Agriculture / Gender / ILRI / Interview / Livestock / Women

Gender and assets: Eye openers and institutional changes from the Gender, Assets and Agriculture project

The Ethiopia campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted a workshop of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets project, organized by ILRI and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (see workshop presentations).

In attendance at the meeting were Jemimah Njuki , Team Leader-Women in Agriculture (Pathways) at CARE USA– and formerly Team Leader for the Poverty, Gender and Impact unit at ILRI and  Nancy Johnson, former scientist with the Poverty, Gender and Impact unit at ILRI, soon departing for IFPRI. 

In this interview, they look back on the achievements of the workshop and program and share some insights about the state of gender at ILRI and an outlook on the future.

 What was this gender and agriculture workshop about?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been funding IFPRI and ILRI to implement the Gender, Agriculture and Assets project (GAAP) with the objective to improve the impact of research and development programs on gender equality. The project focused particularly on gender and assets because we know that the ownership and distribution of assets across men and women are central to influencing various development outcomes (nutrition, education etc.)

On this project, we are working with nine different projects from the research and development spectrum such as Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), Land O’Lakes,  the East Africa Dairy Development project, Landessa amongst others to assess the impacts of their programs on reducing the gender asset gap and to build their capacity to collect sex disaggregated data and use this data to inform the development of programs and strategies with potential to reduce asset disparities between men and women.

We held a  kick-off workshop in Nairobi in November 2010 and brought together researchers, donors and practitioners. It was during this workshop that we selected the nine projects. Since then we have worked with the projects to collect and analyze data to allow them to see what kinds of impacts their projects are having on men and on women. In October 2011 we had a mid-term workshop in Bangladesh to review progress. The workshop this week is the final technical workshop where we have brought together the nine project teams, and an external advisory committee to reflect on:

  • What was the impact on gender equality around assets?
  • What were best practices in those projects that had positive impacts on women’s assets?
  • What could we do better, in evaluation and in programming?

In the workshop we wanted to identify best practices about how to collect data but we were also interested in lessons learnt from implementation.

Have you achieved what you planned?

It was great to see the results and to find out that projects delivered results that showed the importance of paying attention to gender. In terms of collecting sex disaggregated data, we have realized that we need to use both qualitative and quantitative methods. The projects that used a mix of these methods have much deeper insights about the factors behind the findings – they provide beneficiary information about what assets are important for men and for women, what do men/women think about their spouse acquiring assets and so on.

We also found out that we need to do much more. The scale of the collection of such disaggregated data is not large enough if we want to see this work be used at national level. We had technical discussions about ownership of assets by women and we recognized that it’s a  complex issue.  A desired outcome in many cases is that there is joint decision-making as well as decision making by women alone.  There are assets that women or men explicitly own alone, but there could also be some assets they could own together. There has been quite some recognition of the importance of joint asset ownership and joint decision-making.

Another finding from this work is that if projects that do not have specific interventions around gender, they cannot expect gender equality as a project outcome. Specific gender interventions are crucial, even around technical projects around e.g. technology transfer. Gender is a key issue in many fields, from nutrition to value chains, to technology adoption and so on. The projects that were originally gender-blind came a long way. In these projects we saw some of the biggest institutional changes happen.

What are the next steps for this project, beyond this workshop?

The plan from here is to take some of these lessons to develop a practitioner’s guide to go out to other organizations. These were just nine projects. We have to figure out ways to reach more projects  The ultimate goal is for programs and organizations to take gender into account and collect information that will help track impacts on gender. There is still some work to be done as these are the preliminary results, then we will receive the final results (over the next few months) and, based on these, we will develop the practical guide. The same group of people will be involved in developing it and the IFPRI-ILRI synthesis team will particularly look at lessons learnt across projects. The project runs until June 2014.

What is your view about ILRI’s current approach to gender?

There has been a lot of momentum for gender at ILRI. When the Poverty Gender and Innovation team was formed in 2009 there was not much happening in gender work and what was happening was scattered. There were projects that didn’t seem to see the relevance of gender. There has been a  gradual building up of the momentum leading to the gender strategy,  and there is much more awareness about gender in various ILRI teams.  Gender is also important for the CGIAR Research Programs, and ILRI is  recognized for being at the forefront of ensuring gender is in the research programs. On top of the work that has been carried out, ILRI has to keep up with the network built around this gender work. ILRI is also recruiting more gender specialists and that is a good development. Recently the gender work in ILRI has taken several forms:

  • Capacity building: gender is not going to happen until everyone is aware, has skills, shows behavior change and understands how gender relates to livestock research.
  • Gender also has to be a subject of research in its own right. Research projects have to be generating data on gender in livestock.

The balance between these two dimensions is crucial, otherwise gender might lose momentum. This is going to require commitment from management and everyone in the institute. A lot of what we achieved in the past was thanks to support by the management and we anticipate that this will continue.

Are you going to remain involved in any gender work that relates to ILRI?

(Jemimah Njuki) I am to a small extent still involved with ILRI. I am a member of the science and partnership advisory committee for CGIAR research program on ‘Livestock and Fish’ and are having discussions with the team working on gender and am hopeful these will continue.

(Nancy Johnson) I will be working on the CGIAR Research Program on agriculture for nutrition and health in which ILRI plays a big part.

Do you have any final advice for ILRI on its gender work?

Keep up the good work!

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