Blog Making gender equality integral to global agricultural research

On International Women’s Day 2020, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the entire CGIAR community, join the UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign. Our leaders and scientists explain why gender equality is at the forefront of our research.

#IWD2020 #GenerationEquality #GenderInAg

Our food systems face unprecedented challenges, from increasingly unpredictable weather to acute biodiversity loss. To feed a population of over 9.6 billion people in 2050, the agricultural sector must transform and become more inclusive, efficient and sustainable.

To do this, it is imperative to address inequalities. The equal participation of women and men is needed to meet the burgeoning demand for more nutritious food, while sustaining our environment and addressing climate change.

In rural areas, women are at the core of food production and the conservation and use of plant diversity. Women smallholders are involved in the entire crop cycle: seed selection, planting, harvesting, processing and seed storage for the next season.

Within the rural household, women often determine which plant resources to conserve and use, which crop varieties to grow, and which food products to keep for consumption or to sell at local markets. Despite this huge contribution, these women often have limited access to and control over productive assets and resources. They also tend to have low decision-making power within the household and do not reap the full benefits of their work. Men generally control the income derived from agricultural production.

Closing this equality gap represents one of the most effective approaches to combating rural poverty, supporting women’s productivity and adding value to food production. Empowerment of rural women involves raising awareness, building self-confidence, increasing access to natural resources and transforming the structures and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender inequality.

Gender equity and social inclusion are a cross-cutting focus of all work areas in the Alliance.

Tuyen Hyunh

Tuyen Hyunh
Research Associate

In one of my research projects to improve child nutrition, I found that almost all of the main caregivers taking part in our trainings were female.

This made me reflect on why the role of childcare is mainly put on women, as well as the barriers that keep rural women at home and out of school.

Certainly there is a need for women’s empowerment in agriculture, especially in the field of nutrition research and work.

Andy Jarvis
Associate Director General for Research, Strategy and Innovation

Visiting the field is always inspiring, but I still remember the room, the faces and the sounds in a rural area outside of Ludhiana in India, when a women’s farming association talked about how cellphones are giving them new opportunities.

One after the other, the women spoke about how accessing farming information services on their cellphones gave them more equal access to information, enabling them to take part in decision-making within their households.

They were of all ages and different backgrounds, but all with the same story: Before it was their husbands who attended meetings and gained access to information about agricultural practices and technologies, but now they had equal access and could influence decisions. What’s more, the research data we were collecting suggested that women were more likely than men to act on the information received through such services and adopt climate-smart practices. A win-win if ever there was one.

Andy Jarvis
Ana María Loboguerrero

Ana María Loboguerrero
Climate Action Director

In 2017, CIAT’s Board visited participatory research sites where communities drive the agenda in implementing and testing climate-smart practices and technologies. We started by visiting Doña Waldina’s farm.

Doña Waldina is this amazing, energetic, powerful woman who has implemented drip irrigation and water harvesting for her home vegetable garden. In addition to creating organic fertilizer by composting farm residue, she has also installed a solar panel on the roof of her house. It is a real climate-smart farm! She told us how she is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how her farm addresses the climate challenge, providing exact numbers and figures.

I think that it was the most clear, straightforward explanation I’ve ever heard on how climate-smart agriculture addresses the climate challenge. At that moment, I fully realized that, if there were millions of real climate-smart women farmers around the world like Doña Waldina, we would certainly be better addressing the climate challenge.

Paula Beatrice Macandog
Senior Research Associate

Women can have many important roles: daughters, mothers, partners, educators, entrepreneurs, and, of course, farmers. Agriculture often calls for equal participation of both men and women. However, women are expected to dedicate a considerable part of their time to domestic chores in addition to the physical challenges related to the work in the field. This scenario strongly calls for equal opportunities in the agriculture sector.

By promoting the role of women as decision-makers, both in the home and in the community, we highlight their valuable contribution to the nutrition, food security, and agricultural development.

Paula Beatrice Macandog
Suzanne Ngo-Eyok

Suzanne Ngo-Eyok
Managing Director for Africa

There are many exciting initiatives focusing on restoration of degraded lands in Burkina Faso. But these often entail working with landowners, who are rarely women. This means that, although women cultivate with their husbands or families, their priorities, knowledge and innovations are rarely recognized. 

To change this situation, one NGO – Association Tiipaalga – started working with women’s groups and specifically with widows, who they have supported in acquiring and restoring land for their collective. This has transformed women’s lives as well as the degraded lands they had been given. Now these lands are recuperating their fertility and yielding a diversity of products.

Against all odds, these widows – who are the most disadvantaged in terms of time and resources – are transforming their communities. Just imagine how transformational it would be for communities and the planet if rural women had the same resources as men!

Marcela Quintero
Multifunctional Landscapes Director

The most important thing with regards to gender and within a professional environment such as the Alliance, is that both women and men are recognized and have access to opportunities based on their skills and achievements.

I believe that in the Alliance we are on the right path because women are being appointed based on their skills and achievements, not to fulfil a quota of women in professional positions.

Marcela Quintero
Juan Lucas Restrepo

Juan Lucas Restrepo
Director General

When I was the Vice Minister for Agriculture in Colombia, from 2002 to 2004, we often held meetings with farmer organizations, local NGOs, indigenous groups and civil society organizations to get their ideas and understand their issues regarding our agricultural policies.

The leaders representing these organizations were always men but something slowly started to change. Women organized themselves in groups and started participating in our meetings. Their engagement was a breath of fresh air – they were challenging the status quo and demanding to take gender into account in agricultural policies.

Initially, it wasn’t easy music to hear. We had to change our mindset to include gender considerations in our programs, ranging from land use to subsidy allocation. But when we did it and the overall program performance improved considerably.

Today in Colombia women have very clear entry points in agricultural policies and programs, which are now designed with a gender-sensitive lens.

Marcela Santaella
Genebank Operations Manager

In my job, I increasingly find stories of communities where women are the ones recognizing the importance of seed diversity and varieties. They are the ones sorting seeds out by categories and giving them names.

Women also make decisions on what to plant and why, while men work in the field, under the sun, and travel for days to get to the corn fields.

Marcela Santaella

Join the campaign on social media: #IWD2020 #GenerationEquality #GenderInAg