Women and Gender in International Development
Maria Elisa Christie
Everything we do in life, whether we are aware of it or not, is gendered. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative to remember that gender inequality exists in all of the countries where the IPM Innovation Lab implements its research activities. Gender issues such unequal access to land, agricultural inputs, financing, and rural advisory and extension services among other resources, undermines the benefits from investments in agricultural research, policy, and development designed to increase agricultural productivity, promote food security, and enhance nutritional well-being.
Inclusive agricultural growth and female empowerment are core development objectives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the IPM Innovation Lab recognizes that gender equality is integral to its overall mission to enhance agricultural livelihoods and generate sustainable development. Designing IPM practices and packages requires an understanding of why, where, and for whom such technologies and practices are most appropriate, accounting for how gender, socio-economic status, and ethnicity affect the integration of IPM into rural agricultural livelihoods.
Vision for Gender-Responsive Research for Development
Through its program-wide and project-level strategies, the IPM Innovation Lab addresses the gendered components of pest management throughout the design, implementation, and evaluation of all activities, using a number of methods and best practices to explore two broad questions:
- How do gender relations, norms, and attitudes affect the impact and outcomes of IPM Innovation Lab research activities?
- How do IPM Innovation Lab research activities affect gender relations, norms, and attitudes at the household and community level?
- Check out the piece written about WGD Graduate Research Assistant Kaitlyn Spangler for her thesis work on IPM, Gender and Geography.
- Check out a few interviews with IPM IL’s female scientists in celebration of Women’s Month in March!
- For more detailed information about Women and Gender in International Development, view the official website.
Ongoing Research Activities
In Bangladesh, the IPM Innovation Lab has been working to disseminate Trichoderma to farmers to combat soil-borne diseases, teaching farmers how to produce Tricho-compost at their home gardens and apply it to their vegetable crops. Farmers have reported the benefits from using the Tricho-compost, including improved crop yields and decreased reliance on chemical fertilizers. Women are actively involved in this process, and the program provides them with extra income along with the agricultural productivity. The positive impact on women also includes subjective indicators of empowerment, such as women’s improved self-esteem.
In Ethiopia, the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus L. is adversely affecting rural livelihoods by reducing agricultural productivity, biodiversity, livestock health, and income generation. Ongoing IPM Innovation Lab research has documented that while controlling Parthenium is a “family affair,” the additional time required to control Parthenium disproportionately affects women. More time is required to manually control the weed, further limiting women’s available time to complete their many other responsibilities within the farming household.
In Vietnam, formative gender analysis documented gender-based barriers to women’s participation in IPM training and outreach activities, including norms that limit women’s mobility to travel to trainings. In response, the project team developed an action plan to implement a gender responsive outreach approach that not only acknowledged the gender inequalities, but takes action to promote women’s ability to access information about IPM and apply IPM practices. The project is developing training materials that are visual, incorporating depictions of women’s roles and responsibilities in agriculture and pest management and more appropriate to women’s level of understanding. In addition, the project team has started collaborating with the Vietnam Women’s Union to ensure trainings address the priorities and issues of women producers.
Past Research Activities
When managing the Tomato yellow leaf curl virus destroying tomatoes and peppers in Mali, the IPM Innovation Lab found that the best technique is to apply a “no-host period.” This means that farmers wait a couple of months between plantings of these two crops in order to reduce opportunities for virus to spread from the white fly that carries it. Since the virus can only live on tomatoes and peppers, when the farmers plant other vegetables for these months, the virus dies out in these areas. Yet if only men (and men’s fields) participate in IPM projects while women and their home gardens are ignored, the no-host period does not work, as the virus would continue to proliferate on these uninitiated fields, and when the no-host periods ended, the white fly would spread the virus to the tomatoes and peppers again.