Gender in Agriculture Partnership

Transforming agriculture to empower women and deliver food, nutrition and income security

Mainstreaming Gender in Agricultural Research and Development: A study of constraints and opportunities

This study sought to investigate the existing constraints and opportunities for mainstreaming gender equality into the work of African Agricultural Research and Development (ARD), so that the findings would serve as a road map for effective gender mainstreaming in African ARD. The study was designed to be comparative and employed qualitative methods of data collection and analysis. The comparative element sought out the policies, practices, opinions of, and ideas about gender mainstreaming in ARD among Sub-Regional Organizations (SROs). Qualitative methods were used in reviewing relevant documents, literature and publi- cations obtained from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the SROs, and in holding key-informant interviews (in person and/or via e mail) with officials in SROs.

Among the constraints is the informal structural set-up of African smallholder agriculture, which ARD does not adequately plan for in its design and execution, given ARD’s present orientation, heavily dependent on Western scholarship. African smallholder agriculture is intimately linked to rural ways of life, whereas ARD perceives agriculture as an impersonal activity.

African smallholder subsistence agriculture is governed by a complexity of norms, beliefs and practices that determine individual household members’ roles, rights, expectations, obligations, responsibilities and entitlements within and beyond households. The governing norms, beliefs and practices are gendered because society is gendered. Gender, therefore, determines the economic and social roles played by men and women, boys and girls; and in rural households, participation in agri- culture is just one of many such roles played by their members. ARD’s limited awareness of these dynamics constitutes one of the major constraints for mainstreaming gender equality therein. Another identified constraint to mainstreaming gender equality in African ARD is the ARD’s primary focus on outcomes such as improved productivity, markets, value addition, etc., with less attention given to institutional environments within which smallholder farmers do operate. There are lots of inequities, exclusions and unfavourable inclusions rooted in informal and formal institutions within which African smallholder agriculture is practised. These inequities, exclusions and unfavourable inclusions have their genesis in the colonial and post-colonial development frameworks, which excluded and/or unfavourably included rural areas, agricul- ture, smallholder farmers, females in general and female farmers in particular, in the general development process. Institutions provide the formal and informal rules and constraints, which shape social perceptions of needs and roles. Organizations administer these rules and respond to needs. Institutions, therefore, create the contexts in which organizations in ARD such as FARA, SROs and the national agricultural research systems (NARS) operate. Institutions further tend to socially exclude, and/or unfavourably include, certain categories of people from opportunities for advancement. Thus, ARD organizations, consciously and/or unconsciously, have inherited the cultures of social exclusion and/or unfavourable inclusion of rural areas, agriculture, smallholder farmers, females in general and female farmers in particular, from the general development process.  

The study suggests a number of indicators for measuring the effectiveness of the gender strategies under formulation or recently adopted by many regional and sub-regional organizations.

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Apekey, Ann Dela