Strengthening women’s participation

The work was led by Dina Najjar, Social and Gender Specialist, Social, Economics and Policy Research Theme, Sustainable Intensification and Resilient Production Systems Program (SIRPS), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Amman, Jordan. (Photo: ICARDA) –


Strengthening African women’s participation in wheat farming

Gender inequality is a recurring feature of many agricultural production systems across the wheat-growing regions of Africa, and women farmers often lack access to credit, land, and other inputs. The result: limited adoption of new innovations, low productivity and income, and a missed opportunity to enhance household food security and prosperity.

In contrast, enhancing women’s involvement in agricultural development generates positive impacts beyond the lives of individual women – with benefits felt across entire communities and nations.

Identifying and challenging obstacles

Challenging the obstacles that rural women face is a key priority of a wheat initiative managed by ICARDA and supported by the African Development Bank and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat.

Action research to integrate women beneficiaries into the SARD-SC project in Sudan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia has helped identify actions and approaches that can be applied more widely to enhance women’s integration within diverse wheat production systems.

The main objectives were: increasing women’s income generation and contributions to food security, while addressing structural inequalities in access to inputs and services such as information, training, and microcredit.

Context-specific interventions

Our project employed context-specific interventions for growing grain, demonstrating technologies, adding value, and facilitating access to microcredit. Women’s involvement (65% in Sudan, 32% in Ethiopia and 12% in Nigeria) was often facilitated by gaining the trust and approval of male kin and support at the institutional levels – for example, recruiting women beneficiaries through the inclusion of female field staff: 4 in Nigeria, 4 in Sudan, and 6 in Ethiopia, all trained on gender integration.

Read the full article: CGIAR

CGIAR innovations


SIAC mid-term workshops are an attempt to stock take funded studies, and through discussions provide feedback on analysis approach and preliminary results. The 30th July workshop focuses on the seven (7) studies funded under SIAC 3.1 – these are a rather diverse set of studies, some quite macro in nature, that assess the adoption and impact of a number of technologies that have apparently spread widely. Description of these studies (including the CGIAR innovation under study), early results and snapshot of discussions follow.

C88, for instance, which is a late blight resistant variety has been claimed by CIP as one of its most successful varieties. Considering the extension efforts in China to promote potatoes – the study focuses on Yunnan province which accounts for 10% of the Chinese potato production – and, expert estimate that 33% of potato varieties in China can be traced to CIP germplasm, this study carefully examines the adoption (including through DNA fingerprinting), the determinants of adoption, and consumer/producer surplus through household and community surveys. Data from another SIAC activity suggests that C88 is an important crop in the (main) early spring season (around 16% of all cultivated varieties, 400K ha), and a significant winter crop variety (around 50%, 60K ha). So, what is the story of C88 as revealed by this study (so far)?

The focus of DNA fingerprinting (leaf or tuber samples, SSR marker) was not to identify the range of potato varieties – it was to confirm that the potatoes grown by households that self-identified the variety as C88 was indeed C88. 137 of the 141 fresh samples were confirmed to be C88 suggesting that C88 self-identification by farmers is not an issue. What we don’t know yet is the varietal identity of potatoes in households that do not self-report C88 – are they growing C88 and are we underestimating C88 diffusion in Yunnan? What are the varieties that C88 has not replaced or have that replaced C88 following dis-adoption? There are also questions about the dynamics of adoption over time: for instance, farmers recycle seeds and seed degradation could be an issue. While preliminary analysis suggests that current disease pressure and adoption is related, farmers who value blight resistance are less likely to continue growing C88 over time – plausibly suggesting that farmers are constantly looking for resistant varieties and dis-adopt C88 over time as seed degeneration occurs. Seed degeneration might also account for up to 25% of yield loss. Location is also found to be critical for adoption: farmers close to urban areas are likely to have grown C88 at some point in the past, but much less likely to grow it now. There are also some interesting issues raised by value chain providers – chip manufacturers prefer C88 because of its quality, but are forced to source other varieties from other provinces because high quality C88 potatoes are not available.

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Evaluating indicators of gender gaps in control over productive resources



Small changes for big improvements: Criteria for evaluating indicators of gender gaps in control over productive resources

by Smriti Rao

There is an increasing need for indicators that can track the impacts of agricultural policies and technologies upon gender inequalities at the national and international levels. A recent working paper commissioned by the CGIAR Gender and Agricultural Research Network reviews the body of published research that uses such indicators and recommends a set of robust indicators that can help measure these impacts, either using data that already exist, or data that could be collected through relatively simple additions to existing national and international surveys. The goal is not to measure empowerment specifically – that is done in the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index – but to track changes with regard to two specific outcomes: 1) control over key agricultural resources, and 2) decision making about labor, income, and within groups or collective bodies. Since agricultural interventions are often targeted at a particular point in the value chain, the recommended indicators are disaggregated by resource type, such as land, livestock, or common pool resources.

One of the challenges in writing this paper was clarifying criteria for selecting the indicators. Such criteria relate to both conceptual and measurement issues. For example, if we want to measure how a project affected women’s access to land, we first need to answer the question “how do we define access to land?” (conceptual issue) and then we can ask “are data collected from interviewing only heads of household sufficient?” (measurement issue).

Five conceptual and five measurement-related criteria emerge as particularly significant (see Box 1).  Although many of the recommended indicators do not meet all of these criteria, foregrounding the criteria could help us be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the indicators we use, as well as help us work on improving them.

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Shifting sands: putting carbon back into soils


Photo credit: CGIAR

A scientist conducts soil testing at the Selian Agricultural Research Institute, Arusha, Tanzania.Photo Credit: Georgina Smith/CIAT

Evaluating the effectiveness of soil carbon sequestration

The world has a carbon problem, and we all know it. Tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every day, contributing significantly to climate change. But slowing the rate of emissions will be no easy feat. In order to mitigate its effects, scientists are looking at alternative ways of dealing with the issue, such as carbon sequestration.

A moving target

In recent years, carbon sequestration has gained tremendous momentum and national andinternational initiatives have been taken up. But as to exactly how much of this carbon can be mopped up through sequestration is up to debate. Some scientists believe that indeed all anthropogenic emissions could be offset in such a way, while others believe only a few percent can be.

Certain key factors contribute to this uncertainty amongst the scientists. In soil carbon sequestration specifically, where organic matter such as manure, and compost are added to the soil, there are three major factors that influence its potential:

  • The dynamic nature of soil from place to place and over time
  • Variances between agricultural practices that influence the soil’s ability to act as a carbon sink
  • The significant changes to agricultural management practices that would need to be undertaken such as no-till agriculture. Globally, the adoption of such practices by farmers will take time.

Soil carbon? There’s an app for that!

To address these issues, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) created an app to help farmers and scientists calculate a soil’s current amount of sequestered organic carbon, as well as the quantitative impact of soil conservation practices on sequestration over time and at different scales.

Read the full article: CGIAR-THRIVE

Farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is transforming food security


Photo credit: CGIAR

Farmers manually irrigate a field in Kumasi, Ghana.Photo Credit: Bernard Keraita/IWMI

Water-smart investment benefits ripple beyond food security

Nearly four years ago, researchers documented for the first time how farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is transforming food security at an astonishing scale. They also showed that smallholder water management innovations hold potential to boost crop yields and household revenue by tens of billions of US dollars.

Since then, however, new research for development has revealed how small-scale irrigation may have benefits that reach far beyond food security alone.

Four ways to invest in smallholder irrigation

The research was initially carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and its partners under the AgWater Solutions project. At its conclusion, the project recommended four key areas that investments should focus on in order to unlock the potential of small-scale irrigation:

  1. increasing access to water resources, including sustainable groundwater, small reservoirs and rainwater harvesting;
  2. catalyzing smallholder value chains, removing information and marketing constraints;
  3. creating policy synergies, such as aligned energy policies; and
  4. taking a watershed perspective to reduce adverse environmental impacts.

Learn more: Water for wealth and food security: Supporting farmer-driven investments in agricultural water management.

Building on this work, WLE and USAID have supported research and development of business models that can operationalize these recommendations, while also exploring new solutions and creating a better understanding of potential additional impacts and benefits from investments in smallholder irrigation.

New technologies produce new opportunities and remove constraints

One new opportunity is solar pumps, which has only recently become a financially viable option for smallholder farmers. Solar power irrigation has taken off in India and is starting to take hold in sub-Saharan Africa, where solar powered pumps can serve as a more versatile, green alternative to motor pumps. The Africa Rising project, in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), has begun demonstrating solar powered pumps in two regions of Ethiopia.

Read the full article: CGIAR

“Women’s crops” in the Sahel countries


Photo credit: CGIAR


What do we mean by ‘women’s crops’?

by Alastair Orr

“Women’s crops” is a familiar feature in writing about smallholder agriculture in Africa south of the Sahara. Although not always easy to define, they generally refer to crops grown by women for home consumption rather than for sale. The growth of domestic and regional markets has opened new opportunities for commercializing these crops. This is good news for women – unless men muscle in and take control of the income, leaving women to do the work. This was the widely reported experience when the commercialization of rice occurred in the Gambia. We wanted to revisit this issue of gender and commercialization. What happens to women’s control when these crops find a market? 

The ‘Women’s Crop’ Tool

We developed a ‘women’s crop tool’ that measures how much control women have over different crops. We used this tool to compare women’s perceived level of control at different stages of commercialization and to compare the perceptions of men and women regarding women’s control.

The tool maps out  up to four crops’ (C) and key decisions made about each crop (D) that are weighted according to their relative importance (W) and scored according to the level of control (S) that women have over each decision.

Women's Crop Tool

C: Crop (e.g. maize, groundnuts, sunflower, and cotton).

D: Decision category (area planted, land preparation, hired labour, weeding, use of inputs, harvesting, selling, use of income).

S: Level of women’s control (0-100%)

W: Importance of each decision (on a scale from 0-5).

We implemented this tool in Zambia, where the Eastern Province Farmers’ Cooperative (EPFC) works with farmer groups to supply improved groundnut seed and has introduced portable, hand-operated machine shellers to replace shelling groundnuts by hand. To test the ‘women’s crop’ tool, we used a mixed methods approach: Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) in six villages with EPFC groups at different levels of commercialisation and a survey of 200 households. All participants were members of EPFC groups.

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A new success story in India

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

Adjusting a sprinkler, India. Photo: Alexis Liu, IWMI


Irrigation for the nation

How one Indian state is leading the way on farm water supply

India’s farmers have often struggled to secure reliable water supplies. For much of the country, rainfall is concentrated during the monsoon, leaving the rest of the year dry. If the monsoon fails, destitution can threaten many millions. The country’s media regularly highlights the tragic numbers of farmer suicides as a graphic illustration of just how precarious agriculture can be.

So the Indian Prime Minister’s recent promise of “har khet ko pani” (water to every farm) must have been welcomed by many. But just how realistic is this? Can publicly funded irrigation policy really give every smallholder a guaranteed supply of water?

In response to the new announcement, the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Research Program had undertaken an analysis of irrigation reform in several Indian states. A synthesis of their findings has just been published and cautions that money needs to be carefully targeted if farmers are to truly benefit.

“Spending billions of rupees on grand irrigation projects is risky,” says IWMI’s Tushaar Shah, one of the report’s authors. “But some states have managed to invest effectively in irrigation improvements, and it is important that those lessons are shared.”


Power to the farmers

Firstly a distinction needs to be made between large public canal irrigation, and smaller on-farm investments such as tube wells and pump sets. Farmers want as much control over their water supply as possible, which generally makes wells and ponds preferable to big canal schemes, which have often been poorly managed. The downside is that on-farm irrigation usually requires power to run water pumps – a commodity that can be in short supply in India’s chaotic electricity supply network.

Read the full article: IWMI