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Women in motion: Women Farmers in research and technology development

Women in motion: Women Farmers in research and technology development

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by Thelma Paris
Socioeconomist and gender specialist, IRRI
by Thelma Paris
Socioeconomist and gender specialist, IRRI

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: International Rice Research Institute on Aug 01, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Women in motion
ice is intertwined in the abric o the lives o hundredso millions o people living in rural areas in Asiaand sub-Saharan Arica. Rice production providesstaple ood, livelihood, and income or poor rice-armingcommunities. Among poor rice-arming households, laborrequirements are met by amily members, male and emale,and hired workers.Gender relations and division o labor by gender varyby country, agroecosystem, socioeconomic status, culturalnorms, degree o mechanization, market orientation(subsistence and commercialized), and availability o malelabor. Women contribute at least hal o total labor inputs inrice production in Asia and sub-Saharan Arica.In spite o the signicance o women as unpaid labor oras agricultural wage workers in rice production, postharvest,and processing, their contributions are oten under-reportedand have remained invisible in agricultural statistics.Consequently, the perception that ‘women are not armers’has led to the exclusion o women in agricultural research-or-development programs. The “invisible” economiccontributions o women as producers, arm managers,and income earners have been made visible through thecollection o gender-disaggregated data in production andpostharvest operations rom baseline household surveys.Identiying gender roles in specic operationsand recognizing women-specic constraints, needs,and opportunities in rice value chains and in livestockmanagement have revealed that women constitute adistinct category o consumers and potential beneciaries otechnologies. Thereore, rice and rice-related technologieswill have an eect on their labor and income. In turn,the women can strongly infuence the development andadoption o technologies, which aect their traditional rolesand responsibilities.In integrating women armers in rice research andtechnology development, we should not exclude the men.Most o the leaders and research managers are men. Thus,it is only through the political will o these leaders that thetraditional ways o conducting research will change so thatsupport and opportunities can be provided or women inagricultural research-or-development programs.We need to have more women in leadership positionsand they should be represented more in research teams.Through GRiSP, the Gender Research Team, in collaborationwith the IRRI Training Center, has established the
Leadershipcourse for Asian and African women in rice research,development, and extension,
which is oered every year atIRRI. Aside rom this women-exclusive leadership course,IRRI is also organizing workshops and training activities orboth male and emale researchers to ensure that genderinequalities in access to technologies, resources, training,and agricultural inormation are addressed in each stage oresearch-or-development processes.
Women farmers in research andtechnology development
Thelma Paris
Socioeconomist and gender specialist, IRRI
Thelma Paris (center) interacts with women’s groups in Patuli Village,Nadia District, Chinsurah, India.
Women in motion
4Promoting technologies through strong partnershipswith national agricultural research and extension systems(NARES) and nongovernment organizations (NGOs)—particularly those that work with women sel-help groupsengaged in agriculture and in microcredit programs—havebeen ound to be eective. This model will be expandedthrough ongoing country projects.GRiSP partners have catalyzed the development anddissemination o rice technologies through several projects,including Stress-Tolerant Rice or Arica and South Asia(STRASA) and, more broadly, across these other majorprojects: Cereal Systems Initiative or South Asia, Consortiumor Unavorable Rice Environments, Irrigated Rice ResearchConsortium, and the CGIAR Research Program on ClimateChange, Agriculture, and Food Security.Despite these eorts, social and cultural barriers andtraditional mindsets must change to better support womenin rice production without causing disharmony withinamilies. The stories in this report describe several strategiesor weaving a gender dimension into current socioculturalenvironments. For example, sociocultural norms inBangladesh and some parts o eastern India limit the mobilityo women armers to the connes o their homesteads. Theyare seldom allowed by their male “guardians” (i.e., husbandsand senior relatives) to be consulted or interviewed. Thesenorms restrict the women rom achieving their potentialeconomic contributions, which would benet their amilies.The Ashroy Foundation in Bangladesh, however, tookan approach to convince men to allow women to participatein research-or-development projects. The Ashroy teamconducted a series o meetings and personal consultationswith husbands, religious leaders, and other infuential peoplein the local community so that the women may be allowedor interviews and involvement in livelihood activities. Thispaved the way or development workers to train the womenon production o high-quality grain and seed, other income-generating activities, and improved postharvest practices.In Bangladesh, the
extension approach is nowbeing used to transer rice technologies to women armerswho do not have access to inormation. InoLadies are youngemale extension workers who disseminate agriculturalinormation using inormation and communicationstechnologies.In eastern India, the involvement o a emale armer indemonstration trials o Swarna-Sub1 inspired her to mobilize200 emale armers to use the submergence-tolerant ricevariety. Women’s roles as housewives also change to
de facto
 arm managers when their husbands migrate elsewhere orlong periods.A woman in Bangladesh, ater receiving training onpostharvest management, began to grow the rice varietyBINA dhan7 and infuenced other armers to grow thevariety. Since the short-duration and high-yielding rice varietywas introduced, armers have been able to grow non-ricecrops, such as mustard, between the
- and
-seasonrice crops, thus increasing their productivity and amilyincome.These examples show us that providing technologiesalongside technical knowledge, through training programs,can empower women as leaders in disseminatingtechnologies or as capacity builders or grassroots women.Traditional seed distribution schemes are oten aimedat men only. However, experience rom tribal areas atMayurbhanj in Odisha, India, reveal that the introductiono Sahbhagi dhan, a drought-tolerant and short-durationrice variety, convinced men and women to do seed trialsand become seed growers. Because they needed toconserve seeds or the next season, the women establishedcommunity seed banks. Growing Sahbhagi dhan allowedwomen to grow other vegetables ater harvesting the rice.Providing women direct access to stress-tolerant ricevarieties and training on production o high-quality seeds,including storage techniques, are helping build their ownresilience in adapting to extreme climate events such asdrought, foods, and intrusion o seawater into arm lands.Similarly, the ormation o women’s groups in Nepal hasled to the successul establishment o women-managedcommunity seed banks.Women are gradually breaking their social and culturalconnes. Under the STRASA project, women in India,Bangladesh, and Nepal have been participants in activitiessuch as preerence analysis, sensory evaluation, and armer-managed trials in participatory varietal selection. They arenow empowered to select new varieties that meet theircriteria. They are now also more condent in expressingtheir opinions on both good and bad traits o new varieties,based on their knowledge gains rom participatoryvarietal selection. Having access to seeds also ensures thattheir storage bins are ull until the next harvest season.Adoption o submergence-tolerant rice varieties, such asSwarna-Sub1, means they spend less time and eort inreplanting seedlings. They use their reed time to take

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