In 2021, the CGIAR Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results (GENDER) Platform completed its first full year of operation, with a team of Module Leaders, Management Committee, and Program Management Unit in place and a wide-ranging portfolio of activities underway.
The Platform launched a resource hub that brings together gender research from across CGIAR, ranging from publications to methods and expertise. Since its launch, the resource hub has garnered 50,000 visits.
The Platform also launched a series of activities to fill knowledge gaps and build a comprehensive database of gender research methodologies. It stepped up its outreach and capacity development through collaboration with Gender-Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) and African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), as well as through its first full-fledged conference, “Cultivating Equality.”
To ensure that gender remains a prime consideration within CGIAR and its ecosystem, the Platform’s researchers created content and added value to CGIAR’s gender research by bringing together completed research, identifying research and evidence gaps, and engaging with new partners and projects. This approach has had numerous benefits: for instance, the Platform newsletter has helped gather and disseminate research conducted by CGIAR researchers.
Sharing research and results widely lets gender researchers better understand the breadth of gender research conducted across CGIAR, helping them to continue innovating.
For the first time, GENDER researchers mapped evidence gaps related to gender in agricultural research. In doing so, they determined areas where research already exists and where more evidence is still needed — such as the influence of climate-smart agriculture on women’s empowerment.
The results of the Platform’s research on evidence gaps will be integral to informing new research projects. Similarly, the Platform extensively reviewed research methods in specific areas to provide a baseline understanding of what is available and what is still needed.
Throughout 2021, the Platform actively engaged in developing new CGIAR Research Initiatives, ensuring the availability of appropriate technical resources for development teams, and providing support and advice on proposed approaches to gender.
The Platform also led the development of Harnessing Equality for Resilience in the Agrifood System (HER+), CGIAR’s new gender initiative. Dedicating an initiative to strategic gender research is a major milestone for CGIAR.
In 2021, the GENDER Platform led the development of Harnessing Equality for Resilience in the Agrifood System (HER+), CGIAR’s new gender initiative.
The Platform is influencing future directions of gender research and outcomes in food systems through global engagement. In early 2021, the Platform was invited to contribute to developing the Committee on World Food Security Voluntary Guidelines for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
Strengthening capacity for gender research and partnerships
In 2021, the GENDER Platform focused on strengthening capacities to conduct quality gender(-responsive) research and on building partnerships.
The Platform helped organize Cultivating Equality: Advancing Gender Research in Agriculture and Food Systems, an annual conference cohosted with Wageningen University & Research and held virtually from October 12 to 15, 2021. The conference brought together 1,200 registered participants from more than 80 countries, at various stages of their careers and from many types of organizations (CGIAR, academia, United Nations agencies, NGOs, and government, among others).
The four-day program provided delegates with the tools and knowledge to strengthen their capacity to conduct quality gender research. The conference’s 55 scientific sessions, high-level plenaries, and other resources are accessible on CG Space and on the GENDER resource hub.
The GENDER Platform led the CGIAR Gender Researchers’ Leadership and Mentoring Program, implemented to support professionalization and career development pathways for gender researchers. In 2021, the program supported 21 mid-career gender researchers from CGIAR Centers and NARES across 15 countries. The program is built on leadership, negotiation, and networking skills, as well as mentoring and coaching.
The GREAT program has built capacity and recognition for the value of social inclusion in crop improvement. In 2021, the GENDER Platform collaborated with GREAT to make breeding research more gender responsive. The partners hosted a capacity strengthening program that trained 32 researchers from NARES, academia, and CGIAR (18 women and 14 men).
GENDER researchers also prepared a think piece on the current state of thinking and practice around integrating gender concerns into agricultural research. The piece explored the transformation of research institutions, challenges and possibilities for gender equality and transformative thinking in CGIAR, and strategic possibilities for action.
The Platform has made tremendous strides in its first year. Moving forward, it will become the Gender, Equality, Youth and Social Inclusion Impact Area of CGIAR, where it will continue contributing research and calling attention to gender and food systems.
In 2021, CGIAR’s Research Programs (CRPs) and Platforms further developed their gender research, policy, and capacity development contributions. Progress involved gender-transformative approaches, women’s empowerment, gender integration in breeding programs, and resilience to climate change.
GENNOVATE’s continuing legacy
Gender and social norms are major factors shaping decisions related to adopting agricultural technologies. In 2021, CGIAR and partners applied gender-responsive research strategies and methods to continue advancing an understanding of gender dynamics in diverse geographic, cultural, and agricultural contexts.
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 more than 7,500 women and men from 137 agricultural communities in 26 countries across the Global South.
Building on the work of GENNOVATE, gender research by the CRP on Maize (MAIZE) and the CRP on Wheat (WHEAT) contributed to a collective bargaining agreement for agricultural workers in Morocco and led to a new conservation agriculture approach in a crop-livestock systems project in Tunisia. In Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, research revealed that zero tillage does not reinforce existing gender inequalities within households. In southern Ethiopia, researchers called for policies that not only ensure equal levels of productive resources but also help households build capacity to improve both transitory and chronically food-insecure situations.
The effects of women’s empowerment in agriculture
Research that generated greater understanding of the effects of women’s empowerment on farming, agricultural markets, and the livestock sector advanced in 2021.
The CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) continued to build on and expand applications of the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI), developed as part of the second phase of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP2).
Since the original WEAI (which A4NH and the CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets [PIM] developed with external partners) launched in 2012, more than 231 organizations in 58 countries fielded and adapted versions of the index (by the end of 2021).
In response to growing demand, A4NH researchers developed an online course for pro-WEAI, which teaches WEAI-specific skills to a range of users. The pro-WEAI Foundations Module is currently available in English and French, and the team intends to develop five additional modules that will become available in coming years.
Through an application of the WEAI in Bangladesh and India, A4NH researchers demonstrated that the pro-WEAI was useful in detecting changes in empowerment indicators within the lifespan of a project.
In Bangladesh, the Philippines, Benin, and Malawi, researchers applied the pro-WEAI for Market Inclusion (pro-WEAI+MI), a metric developed by A4NH and PIM to measure women’s and men’s absolute and relative empowerment along value chains. This research shed light on what factors are conducive to women’s empowerment and gender equality within agricultural value chains.
In 2021, the CRP on Fish (FISH) developed a bespoke Women’s Empowerment in Fisheries Index (WEFI) called the pro-WEFI. Inspired by the WEAI, the pro-WEFI was adapted to fit the fisheries and aquaculture context and include both qualitative and quantitative components. Using modules to assess changes in gender attitudes, the pro-WEFI can be used for tracking changes with gender-transformative approaches.
Since the original Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) — which A4NH and PIM developed with external partners — launched in 2012, more than 134 organizations in 56 countries have fielded and adapted versions of the index.
Integrating gender into breeding programs
In 2021, several CRPs focused on the role of gender integration in breeding programs.
Scientists from FISH continued to advance gender integration in their work on breeds and feeds. In 2021, researchers published a first-of-its-kind analysis of gender-disaggregated trait preferences for rohu fish in Bangladesh. FISH also identified and progressed four pathways to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in fish agrifood systems.
The CRP on Livestock (LIVESTOCK) supported a gender transformative approach to overcome gender-based constraints in select community-based breeding program cooperatives in Ethiopia. In Kenya, the CRP assessed whether the gender of farmers matters for improving small ruminant productivity, finding that integrating gender dynamics in sheep and goat management may strengthen breeding outcomes.
Within PIM, scientists identified research priorities to support gender-intentional maize breeding in Africa. The findings included a more nuanced understanding of gender relations in maize production and seed decision-making, as well as more gender-responsive approaches to measuring farmer preferences and seed demand.
In 2021, the CRP on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) successfully expanded the G+ Tools that were piloted in 2020 with multidisciplinary breeding teams. The tools were implemented with national partners, creating awareness and developing capacity in national breeding programs. The G+ Tools were also showcased as one of the RTB golden eggs in the One CGIAR marketplace and integrated into the design of the new Market Intelligence and Product Profiling Initiative. In a review of lessons learned from previous and current implementation, RTB researchers examined gender differences in varietal adoption in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) 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.
Building women’s resilience to climate change
Climate change poses special risks for women farmers, who face greater workloads than men but have less access to information, technology, and decision-making. CGIAR and partners engaged in research and engagement to support gender-responsive climate policy that strengthens women’s ability to adapt to climate change. Researchers provided insights on the different adaptive strategies and capacities of men and women, as well as the technologies, practices, and enabling environments that empower women.
FISH highlighted the need to disrupt gender assumptions to move toward gender equality in climate change policy and practice. Researchers recommended including greater specificity in theories of projects and policies, collecting and communicating gender research and sex-disaggregated data, improving monitoring and evaluation (M&E), examining processes and outcomes, and further recognizing and challenging the more intractable barriers to gender equality.
Research and engagement by the CRP on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) contributed to more gender-responsive policies on climate change and biodiversity, including policy documents and recommendations used to inform the processes in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2021, FTA scientists highlighted how putting gender equity at the forefront of nature-based solutions can help leverage synergies between efforts to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation.
Several other CRPs also addressed the role of gender in responses to climate change. Scientists from the Platform on GENDER developed a methodology to identify hotspots of climate, agriculture, and gender inequity. WHEAT researchers proposed policy options to promote climate-smart technologies in India that hold potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce women’s labor. In a project supported by the CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), researchers found that membership in Radio Listening Clubs in Rwanda positively affected gender disparities in smallholder farmers’ awareness, as well as access to and use of climate information, especially by women.
In 2021, CGIAR and partners engaged in research and engagement to support gender-responsive climate policy that strengthens women’s resilience to climate change.
Migration and the feminization of agriculture Migration is an intrinsic part of the development process, representing one of the greatest opportunities to facilitate economic and social advancement in developing countries. The CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) has undertaken more than 40 studies designed to explore the causes and consequences of internal and international migration. The studies help clarify what motivates people to migrate and what factors hinder their ability to do so. These studies focused on the relationship of migration with rural transformation, gender, youth, climate change, and social protection, cutting across the whole PIM research portfolio. In 2021, PIM published a synthesis brief of these research findings. Many of these studies offer insights into how migration decisions and patterns differ between men and women. Researchers showed how migration decisions vary between men and women, and that social protection programs have differential effects related to gender. High rates of male out-migration from rural areas can create more opportunities for women who remain in villages, but often increase women’s roles in agriculture and related activities, adding to their already significant time burdens. Taking stock: Gender and the COVID-19 pandemic In 2021, researchers from across CGIAR worked to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic affected women. In an evaluation of COVID-19 policy mitigation measures, the Platform on GENDER found that women were not included in policymaking processes and their needs were not adequately targeted by measures to support the agriculture sector. Research by the CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) showed that COVID-19 exacerbated preexisting challenges for women farmers, from access to technology to participation in value chains. These findings led to enhanced research and outreach on gender-responsive extension. Working across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the CRP on Fish (FISH) led a partnership to address COVID-19-related challenges facing women fish processors and traders. The transdisciplinary project generated policy recommendations to improve gender responsiveness and a video highlighting the needs and experiences of women fishers, in their own words. In Myanmar, scientists from FISH and the CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) assessed the impacts of COVID-19 and political instability on women and men working in fish value chains. The project produced guidance on people-centered approaches to support socially sustainable ecosystem restoration.
Migration and the feminization of agriculture
Migration is an intrinsic part of the development process, representing one of the greatest opportunities to facilitate economic and social advancement in developing countries. The CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) has undertaken more than 40 studies designed to explore the causes and consequences of internal and international migration.
The studies help clarify what motivates people to migrate and what factors hinder their ability to do so. These studies focused on the relationship of migration with rural transformation, gender, youth, climate change, and social protection, cutting across the whole PIM research portfolio.
In 2021, PIM published a synthesis brief of these research findings. Many of these studies offer insights into how migration decisions and patterns differ between men and women. Researchers showed how migration decisions vary between men and women, and that social protection programs have differential effects related to gender. High rates of male out-migration from rural areas can create more opportunities for women who remain in villages, but often increase women’s roles in agriculture and related activities, adding to their already significant time burdens.
Taking stock: Gender and the COVID-19 pandemic
In 2021, researchers from across CGIAR worked to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic affected women. In an evaluation of COVID-19 policy mitigation measures, the Platform on GENDER found that women were not included in policymaking processes and their needs were not adequately targeted by measures to support the agriculture sector.
Research by the CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) showed that COVID-19 exacerbated preexisting challenges for women farmers, from access to technology to participation in value chains. These findings led to enhanced research and outreach on gender-responsive extension.
Working across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the CRP on Fish (FISH) led a partnership to address COVID-19-related challenges facing women fish processors and traders. The transdisciplinary project generated policy recommendations to improve gender responsiveness and a video highlighting the needs and experiences of women fishers, in their own words.
In Myanmar, scientists from FISH and the CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) assessed the impacts of COVID-19 and political instability on women and men working in fish value chains. The project produced guidance on people-centered approaches to support socially sustainable ecosystem restoration.
CGIAR research and outreach on intersectionality (which relates to intersecting and interacting identities, youth, and equity) developed significantly in 2021. CGIAR’s Research Programs (CRPs) and Platforms engaged in a range of issues: such as support for farmers in remote, marginalized areas; youth migration and employment; capacity development and community engagement; and strategies to assist young agri-preneurs.
Taking an intersectional approach to equity and inclusion
Across the CGIAR Portfolio, CRPs and Platforms used an intersectional lens in 2021 to focus on how gender intersects with other social identities, including age, ethnicity, religion and beliefs, socioeconomic status, and education.
For example, the GENDER Platform explored how tools and methods can include intersectional approaches in a working paper on value chains, markets, and entrepreneurship. In a publication on governance and institutions, Platform researchers analyzed how well various tools consider intersectional identities other than gender, such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education levels.
The CRP on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) addressed intersectionality in an analysis of the effects of colonial rule on local social relations in southern Nigeria, offering findings that can help reduce gender bias and facilitate the equitable engagement of young people in agriculture.
At the 2021 Cultivating Equality Conference, researchers from the GENDER platform addressed how the intersection of gender and other social dimensions (such as socioeconomic status, age or generation, ethnicity or religion, belief systems, and membership in indigenous communities) shape marginalization and social exclusion in agriculture and food systems.
Across the CGIAR Portfolio, CRPs and Platforms used an intersectional lens to help reduce bias and build equity in agriculture.
Supporting remote and marginalized communities
Several CRPs in 2021 helped support remote, marginalized communities. In India, the CRP on Fish (FISH) and partners provided policy advice to state governments to expand carp polyculture innovations and supportive policy development, with assistance targeted to women’s self-help groups in isolated regions.
In Afghanistan, the CRP on Wheat’s (WHEAT) lead Center, CIMMYT, and the Afghan Agricultural Research Institute (ARIA) began developing a plan to improve ARIA’s basic wheat research capacity, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although Afghanistan is a major source of landrace-based genetic diversity, this work had to be halted in 2021 after the Taliban’s takeover of the country’s government.
Migration and youth employment
The effects of migration and initiatives that support youth employment were also a focus in 2021.
The CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) generated primary data from a four-part radio dialogue series in Nepal that explored youth migration, COVID-19, gender, and rural agrarian transformation. The series hosted discussions with male and female farmers, returnees and aspiring migrants, youth representatives, members of agriculture cooperatives, and state and nonstate representatives working in the agriculture sector. Although immense efforts have been made to create opportunities and support youths in agriculture, these discussions showed that existing programs are inaccessible to target groups, lack accountability for implementation, or do not align life aspirations of youths with local contextual needs. WLE researchers also published their findings on how COVID-19 has affected global youth migration.
In 2021, RTB research with ethnic Thai youth in northern Vietnam revealed that minority youth access cash, goods, and services from their relatives in exchange for unpaid labor in farming and domestic work, even though young men are often absent and looking for employment in casual labor outside the village. The study demonstrated that unpaid youth labor in agriculture is not simply a problem of unemployment, lack of formal access to farmland, or lack of individual skills. Instead, the gendered experiences of ethnically marginalized youth should be reflected in relevant policies and agenda settings to prevent excluding youth who engage in agriculture, ensure safety nets, and create future economic independence.
In 2021, FISH published a synthesis brief “Youth in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture,” which synthesized the CRP’s key achievements and insights accomplished through research, policy guidance, investments, and other interventions to address livelihood opportunities and challenges facing youth. FISH researchers also provided inputs on “Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems,” a high-level policy document published by a working group from the Committee on World Food Security High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE).
Scientists from the CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) explored livelihood aspirations of rural youth in Kenya, seeking a broader perspective than the often-used dichotomy between farm-based and off-farm-based livelihoods. Policy discourse on youth in agriculture and poverty reduction often presents youth aspirations as a choice between full-time farming or nonfarming employment, which neglects the nuances between these two extremes. PIM research revealed that young people typically see farming playing some role in their future but that few wish to be full-time farmers. From the youth perspective, the dichotomy between “farm-based” and “off-farm” development pathways makes little sense, as both are relevant for their envisioned livelihood. More holistic policy approaches may be needed to reflect these nuanced aspirations toward mixed livelihood strategies.
Capacity development for youth in agriculture
Young people are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they are equally agents of change for sustainable food systems. Effectively harnessing the skills and energies of youth to create a new generation of agri-preneurs will require access to both education and information.
Digital media, such as videos, can make information rapidly available to many farmers, especially youth. But the digital divide means that digitally disadvantaged groups will lack access to this information, potentially increasing gender and social exclusion.
Transdisciplinary digital innovations and approaches that target marginalized populations can promote inclusion and help address these challenges. The Youth in Data initiative, supported by the Big Data Platform, demonstrated that involving youth in reporting on data science and digital agriculture strengthened online engagement and built new digital connections across digital agriculture startups in East Africa and India.
Transdisciplinary digital innovations and approaches that target marginalized populations can promote inclusion and help address challenges.
Other capacity development initiatives that advanced in 2021 included the following.
In Ghana, the CRP on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) aimed to unlock the potential of youth in agriculture by providing targeted, inclusive interventions appealing to specific and diverse groups of youth, especially young women and differently abled youth. GLDC offered customized training sessions for young women and hearing-impaired youth from the Wa School for the Deaf, focusing on behavior change communication that incentivized choice of improved varieties and quality cereal and legume seeds. By targeting and reaching out to every gender and social group, the training aims to engender greater adoption, production, marketing, and utilization of improved groundnut varieties.
Under the bilaterally funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia-Mechanization and Extension Activity project in Bangladesh, WHEAT lead center CIMMYT partnered with 104 agriculture-based light engineering enterprises, which included youth entrepreneurs. More than 50% of the program’s 120 participants were youth who received training in workforce and business management or foundry skills.
As part of the Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in the West African Rice Value Chain (PEJERIZ) project, the CRP on Rice (RICE) helped implement coaching, mentoring, and training sessions in Senegal and Mali, benefiting 40 individual and 38 group agri-preneurs. These sessions supported young people in defining and setting up their business plans and in obtaining bank loans. This support of young agri-preneurs has facilitated relationships with banks for young people who previously could not obtain loans from financial institutions.
In 2021, the CRP on Livestock (LIVESTOCK) engaged in facilitating an enabling environment for sheep fattening groups in Ethiopia. This work included improving the financial literacy of youth group members, facilitating registration into cooperatives, improving the flow of market information for fattened sheep and forage production, and raising awareness on gender roles.
The CRP also continued its Feeds and Forages partnership with one of the largest dairy companies in Colombia, supporting youth-centered education of dairy producers, through both capacity building events and data analysis.
The CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) facilitated youth trainings on the Happy Seeder, which emphasized that participatory extension principles and entrepreneurship can increase farm productivity among young farmers. Workshops for young farmers provided opportunities to interact with experts, discuss methods, and learn new components of agribusiness and entrepreneurship.
Improving the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in multistakeholder platforms for natural resource management
In 2021, the CRP on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) focused on improving the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and other under-represented groups in multistakeholder platforms for natural resource management. Researchers published a guide to operationalizing the inclusion of women, Indigenous Peoples, and other underrepresented groups in multistakeholder forums (MSFs). Around the world, MSFs have been promoted and adopted as decision-making, consultation, and dialogue platforms to bring together diverse constituencies to share ideas and form decisions in a more open and equitable way. However, more effort is needed to address power inequalities among participants and the quality of the participation and representation of historically underrepresented groups.
PIM researchers assessed whether the formalization of collective tenure rights in the Peruvian Amazon is supporting sustainable indigenous livelihoods. Their findings show that titling the collective lands of Indigenous Peoples alone is not enough to ensure access to sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous Peoples. Another study shows that multistakeholder forums can raise awareness of the rights of vulnerable peoples and help coordinate the implementation of supporting actions, but only when participants hold a shared respect for those recognized rights.
Supporting young farmers in the adoption of climate-smart agriculture in Africa
The CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) supported young farmers in Africa through the Climate Smart Agriculture Excellence Centers (CSAECs) established by the CSA Youth Network. The Network, which operates in 36 African countries and six other countries worldwide, engages youth in climate-smart agriculture to catalyze their engagement in climate action, help them access agricultural employment opportunities, and empower them to be active participants in creating a more food secure world.
CSAECs are a novel approach to practically demonstrate climate-smart agriculture technologies, innovations, and management practices. They are an effective strategy for transferring knowledge of locally appropriate and environmentally sound farming approaches and technologies. Run and led by youth, they support peer-to-peer learning opportunities and facilitate the scaling of CSA practices among young farmers.