The new CGIAR Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results (GENDER) Platform aims to put gender equality at the forefront of global agricultural research for development and transform the way gender research is done, both within and beyond CGIAR.

2020 was an inception year for the CGIAR GENDER Platform. The Platform established a team, headed by a Platform Director, partnerships and solid foundations for future research, capacity and engagement efforts.

The Platform supported each CGIAR Center through grants to complete gender-focused outputs for the new GENDER resource hub.

Building on CGIAR’s history of gender research, the Platform identified seven priority areas within which it began efforts to synthesize and develop evidence, methods, and tools:

  • Transformation of gender norms at scale.
  • Gender and climate-smart agriculture for enhanced resilience.
  • Institutions and governance for gender-responsive food systems transformations.
  • Equitable nutrition and health.
  • Gendered labor dynamics and time use.
  • Gender equality through agricultural value chains, markets and entrepreneurship.
  • Impact of agricultural technologies and innovation on gender equality and empowerment.

Seven working groups, aligned with these priority areas, were initiated to identify and harvest the gender methods and tools to be evaluated, refined and shared. These priorities also informed the design of the new GENDER resource hub, which provides the methods and tools  to enable high-quality gender research, as well as insights and recommendations on how to make real progress toward equality in food systems.

The new GENDER resource hub provides the methods and tools to enable high-quality gender research, as well as insights and recommendations on how to make real progress toward equality in food systems.

In 2020, the Platform identified, in consultation with Funders, several significant gender evidence gaps, including on gender and climate change. This led to additional funding from the International Development Research Centre and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for climate change-specific activities.

Other significant research partnerships were developed, such as with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on COVID-19 and climate change, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa on evidence gaps on women in agriculture. A review of emerging research on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 in agriculture and food systems identified important evidence gaps, which will inform future research trajectories and priorities.

Two calls for proposals were prepared to develop and validate innovative methods and tools for gender research and to integrate women’s empowerment and nutrition methods and tools in CGIAR research.

Tuning in on young women’s voices

In November 2020, the CGIAR GENDER Platform led the “women in agriculture” track of the African Union’s dialogue event, Cultivate Africa. The event was designed to reach across sectors, strengthen understanding, and reinforce efforts to tackle immediate and long-term effects of COVID-19 on African agriculture and food systems. Dr. Agnes Kalibata, chair of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, provided the closing remarks.

Hosting a session on how to support young women to drive inclusive and resilient food systems, the GENDER Platform invited young women agri-entrepreneurs to share their experiences. Learning about the challenges and opportunities faced by these trailblazers, session participants proposed ways to better support youth like them in the future.

Promising options for supporting young women agri-entrepreneurs were summarized as the following:

1. Ensuring that policymaking is more inclusive by listening to the voices of young women when making decisions about food systems.
2. Improving access to technology, training, and resources that work for young women to scale up their agri-businesses.
3. Investing in science for innovative solutions that support young women.
4. Fostering better economic opportunities for young women and men.

The session aimed to identify clear recommendations to help inform the African Union Commission’s work, including the next meeting of the African Ministers Responsible for Agriculture, Trade and Finance on the Impact of COVID-19 On Food and Nutrition Security, scheduled for 2021.

Certain 2020 milestones were adjusted due to external disruptions, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the annual gender research conference was postponed to 2021. Yet the Platform was able to engage in high-level fora in 2020, including the Africa Green Revolution Forum and the African Union’s dialogue event, Cultivate Africa, where the Platform led the “Women in Agriculture” track.


In 2020, CGIAR’s Research Programs (CRPs) and Platforms further developed their gender research, policy and capacity development contributions. Progress covered gender-transformative approaches, women’s empowerment, the effects of men’s outmigration, the feminization of agriculture, and gender integration in breeding programs.

GENNOVATE’s continuing legacy

Gender and social norms are among the main factors shaping decisions related to the adoption of agricultural technologies. CGIAR and partner gender researchers applied gender-responsive research strategies and methods in 2020 to unravel the complex dynamics of these norms in agricultural settings around the world. Many of these strategies and methods can be attributed to the Enabling Gender Equality in Agricultural and Environmental Innovation (GENNOVATE) initiative, which ran from 2014 to 2018 and engaged over 7,500 women and men from 137 agricultural communities in 26 countries across the Global South.

In 2020, a compendium published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identified 15 good practices of gender-transformative approaches (GTAs) — one of which was GENNOVATE.

Research and activities informed by GENNOVATE continued in 2020. Scientists within the CRPs on Wheat (WHEAT) and Maize (MAIZE) used GENNOVATE evidence as the basis for a call to change the way development researchers work to reach greater gender equity in agricultural innovations. MAIZE researchers explored how women in Nigeria negotiate power dynamics to secure access to improved maize varieties, finding that women are constrained by powerful gender norms that privilege men’s agency and disfavor women’s empowerment.

The effects of women’s empowerment in agriculture

Research that generated greater understanding of the effects of women’s empowerment in farming, agricultural markets, and the livestock sector progressed in 2020.

The project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI), developed as part of the CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’s (A4NH) second-phase Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP2), was promoted in 2020 through the launch of the pro-WEAI Foundations Module. This first module of the pro-WEAI Distance Learning Course provides technical support through the WEAI Resource Center.

Since the original WEAI — co-developed by the CRPs on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) with external partners — launched in 2012, more than 113 organizations in 56 countries have fielded and adapted versions of the index.

Through an application of the WEAI in Bangladesh, the CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) found that women’s empowerment had led to a more diversified use of farmland away from cereal production to vegetables and fruits, improving dietary diversity.

Other CRPs developed indices that draw on the WEAI in 2020. PIM and A4NH developed and piloted the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index for Market Inclusion (pro-WEAI+MI) — which uses the core pro-WEAI module and complementary indicators to investigate barriers to market access and inclusion for different value chain actors. The CRP on Livestock (LIVESTOCK) developed a Women’s Empowerment in Livestock Business Index (WELBI) tool to assess changes in the empowerment of women involved in livestock business.

Since the original Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) — co-developed by A4NH and PIM with external partners — launched in 2012, more than 113 organizations in 56 countries have fielded and adapted versions of the index.

Migration and the feminization of agriculture

A high rate of male outmigration from rural areas affects women’s roles in agriculture and related activities, with broader implications for productivity and gender equity. In 2020, the CRP on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) and PIM revealed that because of men’s outmigration, women are carrying out more labor, both on and off farms. The feminization of agrarian labor may reduce women’s earnings to the detriment of household incomes, making them more susceptible to economic, social, and cultural marginalization.

Scientists within the CRP on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and PIM contributed to a cross-CRP collaborative study on the “feminization of agriculture” in 2020, which explored the gendered impacts of migration on small-scale farming in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Vietnam. FTA research on aspirations in rural Kenya showed that amid men’s outmigration and norms restricting women’s movement out of rural life, women are increasingly engaged in farm management and are becoming important catalysts of agricultural innovation and investment.

Also during the year, PIM and the CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) hosted a webinar on the gender dynamics of migration and irrigation governance in Nepal, which highlighted how male outmigration has multifaceted effects on the agency of women, including an increase in agricultural and irrigation activities being done by women.

Amid men’s outmigration, women are increasingly engaged in farm management and are becoming important catalysts of agricultural innovation and investment.

Integrating gender into breeding programs

In 2020, several CRPs provided insights into the role of gender integration in breeding programs.

The CRP on Rice (RICE), through a survey on the demand for gender-preferred rice traits across seven countries in South and Southeast Asia (Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam), found that demand for rice fragrance is mainly driven by women, educated consumers, large families, families spending a lower share of their food expenditures on rice, and consumers in Southeast Asia (particularly, Cambodia and the Philippines). These findings will help connect farmers to high-value markets and assist market-driven and gender-responsive rice breeding programs that enhance rice farmers’ livelihoods and gender equity.

Consumer studies conducted by RICE have repeatedly shown that women can play an instrumental role in driving demand and the marketing of rice varieties. As a result, gender-specific drivers are increasingly accounted for in product and process upgrades.

Within the CRP on Fish (FISH), scientists used models to determine that younger women consumers with children in Lower Egypt are more likely to consume smaller tilapia fish and prefer larger tilapia heads. This study offered the first evidence of tilapia trait preferences for low-income consumers, informing genetic selection programs that respond to pro-poor and gender-related breeding objectives.

In 2020, the CRP on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) successfully piloted their G+ Tools with multidisciplinary breeding teams working with cassava in Nigeria and sweetpotato in Uganda. The tools include a gender-responsive customer profiling tool and a gender-responsive product profile query tool, which promote the development of new breeding products with traits relevant for men and women from different stakeholder groups.

The Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) also promoted gender-responsive breeding by supporting breeding programs to target well-defined market segments characterized by the requirements of end users in a value chain and design product profiles that meet the different needs of these users. EiB’s work in this area was inclusive of the tools and training provided by the Gender in Breeding Initiative (led by RTB), including RTB’s G+ product profile tools.

The role of women in pest and disease management

RTB and MAIZE contributed to research and capacity development that linked gender considerations with pest and disease management. The RTB team explored how a gender perspective can broaden aspects of pest and disease management. Researchers examined the potential of gender-responsive data collection and extension, with a brief summarizing the findings published and translated into six languages.

In Bangladesh, where women are leaders in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) against the fall armyworm, MAIZE scientists and partners facilitated IPM training sessions involving 107 female Department of Agricultural Extension officials from 25 districts.

Strengthening women’s land rights through tenure security

While strengthening women’s land rights is increasingly appearing on national and international agendas, there is little consensus on how to strengthen women’s tenure security. Analyses of women’s land rights often use very different definitions of land rights, from formal ownership to women’s management of plots allocated to them by their husbands.

In response, in 2020, PIM scientists established a conceptual framework for analyzing women’s land tenure security. The framework provides the foundation for meta-analyses of factors that contribute to, or impede, women’s land tenure security. The framework, in turn, can guide more appropriate interventions tailored to a particular context. Some factors that can strengthen or weaken women’s land rights may be directly linked to land tenure security, such as legal literacy or land certification interventions. Other factors are more indirect but critical, such as economic growth and migration.

PIM researchers also reviewed 117 land tenure interventions and found that outcomes on women’s welfare and empowerment were only evaluated in 18 cases. An analysis of Indonesia’s forest tenure reforms showed that national reforms had been implemented in a gender-blind manner.

To move the agenda forward on forest tenure security, the FTA co-funded practitioner’s guide on “Forest Tenure Pathways to Gender Equality” was released in 2020, which explains how to promote gender-responsive forest tenure reform in community-based forest regimes.

CGIAR research and outreach on intersectionality, which relates to intersecting and interacting identities; youth; and equity developed significantly in 2020. CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and Platforms engaged in a range of issues, such as supporting farmers in remote, marginalized and conflict-prone areas, youth migration and employment, capacity development and community engagement, and strategies for attracting young people to farming.

Taking an intersectional approach to equity and inclusion

Across the CGIAR Portfolio, CRPs and Platforms adopted an intersectional lens in 2020, focusing on how gender intersects with other social identities, including age-related identities.

For example, the CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) addressed intersectionality and equity in agriculture, nutrition and health in a strategic brief, and the CRP on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) provided guidance on youth and generational issues, as well as other intersecting factors of social inequality.

Across the CGIAR Portfolio, CRPs and Platforms focused on how gender intersects with other social identities, including age-related identities.

Supporting remote communities

Efforts were made by several CRPs in 2020 to support remote communities. In Myanmar, the CRP on Fish (FISH) and partners introduced aquaculture and small-scale fishery innovations into remote communities, targeting better nutrition and incomes in highly marginalized communities.

The CRP on Wheat (WHEAT), which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2002, continued to support national agricultural research systems to release improved crop varieties in 2020. Four new high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties were released during the year, despite challenges related to release and adoption, including access to markets, farmers’ proximity to a main road, and continued targeting of transport infrastructure by anti-government forces.

Migration and youth employment

The effects of migration and initiatives that support youth employment were also a focus in 2020.

Scientists within the CRP on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), using panel data from 49 African countries, found that the quality of basic education reduces youth unemployment. In addition, the scientists found that control of corruption, improved regulatory quality, and better structured financial sectors strengthen the effect of basic education quality on reducing youth unemployment. The findings provide a clear policy pathway for reducing youth unemployment across the continent.

In 2020, FISH expanded cooperation with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to integrate aquaculture into the IITA Youth Agri-preneurs program and African Development Bank investments into aquaculture and fish agrifood systems. Investment in fish farming in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) created youth employment opportunities and a new supply of fish for the town of Bukavu.

Research by the CRP on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) in three districts of Uganda on livelihood pathways for youth revealed that few young people, irrespective of gender, aspire to make farming their primary livelihood, yet many are engaged in farming in some way. Important strategies to support the engagement of young men and especially women in commercial agriculture were identified, including the implementation of legal reforms, improved enforcement of existing land policies, and the connection of youth engagement in agriculture to wider rural development concerns, such as better access to health care, education, entrepreneurial support, transport, electricity, and clean water.

CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) research demonstrated that male youth outmigration is determined by diminishing agricultural opportunities and aspirations for social mobility. In Ethiopia, WLE showed that establishing a national migration policy and improving bilateral arrangements with receiving countries would enable more positive impacts from migration and youth remittance incomes.

Capacity development for youth in agriculture

Building a new generation of young agri-preneurs who use digital tools to provide information to farmers — along with access to inputs and services — is key to ensuring market inclusion of smallholder farmers. The agCelerant Academy, launched by Manobi Africa in partnership with AfricaRice (a partner of the CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security [CCAFS]), provided training to 62 young agri-preneurs (22 of whom were female) on the use of digital tools to provide climate and crop disease advisories to farmers, track inputs of seed and fertilizer, facilitate deliveries, and provide access to machinery services.

Other capacity development initiatives that advanced in 2020 included the following:

The CRP on Livestock (LIVESTOCK) supported seven young agri-preneurs in Tunisia, who received CRP-funded grinders to develop their feed businesses. They were trained in technical issues, such as feed composition, and began selling their own feed.

Scientists within the CRP on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) contributed to building the capacity of young farmers in seed production, mechanization and market linkages in collaboration with the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute, Maruku. GLDC also engaged Kenyan youth in bean business to boost incomes.

FTA supported dialogues with youth in Peru to motivate and provide resources for young people and women to pursue careers cultivating high-quality varieties of cacao. The dialogues addressed the critical issue of intergenerational succession in the fine flavor cacao value chain and identified the training and mentorship needs of local youth. PIM studies on how to engage youth in private sector extension or advisory services revealed several models and recommendations in Rwanda and Uganda, Guatemala and Niger, and Nigeria.

FISH cooperation with the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) enabled tilapia fish hatchery and farm management to be scaled to a wider group of young farmers in Africa, creating new employment and business opportunities. Capacity building of youths continued to feature prominently in the aquaculture compact of the TAAT project, with partners in both the project focal countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia) and satellite countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Republic of Benin, and Tanzania).

Building a new generation of young agri-preneurs who use digital tools to provide information to farmers — along with access to inputs and services — is key to market inclusion of smallholder farmers.

Supporting indigenous communities and preserving the cultural heritage of rice in the Philippines

To support indigenous communities in the Cordillera Autonomous Region in the Philippines and preserve the cultural heritage of rice, RICE conducted a consumer survey in Metro Manila to develop a segmented marketing strategy for heritage-rice farming.

Findings indicated that women, business owners, and consumers who buy packaged rice and eat pigmented rice are willing to pay more for heritage rice produced by indigenous communities.

The study suggests that policymakers and value chain actors should invest in information campaigns to educate and inform consumers about the social, cultural, environmental, and nutritional value of heritage rice to create demand, preserve national heritage, and protect the biodiversity of rice landraces in the Philippines.

Furthering the adoption of farming mechanization services for young farmers in East Africa

MAIZE supported young farmers in eastern Africa to adopt farming mechanization services, enabling them to earn a good income, while boosting the productivity of local farms.

Increased adoption of agricultural mechanization — especially machines that are small, affordable, and easy to maintain, such as two-wheel tractors — is stimulating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for African youth. Youth, along with women, are typically subject to labor-intensive farm activities, creating an incentive for them to shun agriculture as a livelihood.

Yet, with mechanization improving productivity while reducing drudgery, youth are seeing economic opportunity in agribusiness, on rural farms, and as service providers. Moreover, new jobs along the value chain, from mechanics to spare parts providers, have been created as a result.

Cross-cutting Platforms:
Excellence in Breeding
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