By: HIllary Mara, GREAT Graduate Student Assistant and Cornell University Master’s in Public Administration Candidate
Twenty-eight agricultural researchers from 11 project teams specializing in roots, tubers, and bananas (RTB), have arrived back in Kampala, Uganda for Week 2 of the GREAT training on gender-responsive agricultural research.
In September 2016, during Week 1, participants learned gender theory and its application to agricultural research. Now, after four months of field work, they have reconvened to complete their training. Over the course of this week, participants will share their field work findings, receive feedback on challenges and successes, hone their skills in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, and learn about using communications with different audiences to achieve gender-responsive outcomes in their research.
On the first day, GREAT held a poster presentation session for team members to present their field work findings to one another. Gaspard Nihorimbe, a member of the team from Burundi’s national agricultural research institute, ISABU, explained how gender played a part in his research on the prevention of the spread of banana bunchy top disease, an economically devastating problem for banana farmers in Burundi and 37 other countries. Data that Nihorimbe’s team collected during the field research phase of the GREAT training demonstrates how dramatically women and men’s perceptions vary on topics including who makes planting decisions and who has access to income from banana production. According to Nihorimbe, differing perceptions reinforce the fact that the banana research must account for the separate opinions of both women and men farmers.
Following the poster presentations, participants reflected on their field work experience by responding to the following questions: What challenges did you face in the field? What do you feel is your most significant accomplishment so far? What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started?
Tessy Madu, from Nigeria, shared how her colleague, Andrew Smith Ikpan, a cassava breeder who “had spent his whole life talking to cassava flowers,” discovered a newfound joy in engaging with communities, not just flowers. Although he was unable to attend the Week 2 training, throughout the field portion of the course he was challenged to get to know farmers, and ended up loving it; “now he’s a totally different person,” said Madu. Many also shared challenges, including designing surveys and questionnaires, and how to cope with time constraints of interviewees – in particular women who are often busy with domestic tasks.
These reflections shed light on the potential of such gender-responsive interventions to make agricultural research more relevant and usable for intended beneficiaries, and can have broad-reaching implications for the Research for Development community.
Follow Week 2 of the GREAT Root, Tuber and Banana course on Twitter at @GREATAgResearch and #GREATRTB for daily updates on this week’s training!