Gender-responsive research training strengthens RTB’s work in Africa

Gender-responsive research training strengthens RTB’s work in Africa

To develop and scale out effective new technologies and approaches, RTB researchers need to address the needs and preferences of end users—men and women, young and old. RTB has striven to integrate gender into targeted research areas, particularly breeding, seed systems, and pest and disease management. This effort received recognition in 2016, when three RTB gender researchers served as mentors for participants in the inaugural course of an applied training program called Gender Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT). The course, which focused on RTB crops, began with in the eight days of training in September 2016, in Kampala, Uganda, where biophysical and social scientists from Bioversity International, CIP, CIRAD, IITA, and an array of national programs learned how to integrate gender into their research.

GREAT is a collaboration of Cornell University and Makerere University, in Uganda, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Cornell scientist Hale Tufan, who co-leads the initiative with Margaret Mangheni, explained that, “GREAT fellows learn that by identifying, understanding, and acting on gender issues in their research, they can make more informed decisions, build on the real needs and conditions of beneficiaries, and deliver appropriate innovations.”

During the September training, GREAT fellows designed gender-responsive research projects in areas ranging from sweetpotato breeding to banana disease management. They then spent four to six months completing field research, with support from mentors assigned by GREAT. Afterwards, they returned to Kampala to analyze and interpret their data during a second session in early 2017.

Anne Rietveld, the RTB gender focal point at Bioversity International, contributed to the course’s curriculum and served as a mentor. She observed that the training strengthened participants’ ability to use both quantitative and qualitative data, while promoting the integration of biophysical and social science research. “It was quite holistic, from a research point of view,” she said.

Tufan noted that among the skills covered were ways to facilitate group interviews in a gender-responsive manner through group composition, time of day, framing of questions, and moderating discussion. Such details can facilitate the participation of women, and help researchers gain insight into their needs, preferences, and barriers in RTB crop production.

“We feel proud to create opportunities for silent voices to be heard, especially those of women and girls.”Hale Tufan

Rietveld, who mentored a team of banana researchers in Burundi, was one of three RTB gender researchers who served as GREAT mentors in 2016. CIP gender research coordinator Netsayi Mudege helped a team in Ghana integrate gender into their sweetpotato improvement research, whereas IITA gender research assistant Renee Bullock mentored Francois Iradukunda, a Bioversity International systems scientist who manages a project in Burundi that promotes on-farm measures for controlling banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW).

Iradukunda reported that he took advantage of the GREAT training and mentoring to design research to better understand the gender dynamics of banana cropping systems and how they influence adoption and scaling out of the BXW control measures his team promotes. He explained that he applied methods he had learned in Uganda for convening focus group discussions with ‘farmer learning groups’ that had already been established to monitor progress at pilot sites in Burundi.

His research confirmed that women have less control over banana production and profits than men, and less access to sources of information such as radio, which hinders their adoption and implementation of BXW control measures. Yet banana forms part of intercropping systems in which women play many roles, so they can have an important impact on efforts to control the disease.

On the basis of the results of his research, Iradukunda will make recommendations for gender-responsive messaging for scaling out BXW control measures. He will also use his findings to develop strategies for minimizing the potentially harmful effects of gender differences in asset control, labor allocation, and income on efforts to manage BXW, and to create more equitable banana farming systems. He added that GREAT changed the way he will conduct research in the future.

“I will ensure that gender aspects are integrated into all my research activities, from planning to implementation.”Francois Iradukunda

Photo: Participants in the GREAT training course

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