Co-designing Innovations that Work for Women: Lessons from Learning Labs in Kenya

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For the last two years, the CGIAR Research Initiatives Gender Equality (HER+) and Ukama Ustawi (UU) have been driving the inclusive uptake of climate-adaptive technologies in the agri-food system space in Kenya. Here we explore some of the results so far:

Empowering Women in Agriculture

Our collaborative research efforts lie in our commitment to gender equality and social inclusion. HER+ and UU recognize that empowering women farmers is not just about providing them with seeds and tools, but taking it one step ahead to involve them in processes that reshape the socio-economic and cultural landscapes in which they operate. Results from a study conducted from October to November 2023 showed that 29% of women have already replicated conservation agriculture (CA) practices on their individual farms after seeing community demonstration plots.

The intentional involvement of women farmers in initiative activities has inspired women’s active participation in decision-making processes related to agriculture, from the choice of crops to the adoption of conservation agriculture practices. The results show that 97% and 69% of women participating in HER+ and UU sociotechnical bundling activities jointly and solely decide which crops to grow and CA practices to adopt on their farms. These results show that collaborative approaches not only empower women but also inspire a sense of shared responsibility and unity in pursuing agricultural endevours, which is a critical pathway towards inclusive decision-making. This demonstrates that HER+ and UU activities are breaking down traditional barriers that historically sidelined women in agricultural communities.

Bridging gaps through socio-technical innovation bundles

The HER+ initiative uses a socio-technical innovation bundling approach as a holistic methodology for inclusion. While bundling is not new, socio-technical innovation bundles (STIBs) are a more systematic way of integrating social innovations with technological and technical innovations to address context-specific multifaceted challenges facing women farmers. A near universal 98% of men and women farmers participating in HER+ and UU initiatives have adopted STIBs, with the proportion of women and men farmers using social innovations increasing by about 30-32% between 2018-2021 and between 2022 and 2023 compared to an increase of 6-11% among non-participating women and men non-UU farmers.

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