WHEAT pursues progress for women and disadvantaged groups

Despite often performing vital farm work, including cleaning seed to sow, weeding, harvesting and preparing grain for cooking, nearly all women in Pakistan’s rural households are marginalized from economic control or decision-making in agriculture, not being allowed to own land or obtain credit and rarely taken part in selecting which varieties to grow.

According to Ahkter Ali, Agricultural Economist for the Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP), fewer than one percent of women have land rights in Pakistan.

“Focusing on gender activities in agriculture is incredibly important,” said Ali. “Take Pakistan for example, 52 percent of our population is female. We cannot progress as a country if we continue to ignore half of the population.”

Pakistan is one of 26 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, involved in a field study known as GENNOVATE, which investigates how gender roles and behaviors can shape women and men’s contributions and innovations in agriculture, particularly in developing countries.

As of late 2015, the study has completed case studies across 48 major wheat-producing villages in Afghanistan (4), Bangladesh (6), Ethiopia (4), India (12), Morocco (3), Nepal (3), Pakistan (12) and Uzbekistan (4). With 48 case studies worldwide, WHEAT is investing in better understanding gender constraints, so that in future more women and men farmers will be able to make good use of improved technologies and practices developed under WHEAT.

GENNOVATE, which joins 20 researchers from 11 CGIAR Research Programs, aims to engage gender and social development specialists to identify actions that strengthen the ability of agricultural research for development organizations to support poor rural women, men and youth. “Building the right teams to do field work for this was crucial,” said Huma Khan. “We faced many challenges, particularly regarding gender constraints. As a female, I was unable to speak with males in the villages, and it took a lot of community organization to speak with the females.”

Children in Nasirabad, Pakistan being interviewed. (Photo courtesy: Ahkter Ali/CIMMYT)

Field teams lived and worked within the village among the locals for up to seven days to complete the necessary field work.

“The field teams in Uzbekistan and Morocco were incredibly dedicated,” said Dina Njjar, gender specialist at ICARDA. “In one instance I had a team that realized the questions had not been answered sufficiently and the team immediately organized a trip back to meet with the community.”

On the ground researchers explored the differences in women and men’s opportunities to access, adoption and benefits from innovations in agriculture. Case studies were selected by analyzing different socio-economic backgrounds and age groups of individual villages.

“Our work is incredibly challenging,” explained Ali. “But I can already see the potential benefits of our findings, and hopefully this research can make a difference for our smallholder farmers, particularly the females.”

Female farmers during a field study in Loralai, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Ahkter Ali/CIMMYT)

Preliminary CRP-level results are are expected by late 2016.

GENNOVATE is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CGIAR Fund Donors.

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