Working with rural women: insights from CGIAR scientists

CCAFS celebrates the International Day of Rural Women by showcasing CGIAR scientists and their work with rural women.
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Oct 15, 2017


Kathlee Freeman (CCAFS)

To celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, on October 15, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security highlights CGIAR scientists that work with rural women.

Rural women, especially in developing countries, rely on agriculture and natural resources to meet the needs of their families and communities, making them critical to development. Despite their prominent role in growing and processing food, rural women face high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Compounding these issues, climate change will make it more difficult for rural women to meet not only their own needs, but those that depend on them.

In celebration of the International Day of Rural Women, on October 15, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is highlighting the work of CGIAR scientists that work with rural women. These scientists help rural women transform their agricultural landscape by opening up opportunities for livelihood diversification and access to markets, value chains, climate information services, credit, and agro advisory information. In order to break through existing barriers, these scientists must be both flexible and understanding of gender norms and practices. While there are many success stories, scientists working in this field still face social resistance and difficulties in reaching and targeting rural women.

Read the interviews with CGIAR scientists in our Exposure story

To learn more about their experiences, CCAFS interviewed six scientists: Tatiana Gumucio, a post-doctoral fellow with the International Center for Tropical Research (CIAT), Nitya Chanana, a research consultant with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Katie Tavenner, a post-doctoral fellow with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Issa Ouedraogo and Ndeye Seynabou Diouf, both with the USAID/CINSERE Senegal project, and Mathieu Ouedraogo, a scientist with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, (ICRISAT). These researchers shared their current projects and the impact of these initiatives.

Through my work, I aim to encourage policymakers, scientists, and other development practitioners to stop and listen to the aspirations, challenges, and stories of rural women.” Katie Tavenner, ILRI

They also shared the challenges that both they, and the women farmers they work with, face. For instance, women often have limited access to land, credit, information, and other resources. As men are often considered the household head, they generally have more control over technology adoption decisions. Additionally, the promotion of new technologies is often done through information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as radios and cell phones, which women have limited access to. For women that do have access to ICTs, the timing of promotions often conflict with their daily activities.

CGIAR scientists have identified the potential of rural women in the countries they work in. The possibilities, however, come with unique challenges and demands that scientists must be prepared to contend with. Some of the challenges that researchers and practitioners face include limited data and information, a lack of programs that adequately address both gender and climate change, and inadequate representation of women in leadership positions.

There is a dire need to better understand the local conditions and needs of women to make research efforts more impactful." Nitya Chanana, CIMMYT

These researchers, however, also point to the opportunities that exist for rural women. For example, participatory processes can create equitable and comprehensive policies that meet the needs of both women and men. New survey tools can also help researchers capture the realities of rural women. Scientists also noted women’s increased interest in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) activities.

Taken together, this work helps connect rural women to the resources they need to feed their families, engage in sustainable livelihood activities, and contribute to equitable development in the face of climate change.  

Visit our story on Exposure to read the full interviews.

Read our stories on the International Day of Rural Women from the past years: