CGIAR Gender

CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research

Gender and conservation agriculture

Farmer Grace Malaitcha, from Zidyana, near Nkhotakota, Malawi, pictured in 2009 on her maize plot, which she cultivates using conservation agriculture (CA) practices. She previously used traditional hand-tillage methods, typically requiring 160,000 hoe strokes per hectare to prepare land for planting. In 2005 she adopted CA, known locally as "Ulimi Wosagalauza" (agriculture without plowing), with support from the NGO Total LandCare and CIMMYT in partnership. She now uses less than half the labor and produces more maize, and other crops too. This has enabled her to save money for other expenditures, and she has bought two pigs and built a brick and mortar pigsty. A pioneer in her community, Malaitcha has formed a CA club and trains other local farmers in crop management. CIMMYT uses a system of innovation and learning “hubs” to spread CA practices, with key trial sites at the center of regional networks of collaborative CA research, demonstration and dissemination. CIMMYT has established hubs throughout Southern Africa. Photo credit: Patrick Wall/CIMMYT.
Farmer Grace Malaitcha, from Zidyana, near Nkhotakota, Malawi, pictured on her maize plot, which she cultivates using conservation agriculture (CA) practices. Photo credit: Patrick Wall/CIMMYT.

Conservation agriculture and its contribution to improved soil function and quality is said to have the potential to mitigate climate change variability. A new study, “Gender and conservation agriculture in east and southern Africa: towards a research agenda, by the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), however, highlights that despite its many benefits, conservation agriculture interventions are often skewed from the perspective of gender equitable benefits. And yet, there seems to be little recognition of these gendered differences in the implementation of such interventions.

“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,” Claire Stirling, co-author and senior scientist in the Sustainable Intensification Program at CIMMYT.

Implementation will inevitably involve a reallocation of men’s and women’s resources as well as having an impact upon their ability to realize their gender interests. Prevailing gender biases in extension services therefore, can sideline women.

This new study examines the limited research to date on the interactions between conservation agriculture interventions and gender in East and Southern Africa, and, sets out a research agenda based on the gaps observed. The authors argue that attention to gender in conservation agriculture is particularly timely given the increasing interest in its practice as a means of adapting to climate change.

Read the original post on the CIMMYT website titled, Gender bias may limit uptake of climate-smart farm practices, study shows.