CGIAR Gender

The Pulse: Vivian Polar

Vivian Polar (photo credit: V. Polar)
Vivian Polar is Gender Research Coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (photo credit: V. Polar)

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is developing technological innovations that harness the potential of RTB crops to improve food security, nutrition, income and climate change resilience for men and women smallholders.  In many countries, it is women who produce and process RTB crops. These innovations can thus have a tremendous impact on their livelihoods.

RTB researchers mean to equitably reach diverse target groups with innovations that respond to their needs. At the same time they are concerned about minimizing the risk of doing harm to the livelihoods of vulnerable groups. RTB integrates gender in research (in e.g. technology design, development and uptake) to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from technological innovations in RTB crops. We conduct both strategic and integrated gender research to that end.

Strategic gender research tries to understand how gender relations in specific (crop) contexts shape men’s and women’s access to RTB crop innovations. It also analyzes the technological needs and local opportunities and constraints faced by different groups of men and women to streamline gender elements across RTB research.

Integrated gender research, on the other hand, is embedded in ongoing project operations and tries to be gender responsive through any practical way possible.

An example of this complementary approach can be observed in RTB’s work around cassava varieties. Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer and a large portion of Nigerian cassava farmers and processors are women. Studies on cassava farmers’ preferences for varieties and seed dissemination systems in Nigeria have shown specific gender and regional perspectives such as women valuing processing traits. These findings have motivated us to further study and assess gendered trait preferences. Our hope is to define/develop gender-responsive cassava product profiles.

In this sense, a comprehensive gender research approach is crucial to effectively integrate gender concerns and needs in technological research. Ultimately, this puts equity at the center of system-wide objectives related to poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, and natural resource and ecosystem management.