Tag Archives: gender

Building momentum for gender-responsive breeding

March 8 marks International Women’s Day, this year with the theme ‘Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives’. Gender research is a core part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), and in the following Q&A, Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director, shares his thoughts on gender research within both the program and CGIAR.

This Q&A is part of a broader campaign by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research.  

What is the value of the gender research currently done in CGIAR?
We do a lot of outstanding integrated gender research in CGIAR. Researchers of all disciplines are taking gender more seriously. Sometimes though our gender research is rather dispersed and responds to a local context but fails to build momentum for broader change. There is something of a translational gap between disciplines – whilst biological researchers want to make a difference in the lives of both men and women, they often lack the specific tools and approaches to take forward their good intentions. We can only cross this gap when gender researchers and biological researchers work together in the same team. For example, close coordination between RTB social scientists and banana breeders is producing a dictionary and ontology of banana traits, such as shape and texture, which are being combined with a Participatory variety selection (PVS) method to understand how men and women value these traits. This information will be used by breeders to ensure that improved banana varieties include traits that will benefit both women and men. These resources will be available in the Community of Practice in Ontology under the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, for use in banana breeding databases.

Harvesting banana in Uganda. Photto: S.Quinn/CIP

How does that gender research fit in the body of knowledge that the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas is developing?
One area where we have progressed in the past 12 months in improving the fit of gender with our broader body of knowledge is through the CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative (GBI), which is coordinated by RTB and the International Potato Center. There is a big push in CGIAR to have better structured plant and animal breeding programs with well-defined descriptions of the varietal traits to be produced, and which respond to a clear demand. Gender differences often play a major role in shaping that demand. In GBI we are identifying a set of critical decision points in the breeding cycle where gender must be considered. One key part of this will be to ensure that gender differences are considered from the outset of the breeding cycle, and GBI is working on tools to capture this. This requires breeders, gender specialists and other scientists to work together in a highly interactive way to overcome the translational gap I mentioned. RTB is taking this idea forward in its different breeding programs. For example, in Nigeria gari is a major cassava food product and it is mostly women who do the processing.  RTB is assessing improved and farm varieties of cassava in Nigeria together with male and female producers and processors to understand their different priorities with regards to food quality in gari production. This will enable breeders to target specific cassava traits that respond to these differences.

A woman processes gari in Benin. Photo: D.Dufour CIAT-RTB

How do you see the gender-integrated, gender-specific as well as any other CRP research contributing to the IWD’s theme of this year?
We believe that integrated gender research can be transformative. Supporting the generation of appropriate innovations that really consider gender can be empowering. The trick is how this may also engage with strategic gender research. This looks at the broader picture around norms and agency while relating it directly with the practical implications for breeding and may be the more natural entry point for the rural and urban activists who can potentially draw on findings from our research. So, we need to do a great job in communicating what we have found so that others can make use of it for advocacy.

What is the key opportunity for gender research to achieve more impact?
Plant and animal breeding lies at the heart of much of what CGIAR does. So, if we can find more ways to truly integrate gender into breeding, in ways that make a difference, the impact can be huge.

A year in review: Highlights from the RTB Annual Meeting 2015

The Annual Review and Planning Meeting of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) took place last week from 8 – 10 December, 2015 in Lima, Peru.

The event was hosted by the program’s lead center, the International Potato Center (CIP), and brought together over 50 researchers from the five program partner centers – the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, CIRAD and CIP – along with colleagues from other partners including Florida State University and Wageningen University. A representative from a key RTB donor, USAID, also attended the event to share in this year’s highlights.

23573958681_4474c2e3e5_o_CROPOver three days, participants reported on highlights and key achievements from the program’s six research themes, which led to enthusiastic and constructive discussion about the results and next steps for the program in 2016. The collegial and dynamic atmosphere set a positive tone for the year ahead as RTB prepares to undergo a significant shift away from research ‘themes’ to ‘flagship projects’ in 2016.

Selected highlights from the Annual Meeting:

Theme 1 – Unlocking the value and use potential of genetic resources

  • Through complementary funding, RTB has enabled the application of next generation sequencing to change our understanding of genetic diversity, genetic resource collections and breeding populations of root, tuber and banana crops.
  • In several crops, including potato and cassava, we are gaining an understanding of the identity of crop varieties, the status of duplication and misidentifications. This is enabling a much higher level of quality control of information on germplasm and breeding populations to assist with more efficient use of RTB resources.

Theme 2 – Accelerating the development and selection of varieties with higher, more stable yield and added value

  • Metabolomics has been successfully applied to banana, potato, and yam to identify differences between genotypes and treatments.
  • DNA sequencing could separate genepools in cassava based on origin. Sequencing data has proven useful to improve the cassava genome. Further gene characterization raises the question of perhaps using genome editing to reduce cyanide levels in cassava.
  • Genome-Wide Association Studies have applied in banana for the first time, and have identified candidate genes for seedlessness.
  • A ‘Trait Observation Network’ to close potato yield gaps in Africa and Asia started this year and involves extensive G x E phenotyping for drought, late blight, virus resistance, and maturity of already genotyped breeding panels.
  • Shovelomics and other root phenotyping methods to analyze root architecture in relation to drought stress shows potential for screening genotypes at early development stages, as root weight and root dry matter weight is correlated with sweetpotato storage root yields.

Theme 3 – Managing priority pests and diseases

  • Results of work on degenerative diseases show that positive selection, which involves visually identifying and selecting only symptomless plants as the seed source for the next generation, can be as effective as the use of clean seed where selection can be done accurately.
  • Pest Risk Analysis along an altitude gradient was used as a proxy for climate change, and revealed that some diseases have higher incidence at lower altitude, and some have higher incidence at lower levels. Hence, climate change is expected to have some positive and negative effects.
  • Crop land connectivity was used to assess risk for invasion and saturation by pathogens and pests, and showed that the Great Lakes region in East Africa has the highest threat for RTB crops combined.
  • An interdisciplinary Banana Bunchy Top Disease Alliance was set up, and practicable models, tools and procedures for containment and recovery were developed.
  • Single Diseased Stem Removal has been found to be a very effective and farmer-friendly method for controlling Banana Xanthomonas Wilt.
  • A successful Private-Public Partnership has been set up to reduce pesticide use to control Potato Tube Moth through the development of a pheromone-based control strategy that attracts and kills the pest.

Theme 4 – Making available low-cost, high quality planting material for farmers

  • A conceptual framework was developed to analyze RTB seed systems, extract lessons and generate recommendations for improving the design and implementation of future interventions.
  • Quality Declared Quality Planting Materials as an alternative to formal certification is a lower cost and more feasible opportunity for seed system with RTB crops where seed is typically bulky and/or perishable.
  • A key message of the research in this theme was that understanding gender roles in seed systems is critical for positive impact.
  • How can positive selection of seed become adopted as more routine practice in improved seed system?
  • A framework for understanding availability, access and use of quality seed  has been developed and specific research questions have been proposed around this linked to a series of case studies.

 At the end of the first day, CIP hosted an Open House afternoon, showcasing the center’s work in areas including a demonstration of remote sensing of a potato field using a drone and in-house software to collect and analyze the data, and an introduction to the Genebank’s collection of in vitro germplasm of potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers.

Day two of the meeting covered the highlights from Themes 5 and 6:

 Theme 5 – Developing tools for more productive, ecologically robust cropping systems

  • Developing ability to provide targeted recommendations about the next steps for cropping systems improvement, as a function of a farm’s current status (technology limited, resources limited, decision limited).
  • Providing recommendations that can be used by farmers immediately for more robust and profitable cropping systems.
  • Support for farmer soil management through careful analysis of nutrient balances shows promise for smallholder banana production.

Theme 6 – Promoting post-harvest technologies, value chains, and market opportunities

  • Sensory tasting for cassava should be product specific. For example, Gari can be eaten dry, as a paste, in porridge etc. When you want to evaluate the acceptability of Gari you have to decide on one of the products.
  • Much work has gone in to improving drying technologies and there is evidence that some technologies are preferred more than others, such as Cabinet driers in Tanzania.
  • Interlinkages with other projects are building on work that has already been done, e.g. RTB-ENDURE project is testing improved clones in development of value chains in Uganda.
  • Climate change effects: research has shown that the production of bitter alkaloids in the potato tuber increases with temperature making them unacceptable, this has strong implications for  climate change in potato

The meeting concluded with a smaller two-day workshop on 11-12 December to refine the program’s shift away from research ‘themes’ to a new structure based on five ‘flagship projects’ in 2016. More detail about RTB’s new flagship projects will be coming soon.


Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation

Through the global study ‘GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation’, roughly 6,000 rural study participants of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds are reflecting on and comparing local women’s and men’s expected roles and behaviors — or gender norms— and how these social rules affect their ability to access, adopt, adapt and benefit from innovations in agricultural and natural resource management (NRM).

Central to the qualitative field study is an exploration of women’s and men’s agency – understood as “the ability to define one’s goals and act upon them” (Kabeer 1999, 438) – at the core of which is the capacity to make important decisions pertaining to one’s life. For rural women and men, these decisions relate to agriculture and NRM, as well as to other significant events in the private (household) and public (community) spheres. Such instances include, for instance, whether or not to pursue a given livelihood strategy or whether, with whom and when to start a family.

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Men and women work together on a farm in East Africa. Photo by N.Palmer/CIAT

Among the Thai in Northwest Vietnam, “Men are the pillar of the family” is a common refrain. In the course of the GENNOVATE data collection, women and men from different age and socio-economic groups explained that Thai men are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to important household decisions. Yet, unpacking how decision-making processes transpire showed a more nuanced picture, as women’s input into men’s decisions came to the fore. Both women and men described women’s at times successful attempts to persuade their husband to follow a particular course of action as well as the role of other household members in influencing decision-making instances. Yet, within that space for negotiation, it remained that when there is contestation, men will likely have the final say.

A family in Northwest Vietnam. Photo by Marlene Elias/Bioversity International

A family in Northwest Vietnam. Photo by Marlene Elias/Bioversity International

As a middle-aged woman explained in a focus group context, deciding how to spend her own inheritance “would not be difficult if I know how to persuade [my husband].” Likewise, a middle-income man described how, with respect to sales of home garden products, “Both the husband and wife will discuss with each other to come to an agreement. If both the husband and wife cannot come to an agreement, the husband will be the one who makes the final decisions and the wife has to follow his decision.” Another male focus group member later added, about how decisions should be made to spend a man’s own inheritance, “If my wife does not agree and I still do it anyway, both will have conflicts.”

Similar results in other case study sites suggest that decision-making processes may not be as clear cut as frequently described in the literature on gender and agriculture. A global analysis of the data will yield further insight into this critical dimension of social organisation and gender equality, and into whether or how this process plays out in different cultural contexts. More importantly, understanding how gendered decision-making processes occur will help to identify spaces wherein women can be supported to gain agency with respect to agriculture, NRM and in other significant areas of life; and where transformation towards more gender-equitable societies can occur.

‘GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation’ is a cross-CRP, global comparative research initiative which addresses the question of how gender norms and agency influence men, women and youth to adopt innovation in agriculture and natural resource management.

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas is one of 11 CGIAR Research Programs participating in GENNOVATE, and is making significant contributions to gathering and analyzing qualitative research, particularly in relation to root, tuber and banana crops.

Read the original post, written by Marlène Elias, Gender Specialist at Bioversity International on the CGIAR Gender website.

Making Women Visible in Agriculture: New issue of AgriGender

To coincide with the International Day of Rural Women, the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security has released its current issue which is focused on making women more visible in agriculture policies, institutions and markets.

Rural women the world over play a major role in ensuring food security and in the development and stability of the rural areas. Yet, with little or no status, they frequently lack the power to secure land rights or to access vital services such as credit, inputs, extension services, training and education. Their vital contribution to society goes largely unnoticed. The International Day of Rural Women aims to change this by dedicating a day to recognise the important role that women play in ensuring food security.

The current issue of the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security focuses on gender in policies, institutions and markets. The issue is published in collaboration with and funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets led by IFPRI.

Netsayi Mudege and her colleagues from the International Potato Center, the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, and partners from the University of Zimbabwe in their paper, ‘Gender norms and the marketing of seeds and ware potatoes in Malawi‘ discuss how gender dynamics shape and influence the nature of participation in, as well as the ability of women to benefit from, seed and ware potato markets in Malawi.

Farmers working in their field, Malawi. Photo by S. Quinn/CIP

Farmers working in their field, Malawi. Photo by S. Quinn/CIP

Through discussions with men and women from the patrilineal and matrilineal systems in Malawi, the authors find that men and women participate in different markets for different reasons. Women are more likely to participate in ware potato markets than seed markets, are more likely to sell from home to their neighbors, and are more likely to sell smaller volumes compared to men.

Results demonstrate that agricultural market interventions that do not address underlying social structures—such as those related to gender relations and access to key resources—will benefit one group of people over another; in this case men over women. In addition to gender-related issues, structural issues such as the weakness of farmer trading associations also need to be addressed.

The authors recommend strengthening of such organizations to give women voice and bargaining power, and for private sector companies engaging smallholder farmers to pay attention to gender issues.

Extract from the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security Blog. Visit their site to read the whole article.

This research was supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, under the project ‘Integrating gender in RTB thematic research to enhance development outcomes’ and Irish Aid under the project ‘Improving Food Security through Enhanced Potato Productivity Technology Development and Supply Chain in Malawi’.

RTB and PIM collaborate to make value chain work gender responsive

With the aim of making postharvest work more inclusive, effective and equitable, RTB teamed up with the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) to support efforts to integrate gender into value chain approaches, tools and interventions.

This initiative builds upon knowledge sharing between CIP researchers in Africa and South America who had been integrating gender into the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) developed by CIP. The PMCA is an approach that helps to structure participatory processes that involve different market chain actors with an aim of stimulating joint innovations based on shared ideas and trust. It gained impetus when CIP and PIM co-funded a workshop in April 2014 in Entebbe, Uganda, where researchers from Bioversity, CIP, CIAT and IITA analyzed the potential for integrating gender into PMCA and 5Capitals, a methodology for assessing the impacts of value chain development on poverty that was developed by researchers at Bioversity, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education (CATIE).

The workshop resulted in the development of guidelines for making RTB value chain interventions more gender responsive and a roadmap for strengthening gender in PMCA and 5Capitals. André Devaux, CIP’s Regional Leader for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Dietmar Stoian, Leader of Bioversity’s Commodity Systems and Genetic Resources Program, subsequently joined colleagues from ICRAF and CIAT in  developing a proposal for a two-year initiative for enhancing value chain tools and improving smallholder participation with a gender lens. PIM approved funding for the project in September, and Bioversity, CIAT, CIP and ICRAF began collaborating on it in early 2015 taking advantage of the gender responsive tools developed in East Africa and promoting the links between East Africa and Latin America.

“For me, one of the important things about the workshop was that it facilitated the link between RTB and PIM,” said Devaux. He added that it also resulted in the development of guidelines for mainstreaming gender in RTB value chains and a prototype trainer guide for mainstreaming gender into PMCA, which will be validated under the PIM-funded project.

Devaux admitted that when he and his colleagues developed the PMCA in South America in the early 2000s, they didn’t pay specific attention to gender aspects. “It was gender neutral. I think we missed some opportunities in some value chain interventions where women were playing key roles, such as with the traditional processed potato product ‘tunta,’ which is very common in Peru’s southern highlands and in Bolivia,” he said.

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Female taro root producer linked to the Jorge Salazar Cooperative, Nicaragua

Efforts to integrate gender into PMCA began in East Africa in 2012, when CIP’s Margaret McEwan and Sarah Mayanja developed and adapted gender responsive tools for the approach with help from Jacqueline Terrillon, a consultant with the professional network AgriProFocus. Mayanja helped partners apply those tools in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2013, as part of her PMCA work under the ASARECA funded OFSP-AIS project.

“We realized that male and female value chain actors have different needs, interests and challenges. And when it came to strategies to overcome those challenges, men and women often had different views of how to go about it,” Mayanja said. “Previously, we’d used a one-size-fits-all approach, but the gender responsive tools helped us use a differentiated strategy. For example, for improving access to credit for value chain investments, the partners helped men access loans from banks, while women were linked to a microfinance provider that developed a table loan, which better suited their needs.”

Like PMCA, the 5Capitals approach was developed with little consideration of gender. Dietmar Stoian, who developed 5Capitals with Jason Donovan of ICRAF, said that their initial emphasis was on asset building at both household and smallholder enterprise levels. While some gender aspects were covered in the original version, it is now through the gender-responsive version (5Capitals-G) that gender-differentiated ways of dividing labor, generating income, and making decisions in smallholder households and enterprises will be thoroughly addressed and gender-responsive strategies for value chain development facilitated. He explained that 5Capitals is complementary to PMCA, since it is primarily used for monitoring and assessing the impact of value chain interventions and, based on this, to adjust them to increase smallholders’ capacity to benefit from them.

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Ingrid Herrera, Jason Donovans data collection assistant, carrying out an assessment of interventions to support smallholder engagement in certified coffee markets in Nicaragua

Stoian explained that the project will facilitate the development of gender-responsive versions of PMCA, 5Capitals and the Link methodology – a value chain tool developed by CIAT. Those tools will then be shared with other research centers and development partners from public and private sectors and civil society to be tested in different countries around the globe. In Africa and Latin America, piloting the three tools will take place through multisector Communities of Practice to be created around PIM Value Chain Hubs.

“This is the way we envision our development-oriented research to work, with centers closely collaborating within and across Research Programs, and involving development partners from multiple sectors,” Stoian said.

Incorporating women’s needs and preferences into RTB breeding

There have been many cases in which improved crop varieties released by national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) were poorly received by farmers because they lacked the flavor or another trait that farmers or consumers wanted. To ensure high adoption rates for the varieties they develop, breeding programs usually survey farmers about the traits they prefer, but all too often, those researchers rely disproportionately on the opinions of men. However, specialization of household roles means that women and men have different knowledge about and preferences for varietal traits. Women are usually responsible for food preparation and small scale processing, but their knowledge is rarely used for the varietal development process.

As RTB works to unlock the genetic potential of roots, tubers and bananas for improving food security, nutrition and incomes, it is also supporting field research to document gender-disaggregated trait preferences. The aim is to ensure that the improved RTB varieties developed in the coming years will have as widespread and gender-equitable an impact as possible.

“Next-generation breeding is helping breeders to speed up the process of developing new RTB varieties, but if we overlook the traits that farmers want, if we don’t have the right targets, then next-generation breeding could simply get us to the wrong place faster,” observed RTB Program Director Graham Thiele.

An example of this problem was discovered by CIP gender researcher Netsayi Moris Mudege in a project promoting the cultivation and consumption of nutritious orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties in Malawi. Farmer consultations had resulted in the release of a variety that produces large roots, which men prefer because they fetch a good market price. However, most women prefer another variety that wasn’t released, because sweetpotato leaves are an important part of the local diet and the lobe-shaped leaves of that variety are better for cooking.

Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba (fifth from the left) and her colleague, Winifred Candiru (first from the left), together with adult women cassava farmers after a focus group discussion in the Arua district.

Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba (fifth from the left) and her colleague, Winifred Candiru (first from the left), together with adult women cassava farmers after a focus group discussion in the Arua district.

To avoid such oversights, RTB supported various initiatives in 2014 to get the trait preferences of both men and women into breeding pipelines. For example, Mudege and CIP potato breeder Asrat Amele produced an FAQ sheet on integrating gender into the participatory varietal selection of potato in Ethiopia and organized a training workshop in Addis Ababa for 20 representatives of CIP’s main partners there.

RTB and NEXTGEN Cassava have co-funded the collection of gender-disaggregated trait preference data for cassava in Nigeria, using a methodology developed by NEXTGEN Cassava Project Manager Hale Tufan and IITA Gender Focal Point Holger Kirscht. Tufan and Kirscht coordinated research in 2014 by interdisciplinary teams from IITA and NRCRI in eight farming communities in southeast and southwest Nigeria. The teams interviewed 10 women and 10 men of diverse ages and marital status in each village and conducted sex-disaggregated focus groups with 20-30 participants in most of them.

“We’re trying to bring diverse voices, including those of women and youth, into the breeding process. Because we want to tailor breeding programs for the diversity of users rather than opting for one-size-fits-all solutions,” said Tufan.

Tufan explained that traits mentioned by the farmers range from agronomic advantages such as good yield to things like ‘drawing’ when cooked, which is important for making the traditional cassava dish gari. The goal is to get those most difficult quality traits into selection indices, to translate them into standardized, measureable breeding variables, and to link them to genetic markers for genomic selection. Cassava breeders Peter Kulakow (IITA) and Chiedozie Egesi (NRCRI) have helped to tailor the data collection tools in order to ensure that they yield data that will be useful for breeding.

Paula holding two cassava roots during a visit to cassava farmer (in the white t-shirt) in the Apac district, one of her study sites.

Paula holding two cassava roots during a visit to cassava farmer (in the white T-shirt) in the Apac district, one of her study sites.

RTB and NEXTGEN Cassava are also co-funding Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba, who returned to her native Uganda in 2015 to conduct gender-differentiated field research on cassava trait preferences.

Iragaba is working closely with Kirscht, CIRAD postharvest expert Dominique Dufour, and breeders at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) to help them incorporate the preferred cassava traits that she documents into their cassava improvement program.

“This is really exciting because there is an opportunity for Paula to provide information and set up a model on how to capture and integrate gendered trait preferences into breeding programs,” said Tufan.

Paula and a farmer picking cassava leaf samples in one of the farmer's cassava gardens to be used for studying genetic diversity of cassava varieties.

Paula and a farmer picking cassava leaf samples in one of the farmer’s cassava gardens to be used for studying genetic diversity of cassava varieties.

Iragaba had an opportunity to explain her research to Bill Gates in October 2014, when Gates visited Cornell’s campus to learn about the work of NEXTGEN Cassava, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds. Iragaba was one of several graduate students who gave short presentations about their research and answered questions from Gates.

“I talked about how women play a vital role in cassava production and processing in Uganda, and how their role needs to be considered by breeding programs in order to improve the adoption rates of new varieties,” Iragaba said. “I’m sure that if gender issues are taken into consideration by our breeding programs, we are going to have tremendous improvements in adoption rates.”

Find this and other interesting articles in the RTB Annual Report 2014

Strong new gender focus in revised manual on participatory varietal selection

Cover illustration of the manual by Peruvian artist Josué Sanchez

Thanks to support from RTB, a CIP training manual on participatory varietal selection (PVS) has been improved by adding gender-sensitive elements at each step of the selection process. The manual, now entitled How to Conduct Participatory Varietal Selection in Potato: A Gender Responsive User Guide was revised in 2014 and will support training of trainers in gender-responsive PVS.

PVS gives a voice to both men and women, recognizing that they have valuable but different experiences, preferences and knowledge relevant to technological needs.

The methodology, called “Mother & Baby Trial Design,” was originally designed by agronomists based on experience from interacting with farmers through a regional soil fertility network in southern Africa and was further developed and tested by CIP in Peru for large-scale farmer-participatory cultivar evaluations in potato growing areas in the Andean region.

The trial method is a participatory research design that allows farmers and researchers to test best-bet new varieties. It encourages active participation of farmers through the application of treatments in their own plots called “Baby trials” (i.e. farmer managed trials) and in fields with an experimental design called “Mother trials” (i.e. researcher managed trials), as well as through the evaluation and selection of treatments. Farmer managed trials have the purpose of disseminating new varieties as well as assessing the performance of varieties under farmers’ conditions.

The methodology was originally adapted for root and tuber crops in 2008 under the RedLatinPapa project and since then has been used by CIP and partners in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and, more recently, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

Illustration in the manual “Organoleptic evaluation taking place in a market”

Illustration in the manual “Organoleptic evaluation taking place in a market”

“The interesting aspect of this methodology is that it can be applied to other RTB crops and can allow for adaptive research, varietal dissemination and empowerment of farmers alike”, explains Stef de Haan, who was coordinator of Red LatinPapa for CIP when the “Mother & Baby Trial Design” was adapted for the evaluation of potatoes in remote, food-insecure communities in the Andes. “The tools have worked very well for collecting information on the desirable traits – yield, resistance to pests and diseases, taste, etc. – that farmers look for in crop varieties. Their involvement clearly provides interesting insights to researchers for the documentation of preference traits, but just as importantly, participatory varietal selection can result in the rapid release and uptake of varieties by smallholders, as the gained knowledge about new varieties improves the fit of technology and facilitates earlier adoption by improving access to better varieties for resource poor farmers.”

“Gender specialists apply a kind of “gender filter” to methods and approaches that help identify opportunities to better include women in participatory processes,” explains CIP gender specialist Nadezda Amaya, who led the revision. “In order to ensure gender representativeness in the results, we added recommendations for PVS facilitators and trainers to adequately address the issue of trait preferences by gender, given that involving all farmers is regarded as a prerequisite to adoption and upscaling.”

Illustration in the manual “Farmers casting their votes”

Illustration in the manual “Farmers casting their votes”

The manual, which is now available in English, has also been linked to an open-access digital platform that allows researchers or agricultural extension workers to upload their data and generate the analysis easily. “It saves a considerable amount of time by providing them with processed data to support the decision-making. We estimate that dozens of hours of work analyzing the inputs can be spared with the platform, freeing up valuable time and resources,” explains Reinhard Simon, CIP’s Integrated IT & Computational Research (IITCR) leader.