By VB Johnson, Bioversity International-

FAO quotes that women constitute 43% of the global agricultural labour force and are responsible for more than 50% of global food production, yet it could be argued that they are not rewarded accordingly. Poverty and gender gaps are not being closed as effectively as they ought to be, considering the history of substantial investment in agricultural research for development (AR4D) programs. However, the new results-based ethos driving the CGIAR’s AR4D requires all scientists and other stakeholders to integrate gender into their work. The CGIAR system is now poised to better analyse and integrate gender roles and needs within much of its research design, particularly those of women. Gender integration should lead to more effective AR4D. There is also a clear need for strategic gender research to help better understand those gender issues which are fundamental to successful AR4D.

The CGIAR Research Programme on Roots Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has recently drafted its new gender strategy, which aims to achieve two types of gender outcomes: a) Gender-responsive outcomes where both men and women benefit from RTB technologies and neither are harmed; b) Gender-transformative outcomes where both men and women are helped while gender roles are transformed and more gender-equitable relationships between men and women are promoted.

As part of an initial implementation phase of this gender strategy, CIAT recently hosted the first of three RTB gender capacity-strengthening workshops: ‘Gender Awareness and Gender Integration into RTB research processes’ from 8 to 10 October 2013 in Cali, Colombia. 32 delegates from Bioversity International, CIAT, CIP, CIRAD and IFPRI attended the three-day invigorating workshop, which consisted of a dynamic mix of presentations, discussions, case studies, group exercises, videos, remote conferencing, and a grass-roots field trip. Multidisciplinary participants brought a wealth of expertise to the event with the participation of specialists in agronomy, biotechnology, entomology, gender, IPM, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), plant breeding, plant pathology, policy analysis, post-harvest technology, project coordination, and socioeconomics.

The field trip provided the opportunity for delegates to participate in a focus group exercise with smallholder farmers, to construct gender-disaggregated annual/seasonal labour calendars. This gave participants a glimpse of what part of a gender analytical approach might look like, and gave insights into real contextual gender relations.

The three-day workshop included energetic presentations by Kayte Meola (CIAT/Cornell) and Netsayi Mudege (CIP/RTB), with contributions from Myriam Sánchez (Corporación Biotech), Willy Pradel (CIP), Mara van den Bold (IFPRI), and Maximo Torero (IFPRI), and facilitated by Simone Staiger (CIAT). The agenda included an introduction to gender concepts, gender awareness in agriculture, gender analysis, gender and M&E, and gender in nutrition, in value chains and in participatory varietal selection. The workshop concluded by highlighting a comprehensive series of gender checklists, and running a gender clinic, in which participants were invited to share proposals which needed to integrate a gender perspective. Participants were then provided with a gender resources toolkit DVD.

Participants were also able to enjoy CIAT’s excellent hospitality, and with smooth logistics from Eleonora Izquierdo and her team, this workshop provided a forum for fertile exchange, learning and networking, and has set RTB on the road towards the creation of gender-responsive and -transformative outcomes. As we move along this road we will need to implement gender-sensitive M&E, a subject to be embraced by the newly forming CGIAR-wide evaluation community of practice (ECoP).

Apart from the gender learning, I was particularly impressed by the high-level of engagement, the quality of exchanges and the add-on benefit of RTB team building. I was very pleased to make or renew the acquaintance of so many colleagues committed to the mission of RTB. Congratulations to all involved!