFPRI working paper: http://www.ifpri.org/publication/engendering-agricultural-research

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