Gender and AWD. A study in progress with rice farmers in Colombia

Gender and AWD. A study in progress with rice farmers in Colombia

Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is an improved practice for producing rice designed by The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which reduces the use of water by 30%, and methane gas emissions by 48% through better water management during the production cycle (Richards and Sander, 2014). Such a practice could help Colombia meet its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases emissions by 20% by 2030, an agreement reached in Paris during the 2015 United Nations conference on climate change (COP21).

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with the National Rice Federation in Colombia (FEDEARROZ, by its Spanish acronym), is researching the opportunity to implement AWD.
As part of this diagnosis, a socioeconomic study with gender perspective it is being developed in five regions of Colombia -Tolima, Norte de Santander, Córdoba, Cesar and Casanare-, in order to identify gender variables that could be barriers for implementation of this system among rice producers.

Why a gender study for AWD?

Photo: CIAT

Photo: CIAT

In order for an agricultural technology to be adopted it is important to consider who makes production decisions and who has access to the necessary resources for the implementation of the technology. In some Latin American countries, studies have shown the importance of women’s participation in rice production activities, including the decision making processes, even though it is typically seen as a male dominated crop (Twyman, Muriel and García, 2015; Garcia, 2015).These studies also found that women are not typically recognized as rice producers and therefore are not usually beneficiaries of extension services or other production programs. Furthermore, they are less likely to have access to agricultural resources such as land, time, inputs, machinery, agricultural information and/or group membership (Muriel, 2013; Huyer, 2015).

The gender division of labor is another important consideration for understanding the relationships between gender and adoption of AWD. For example, in previous studies in Peru (Muriel, 2013), it was found that women participate in transplanting and in Bolivia in manual activities related with weed control (Twyman, Muriel and García, 2015). Therefore, it is essential to identify who is in charge of what activities in rice production and, if the implementation of a new technology could potentially worsen or improve the labor that women and men perform.

In Colombia there is no literature about gender and rice production. Therefore, a socioeconomic study with a gender perspective has been conducted to help understand questions such as: What roles do men and women play in rice production? And, how these roles will be affected by AWD? Or how they could affect the adoption of AWD? These questions were the result of the following objectives and hypothesis:


  1. Identify who makes the decision over rice production, and how such decisions are made.
  2. Identify the limitations that men and women have to implement AWD, by the identification of access and control over resources necessaries for implementing this technology.
  3. Describe labor use in rice production, specifically identifying the gender division of labor for each agronomic activity.


  1. Women participate in strategic decisions (e.g. income), meanwhile men participate more in decisions related directly to the rice production (e.g. agronomic activities). Women and men are important for adoption.
  2. Women have less access to the resources necessary for the implementation of AWD (e.g. water, level plots, agricultural information, etc.), and will thus be less likely than men to adopt AWD.
  3. Women do much of the manual labor (e.g. manual weed control) that with the implementation of AWD, probably, the person-days used could be reduced.

Study in progress

Photo: CIAT

Photo: CIAT

In March and April of 2016, 609 households of irrigated rice producers were interviewed in these zones. Although women respondents represented only 8% of the sample, the modules of the questionnaire included sex-disaggregated data in themes such as: decision making over each agronomic activity, water management and income; labor for each production activity including irrigation, weed control, supervision, selling and preparation of food for the employees, among others; ownership of important household and production assets (e.g. land, reservoirs, machinery, and vehicles); as well as, participation in groups and access to information.

The questionnaire was designed considering the research objectives and gender-impact rice studies done before by CIAT in other Latin American countries; and validated by several pilot tests conducted in collaboration with “Arroz Blanquita” (a rice mill). The training for the application of the questionnaire was done with the participation of five field coordinators, sixteen enumerators and the valuable support of some of FEDEARROZ representatives, during May 2016.

The main output will be to submit a report with preliminary results, including recommendations which will be a very valuable information tool for scientists and stakeholders, in terms of policies and programs.


About the authors

María Alejandra García is a Sociologist, working as a Gender Research Assistant at CIAT in Cali, Colombia. Her research focus is on gender and agriculture, specifically in the rice sector in Latin America within the CGIAR Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). Currently she is involved in projects related to the adoption of improved rice varieties with a gender perspective and in AWD in Colombia.

Cristina Katto is a Plan Geneticist, working as a Soils Research Associate at CIAT in Cali, Colombia. Her research focus is reducing methane emissions in agriculture, specifically in the rice sector in Colombia. She is currently focused on coordinating all the activities related to the implementation of AWD at a national level.