To address gender gaps in access to improved rice technologies and knowledge and achieve equitable and sustainable development, AfricaRice considers the specific needs and preferences of women and men rice value chain actors in the development of rice technologies.
In celebration of the International Women’s Day 2020 (8 March), AfricaRice Board Program Committee Chair, Director General, and researchers share their views on how research can contribute to gender equality and women empowerment.
Adding a gender lens into research
[About the need for developing gender-sensitive agricultural technology for economic empowerment of women farmers and processors]
In Bukan Sidi, Nasarawa state, Nigeria, rice parboiling was traditionally dominated by men. This situation changed when an improved women-friendly rice parboiling system developed by AfricaRice – called GEM – was delivered through the African Development Bank (AfDB)-funded project ‘Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa’ (SARD-SC) to women rice processors in the region to help them generate income. More than 1,000 women processors were trained in the use of this technology. As a result, the women in Bukan Sidi now produce and sell good quality rice using GEM and make money. One of these women told me: “I am happy now that I can get more money by parboiling rice and spend on my family. Now my husband asks my opinion before taking a decision for the family”. The economic empowerment has positively impacted the status of women in the community as they have earned respect and have a voice in their homes.
- Abiba Omar Moussa, Technology Transfer Officer, AfDB TAAT Project Rice Compact, led by AfricaRice
[About the need for raising awareness among farming communities on what women empowerment means]
In a study on access to land, conducted by AfricaRice, in Yatia village, Faranah district, Guinea, women were asked why they wanted to own separate farms from those of their husbands. To this, a woman farmer replied, “In the existing conditions, I belong to my husband, so everything I own has to come back to him.” Such a statement shaped the community-level discussions with men and women, making it clear that women's empowerment is not synonymous with confrontation with men, but a means of contributing to the socio-economic well-being of the household. As a result, male farmers in that community committed to granting agricultural land to women and a common grain storage named "NERICA" was constructed using the proceeds from the sale of NERICA rice cultivated in women's fields. This showed us that one of the first steps in the pursuit of gender equity is to raise awareness among farming communities on what women empowerment means.
- Maimouna Ndour, AfricaRice Sociology Research Assistant
[About the need for researchers to consider the nuances of socio-cultural gender roles in refining project strategies]
During a review meeting on a landscape management project in Guinea that I was leading in my previous position, we noticed that only men farmers sat in the front and spoke, while the women sat behind quietly. When the review committee members invited the women farmers to come forward and speak, they refused. But surprisingly, one woman explained. “In our community, women make all the decisions concerning food in our households. We are letting our men convey what we have told them.” This revelation about socio-cultural gender roles led the project to purposely seek out women farmers’ needs and involve them more actively in landscape management. This in turn led to an increase in their incomes and a positive change in the community’s attitude. Now at AfricaRice we emphasize the same approach: understand the needs of women and men to ensure that households and communities sustainably benefit from our interventions in the rice sector.
- Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice Director General
[About the need for integrating women farmers in activities of agricultural biodiversity, as they play an important role in the conservation and care of crop diversity]
In my capacity as Program Committee Chair of AfricaRice Board, I recently visited the Center’s Genetic Resources Unit (GRU) in the new Rice Biodiversity Center for Africa, at M’bé in Côte d’Ivoire, which holds the largest collection of African rice accessions in the world. It is a reference center in Africa for rice biodiversity, under the supervision of a dedicated female African Scientist, Dr Marie-Noelle Ndjiondjop. One of the young women working in GRU, who was engaged in meticulously selecting the best seeds, explained to me that she was from a farming family and was also cultivating rice. Sharing her passion, she said, "I love this job because it helps me understand the importance of rice diversity. Maybe this seed contains the response to our problems in the field. By being here, as a woman farmer I understand better how we can work with researchers to select together well-adapted rice varieties.” Interacting with her made me realize that such an integration is vital to achieve our research goals.
- Dr Sophie Thoyer, Program Committee Chair, AfricaRice Board of Trustees