Challenging gender assumptions within farming and climate change research

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Recently, CCAFS theme Linking Knowledge to Action organised a Gender Training Workshop to help CCAFS and partners take the lead on gender and climate change research. Photo: S. Mojumder/Drik/CIMMYT
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Nov 1, 2013

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Cecilia Schubert (Communications Assistant )

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CCAFS theme on Linking Knowledge to Action recently held a Gender Training and Strategizing Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya with participants from all five of the CCAFS regions.

I think many of us rarely question the often heard statements about women farmers; that they produce most of the food consumed locally, make up the majority of the farming work force in Sub-Saharan Africa or are seen as more vulnerable to climate change then men due to their roles and responsibilities in society.

Arguably, this gloomy picture might not be far from reality, but many assumptions about gender within the climate change and agriculture context, are indeed just assumptions based on stereotypes.

Reality is often much more complex than the outlined statements above. The challenge right now is that little is actually known about men and women's relationships and roles when it comes to agriculture, especially when we add climate change as another dimension.

In other words, there is still a great need for more gender-disaggregated data and research, in order for us to correctly map out and explain how gender roles might impact how men and women farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change. This was one of the key topics during the recently held Gender Training and Strategizing Workshop, coordinated by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) theme Linking Knowledge to Action.

It was also one of the reasons why the gender workshop came about, to help CCAFS partners and gender-enthusiasts from the five CCAFS regions take the lead on gender research within climate change and agriculture, as well as get started on developing organisational strategies that will help them integrate gender into research activities.

Patti Kristjanson, who leads CCAFS research on Linking Knowledge to Action told participants in her introduction speech that CCAFS “wanted to create a collaborative forum where participants could link research knowledge to action, and be able to measure these outcomes through change in behaviour and practice”.

The first two days participants joined one out of the three different learning sessions, focusing on organizational gender research strategies, qualitative and quantitative research – together reviewing existing and available gender-research tools. The last two days, participants teamed up based on their regional backgrounds and prepared plans that link gender development outcome targets to research in the CCAFS regions.

Seeing beyond the research: Gender as both political and personal.

Leader for the organizational gender research strategies learning session, Mary Katherine Waller, explained to participants that working with gender can be intimidating, even for researchers. She says in a video-interview that we are not only dealing with research, but also aiming for a cultural and personal change that helps researchers take on a gender perspective. This makes the task quite daunting!

There are ways however, to convince management and senior leaders that focusing on gender within climate change and agriculture research is the right way forward.

Researcher Michael Misiko, based with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), participated in the strategy session and says in his video-interview that with "real and solid evidence on gender, leaders could be convinced to transform institutions to become, not only be gender sensitive, but to be gender transformative."

Meghan Baily, a PhD student at Oxford University and part of the CCAFS System Integrated Adaptation project (SIA), took part in the Qualitative session, and shares in her video-interview what she learned.

To her, some of the concepts on gender coding and methods of analysis were demystified, and she now aims to show the used gender-tools and activities to the rest of her team to show how subjectivity might impact coding and the importance of getting peers to co-validate chosen indicators:

What are the next steps when it comes to gender, agriculture and climate change research?

Moving forward on gender research, researchers need to integrate gender as a key concept from the beginning of the research project, in order to flesh out how gender might impact climate adaptation and gender-based vulnerabilities. New research questions that capture intricate gender relationships and a focus on gender-differentiated data collection are also key in order to better understand the reality men and women farmers’ face.

While improving gender research strategies and plans, we, at the same time, have to move away from the notion that gender issues are only about women’s issues. They are not. Gender, as the word implies, are about men and women and their negotiated relationships – nothing else.

Agnes Otzelberger, from Care International and co-session leader with Mary Katherine Waller, says in her interview that she believes this is something the workshop managed to do, i.e. get people to be more critical in their work on gender equality, and challenge some of the recurrent assumptions, for example women being the most vulnerable to climate change at all times and scales.

More on the need to challenge gender assumptions within climate change research: Women and climate change: another special relationship?

The last two days of the four-day conference were spent working with regions and partners to develop gender research strategies. A lot of time was spent making sure partners knew where they were going, i.e. what outcome they were looking for, and how to get there, what actions to implement in order to achieve the set gender-goals.

Watch all the videos from the Gender Training Workshop on our Youtube channel.

Challenging as it might seem, the five teams worked hard and managed to produce regional plans that link gender development outcome targets to research in the CCAFS regions. Various partners also mentioned that they now realize how important gender as a concept is, both to CCAFS as well as to produce good climate change and agriculture research that can really benefit rural communities.

“The workshop really made me realise that many partners have the same challenges and face the same issues,” participant Rajashri Shripad Joshi commented. “I really feel this meeting has really motivated me, as I now see that there are a lot of opportunities for us to carve out a program-response to the existing gender-research gaps and addressing these.” 

View photos from the Gender Training Workshop:

Learn more about the workshop here: CCAFS Gender Training and Strategizing Workshop: a collaborative effort to link gender issues and climate change

The conference took place at, and with the support from, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya.