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14 October 2013

Reporting from the Agri4D Conference: Transforming Gender Roles in Agriculture – Ways Forward

A gender lens was applied to a wide range of agricultural research topics in one of the parallel sessions on Thursday morning (Sep 26th). As is often the case at the gender related discussions, a female dominated audience filled the room and speakers and facilitator were all women. However, as the session commenced about a quarter of seats were occupied by men.

Five presentations on the research about transforming gender roles occupied the next two hours. The topics were diverse and covered issues from adaptation to post-disaster in the Philippines, food security in Botswana, cattle farming in the Kalahari, gender neutral pro-poor growth in Malawi and Zambia, and the balancing of women’s loyalty to the community while overcoming inequalities in Colombia.

Ellen Hillbom (Associate Professor, Lund University) presented “The possibilities and challenges for gender neutral pro-poor agricultural growth in Malawi and Zambia”. The study – a new phase of a larger project that begun 12 years ago –considers the local conditions for pro-poor agricultural growth in relation to women’s and men’s access to productive resources and markets, and has a special focus on smallholders and women. The aim of the project is  to increase the empirical knowledge of what gender perspectives actually mean in the field, and to gather both panel household data and qualitative data from interviews.

Can gender relations explain why certain villages  show  more successful growth? Does the gender factor have impact on the production strategies, commercial integration of households and institutional settings? – are main questions of the study. The project’s twelve year time-series data allows for analysis of long-term trends. The analysis will be complemented with qualitative data on how the “rules of the game” within set structures impact on men’s and women’s opportunities. Ellen Hillbom and her colleagues are expecting interesting findings from the analytical work that now begins.

Bernadette P. Resurrección (Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute) presented ongoing research on “Gender, floods, mobility and agricultural transformations in low elevation zones of Quezon Province, Philippines: A Post-disaster View”. The setting is the disaster-prone areas that have undergone livelihood transformations after the flooding of 2004. The project looks at factors and dynamics that define peoples’ attempts to secure farm livelihoods; how people adapt to flood risk; how gender and social vulnerabilities are produced or reproduced and how adaptation happens on the institutional level.

Data has been collected with a mixed methods approach and is soon coming to an end. Emerging findings from the qualitative research go beyond simple notions of gender specific impacts where women are portrayed disadvantaged. Additionally, being previously a blind spot , mobility is now highlighted as an  emerging field of research in post-disaster contexts.

Andrea Petitt (PhD Student, SLU), who has just recently returned from the four months of data collection in the Kalahari, presented her research on “Cattle in the Kalahari: Breeding Gendered Change”. Inspired by her previous work, the project focuses on the role of women in cattle production, a business traditionally linked to masculinity and male interests. The study aims to understand why women are involved; how their involvement affects their economic security and independence; and how their involvement impacts gender relations and beef production.

Preliminary findings include a more effective women’s ownership in cattle production, which is understood to evolve as a “silent revolution”. While women are increasingly involved, they are still perceived as if they are not, and often see themselves as exceptions to the norm. The introduction of new rules by the EU interestingly seems to be leveling the playing field between men and women as they are equally knowledgeable about new methods and techniques.

Onalenna Selolwane (PhD, Boidus Research and Design) gave a talk about the study titled “When rain clouds don’t gather: Gender, agriculture and food security in Botswana”. This study is a paper about how the agricultural strategies and food policies impact female farmers in the light of climatic changes and changes in resource, technology and information access related to gender. The paper reviews different food and income strategies and how changes in rainfall affect men and women differently. The key finding suggests that the greater diversity of income that men hold allows easier adaptation to climatic variability, whereas women have to rely on lending to maintain outputs.

The two-hour session was closed by Blanca Iris Sandoval (MSc Student, SLU) who introduced her research on “Overcoming inequalities without challenging women’s loyalty to the indigenous community – a case study in the indigenous community Nasa Kiwe, Colombia”. The project highlights unequal power relations that hinder women from participating in the social and political life of their communities. The aim is to understand how indigenous women reconcile the loyalty to their communities and their need to bring up inequalities that they experience.

 Access to communal resources has been examined through qualitative and discourse analysis of women’s role in decision-making, and the subtle forms of inequality and the mechanisms that reinforce them has been uncovered. Findings reveal that both men and women are committed to cultural and political struggles, but that the unequal distribution of land, access to credits, exclusive technical language and low political influence limits women’s personal action.

The two-hour session gave glimpses of the width of the gender related research in agriculture in terms of subject matter, approaches and entry points. The discussion primarily circled around definitions, challenges of sampling, and suggestions of literature and theoretical approaches.

The session was completed by the launch of the SIANI publication which was distributed to the participants.

Rapporteur: Nina Weitz

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