Wednesday, March 7, 2018

International Women’s Day: Addressing gender gaps in Africa’s rice sector

Women play a vital role in rice production systems and rice value chains in Africa. Yet in many countries and communities, they lack equal access to technical knowledge and technologies and control over assets and productive resources that are essential to improve their households’ food security and livelihoods.

AfricaRice strongly believes that closing the gender gap in Africa’s rice sector will maximize its impact on food and nutrition security and poverty alleviation. The Center has long been associated with the participatory varietal selection (PVS) approach, where special attention is given to getting feedback from women farmers.

“Our focus is to increasingly move towards gender-responsive research and reduce existing gender inequalities in rice farming and rice value chains,” stated Dr Gaudiose Mujawamariya, AfricaRice gender specialist. “Knowledge, criteria, needs and preferences of men and women farmers/users will be given importance at all stages of the research cycle.”

“The adoption of this strategy will help us to better integrate gender issues in the whole rice research-for-development cycle for an effective and sustainable impact on actors’ livelihoods in Africa,” said Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice Director General.

As part of its activities, AfricaRice is assessing gender gaps in access to information on improved agricultural practices, which is critical to enhance productivity and marketing opportunities.

A study by Zossou et al. titled ‘’Gender gap in acquisition and practice of agricultural knowledge: case studyof rice farming in West Africa,” revealed that the most quoted source in acquiring knowledge and information on rice farming technologies was ‘colleague farmers,’ implying the importance of social capital for rural African farmers.

The analysis also showed a significant gender gap in the level of knowledge and use of rice farming technologies in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger, with greater advantage for men over women. In Benin, on the other hand, women farmers seem to have better access than men to agricultural knowledge sources. No positive impact was however observed on their level of use of rice techniques. This maybe because of the vulnerability of women to poverty and lack of financial support.

The study recommends that, as a complement to formal extension approaches, interactive rural learning approaches, such as farmer-to-farmer videos, could be adopted to help farmers understand the underlying principles of improved technologies and enhance their ability to adopt and or innovate with local or limited resources.

“Video seems to be a powerful tool to solve the problem of participant selection bias in conventional training and to dilute the leadership power issue within farmer organizations,” the study concluded.