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Monday, 14 December 2015

Gender bias may limit uptake of climate-smart farm practices

By Julie Mollins, CIMMYT
Farmer education programs that fail to address traditional gender roles may sideline women, limiting their use of conservation agriculture techniques, which can boost their ability to adapt to climate change, a new research shows.
Conservation agriculture involves minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and the use of crop rotation to simultaneously maintain and boost yields, increase profits and protect the environment. It contributes to improved soil function and quality, which can improve resilience to climate variability.
Although some scientists believe that, such techniques have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, which can help mitigate the impact of global warming.
 It is important to note that  the potential benefits of certain aspects of conservation agriculture -- particularly not tilling the soil -- have been overstated, write the authors of the study from the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and the Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting in Embu,Kenya.CIMMTY/file
Titled “Gender and conservation agriculture in east and southern Africa: towards a research agenda,” the paper discusses the lack of research conducted into interactions between conservation agriculture use and gender.  
It proposes a research agenda that will better understand how African farming systems remain strongly stratified by gender.

Despite an increase of women smallholder farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa – one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change worldwide – agricultural service suppliers and policymakers remain “locked into the conceptual norm of the primary farmer as male,” said co-author Clare Stirling, a senior scientist in the Sustainable Intensification Program at CIMMYT.

“The ability of women-led households, or male-headed households with women as primary farmers, to adopt conservation agriculture may be compromised if government policies, extension systems and other actors continue to design interventions and target information and training around the conceptual norm of the male-headed household,” Stirling said, adding that a gender-sensitive approach should become part of mainstream research.
“Overall, normative conceptualizations of ‘farmers’ can result in inappropriate targeting and ineffective messaging,” she said.
There is almost no understanding of how gender relations in smallholder agriculture – particularly with regard to decision-making over technology adoption, roles and responsibilities for specific farm tasks – may influence the likelihood of adopting conservation agriculture techniques, the paper states.

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