Chickpea farmers Demitu Lemma (right) and Getu Alemu (left) from Kality village during impact assessment activities for TL III project in Ethiopia. Photo: Grace Waithira, ICRISAT

Cues to making crop improvement in Africa gender responsive

Chickpea farmers Demitu Lemma (right) and Getu Alemu (left) from Kality village during impact assessment activities for TL III project in Ethiopia. Photo: Grace Waithira, ICRISAT

Chickpea farmers Demitu Lemma (right) and Getu Alemu (left) from Kality village during impact assessment activities for TL III project in Ethiopia. Photo: Grace Waithira, ICRISAT

A cluster of activities are helping make The Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) Project’s crop improvement efforts gender-responsive. The activities include: Gender responsiveness in product profiling, Youth transitions in the drylands and Gender dynamics in seeds systems (G-SEED).

Gender responsiveness in product profiling

According to Dr Tawanda Mashonganyika, former product manager with CGIAR’s Excellence in Breeding (EiB) platform, while markets vary place to place, women are key players in them. As varieties developed using gender responsive (G+) tools address needs of both men and women, Dr Mashonganyika says they will have a greater chance of being adopted and a greater impact upon adoption.

In The AVISA Project, a cross-functional team has come together to develop product profiles that are gender responsive. A few salient points in this regard include:

Market economists in the team collecting data from farmers and consumers, both men and women, through choice experiments to understand utility that men and women assign to certain traits.

ICRISAT is participating in ongoing efforts by the Gender and Breeding Initiative (GBI) and EiB teams to design and test tools that can be used to “measure” gender responsiveness (G+ tools) in profiles of products and customers. As the learnings become clear, these tools will be applied in project’s breeding programs.

Youth transitions in the drylands

A study on youth transitions in the drylands in Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia revealed that definitions of youth in rural communities are based on cultural processes that are highly gendered.

For instance, girls have a much shorter transition pathway compared to boys. When a girl becomes a mother, she is not identified as “youth”; she is now a mother/an in-law/ a wife. When planning youth integration activities for The AVISA Project, awareness of these cultural definitions to avoid reinforcing exclusions in our interventions have been considered.

The youth transition study is informing the design of the Youth Quality Centers. These centers will be tested as a mechanism for integrating youth in the legumes and cereals seed value chains in Tanzania, working with quality inputs and outputs. This will be under the Seed Revolving Fund Initiative-Youth Engagement and Gender Inclusion (SRFI-YEGI), a cross-functional activity that is being implemented by ICRISAT, partner seed companies, Centre for Behavior Change Communication (CBCC), Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and regional governments in Tanzania.       

In collaboration with CRP-GLDC, ICRISAT partnered with Sokoine University of Agriculture, Makerere University and Haramaya University for the study.

Gender Dynamics in Seeds Systems (G-SEED)

From the studies conducted on gender integration into breeding and seed systems, key learnings include:

Socio-cultural and gender considerations are crucial in grain legumes and dryland cereals seed systems to the adoption of improved varieties. They are also an important consideration for developing demand-driven product profiles for breeders to develop varieties that meet tastes, preferences, needs and practices of the society like gifting seeds that are early and drought tolerant to a new bride to help the family achieve food sufficiency.

Farmers are accessing grain legumes and dryland cereal seeds from open-air markets, cereal stockists, neighbors and friends instead of certified seed sources.

Cereal stockists play a significant role as influencers because they are present in almost all market centers in rural areas and are the first link to the market for rural farmers – especially women farmers.

For improved adoption, information packaging and communication have to be enhanced because, currently, information gaps exist between breeders, farmers and other seed system players that impedes adoption of improved seeds. For instance, the available information may be perceived as complicated by smallholder farmers. Many farmers also tend to associate certified seed with large-scale commercial farming.

ICRISAT, CGIAR Research Program-Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals and CGIAR’s gender platform are helping The AVISA Project implementing these activities. As AVISA attempts to meet end-user demands and preferences, it is ensuring that the efforts to strengthen seed production and delivery systems are gender-responsive. It is now beyond doubt that a higher and equitable rate of varietal turnover is achievable only with gender-responsive efforts.

The AVISA Project aims to increase the rate of varietal turnover. The project is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It consolidates gains made by earlier initiatives Tropical Legumes III, HOPE-II and HarvestPlus – all funded by the foundation – while refocusing the work to improve the breeding and seed delivery systems of CGIAR and national agricultural research systems in seven countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.

About the author

Grace Waithira is a Communication Assistant in ICRISAT’s East and Southern Africa Program in Kenya.

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