Blog post by Esther Njuguna-Mungai, Scientist – Gender Research, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes

Gender in agricultural research and development
Of-late, it has become almost mandatory to promote and include gender related activities in programs of various development and humanitarian organizations and most importantly in agriculture research. But why gender? What is gender research? Why does gender become important in agricultural research? Why is gender research important for the CGIAR Research Programme on Grain Legumes research work?

Besides the argument that gender equality is a basic human right, it is also accepted and demonstrated that gender inequality can contribute negative and significant impacts in research and development interventions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Bank emphasize the importance of gender equality for improvements in agricultural productivity, food security, nutrition, poverty reduction, and empowerment (Meinzen-Dick et al., 2011b).

What is gender?
Sex refers to the biological attributes of men and women.  Gender refers to the social, behavioral and culturally specific characteristics defining the behavior of men, women, boys and girls and the relationships between them.  Unlike sex, gender is not an innate biological trait, but rather, is a culturally (politically) determined category, which is frequently used to allocate resources and responsibilities and most of the times, unevenly.  Gender roles, status and relations vary according to place (countries, regions and villages), groups (class, ethnic, religions, and castes) generations and stages of the life cycle of individuals. Gender is therefore NOT ABOUT WOMEN, but the relationships between men and women in different places, groups and generations.

Gender roles in agriculture
Although they typically fulfill different roles, both men and women in developing countries make important contributions to agriculture.  Cultural norms dictate gender specific roles, distribute the rights and privileges and locate power to own, manage, access and control the agricultural resources, inputs and outputs. The division of labour, crops to be cultivated and resources accessed and controlled often differs for men and women. The most important areas of disparities are usually in ownership of the land (access, quality of land), access to sufficient labour, access to agricultural information and extension services, access to credit and radius of mobility that influences ones ability to participate in market activities.

Gender gap in agricultural productivity
These gender inequalities lead to significant impacts on the efficiency and outcomes of development project or policy interventions. In the agricultural sectors, these gender disparities, often lead to what is now referred to as ‘gender gap in agricultural productivity’ where women farmers typically have lower output per unit of land and are much less likely to be active in commercial value chains. The gender gap imposes costs not only to women themselves, but also to the agriculture sector and the broader economy and society.

Tackling gender gap in agricultural productivity
Tackling the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agricultural sector and for the society. Tackling the gender gap in agricultural productivity is now the priority of many organizations and programs involved in agricultural development work. Tackling the barriers that hold back the productivity of female farmers enhances gender equality and ushers in broader economic growth.  Gender equality makes good economic and social sense.  The FAO State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 report shows that if female farmers had the same access as male farmers to agricultural inputs and services, they could substantially increase the yields on their farms; they could increase yields by 20-30%.

Gender Research in Grain Legumes
Considering that grain legumes production is carried out in similar agricultural conditions with a ‘gender gap’ This can gap can be reduced, if we start focusing on tackling the ‘gender gap’ in technology development, access of technologies, production and productivity, utilization and marketing of the improved technologies, in the mandate crops of our target countries.

This can be done if we go ‘beyond the gender paragraph’ in research design, implementation and reporting; continually committing to identifying when there is a gender gap in participation of and outcomes for the men and women in the eight focus crops (chickpeas, common beans, cowpeas, faba beans, groundnuts, lentils, pigeon peas and soya beans) of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain legume.

Key questions to guide gender research would include: is there a gender gap in production of the identified grain legume in an identified community? Who in the community is advantaged and disadvantaged? How big is the gender gap? What are the significant factors contributing to the gender gap? How can the gender gap be tackled? How can the team know that the gender gap is reducing?