About the Initiative

The CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative brings together plant and animal breeders and social scientists to develop a strategy for gender-responsive breeding with supporting methods, tools and practices. The Initiative includes experts from across CGIAR centers and Research Programs, is coordinated by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas and the International Potato Center, and is supported by CGIAR Funders.


For plant and animal breeders to meet users’ needs, they need to understand the priorities that women and men assign to genetically determined traits – such as taste, color, size and shape. Many CGIAR breeding programs understand that if they overlook traits important to women users, this can aggravate household food insecurity and poverty. However, breeding programs still don’t have enough practical methods and tools to help them decide how to be more gender responsive and consider gender differences in breeding schemes.

Tackling this knowledge gap is urgent if CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) are to achieve the targets for gender equality defined in the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework. With this in mind, in late 2016, a workshop on Gender, Breeding and Genomics was held in Nairobi with support from the CGIAR Gender Network and Gender Action Plan (the Gender Network was coordinated by the CGIAR System Management Office until December 2016. It has now evolved into the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research led by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutes and Markets).

The workshop concluded that the knowledge and experience exist to construct, in a short time, a clear strategy for gender-responsive breeding with supporting methods, tools and practices. However, this knowledge is scattered in different sectors and disciplines and needs to be connected by a multidisciplinary team effort.

The impetus for an initiative

The CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative pulls together this strategy by the group of breeders and social scientists who participated in the 2016 workshop, under the guidance of a Workshop Organizing Committee, with coordination provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas and the International Potato Center. The Gender and Breeding Initiative is designed to share its knowledge widely, across all CGIAR and partner breeding programs in active association with Centers, CRPs and the new CGIAR Platforms on Gender, Big Data and Excellence in Breeding.

The Initiative is working to:

  • Increase the development impact of breeding by recommending practical ways to improve gender-responsiveness
  • Develop evidence-based methods and tools for gender responsive targeting, implementation of breeding activities and linkage with variety dissemination
  • Support a community of practice for active sharing and development of methods and tools

Strategies for profiling economic and socially significant target groups together with their gender-differentiated trait and product preferences will help breeding programs decide whose preferences deserve attention. Providing tested, practical ways to improve the characterization of traits that are clearly associated with different users’ priorities and preferences will assist breeding programs to understand better which traits deserve incorporation into breeding schemes and which type of varieties or breeds to develop. This is crucial to avoid overloading programs with excessive demands while ensuring vital opportunities are not missed. Of equal importance are studies to uncover the genetic underpinnings for emerging traits, if not yet known, and providing breeding programs with tools and methods to be able to breed for sets of new traits.


The CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative will commission a set of input papers around gender and social targeting and setting priorities in breeding. These create the framework for an Innovation Workshop on Gender and Breeding in October 2017. There will be important cross linkages with postdoctoral fellows working on gender and breeding within CGIAR. Knowledge sharing and outreach will be based on a series of webinars with the postdoctoral fellows and other related materials such as discussion pieces.

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