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By: Obaiya Utoblo, GREAT Fellow and PhD student at the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI)


GHANA: Being a participant in the GREAT Gender-responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding training in September 2016 and February 2017 was an awesome experience. Through the training, I was exposed to a new perspective in agriculture and research – peering through the gender lens. This enabled me to understand the need to ensure research objectives are planned to consider the diverse needs and roles of men and women in agriculture.

The 16th SPHI Sweetpotato Speed Breeders Annual Meeting held in Rwanda from 14-19 May, 2017 was an exciting opportunity to share with the sweetpotato breeders’ community my experience in the GREAT training. The annual sweetpotato breeders’ meeting brings together sweetpotato breeders every year. The meeting involved updates on sweetpotato breeding activities in different regions of Africa, landmarks achieved, hands-on experience on the sweetpotato base and HIDAP software and individual presentations on sweetpotato research. My presentation was titled “The GREAT training and implications for sweetpotato breeding in Ghana.”

As an introduction, I shared with other participants the GREAT training vision ‘To equip researchers to create more inclusive and effective agricultural systems by addressing the priorities of both women and men in sub-Saharan Africa.’ I also briefly shared valuable lessons learned from the GREAT training: the difference between gender and sex (sex is biologically determined and gender is socially constructed and defined by roles) as well as the importance of gender in research and agriculture. Research conducted under the umbrella of ‘gender-responsive research’ is understood to yield data and analysis to assist in designing agricultural interventions that are able to meet the needs of men and women and to reduce rather than exacerbate any existing gender disparities.

My presentation also covered results from the GREAT training project. As part of the training, participants from different countries had a project to do in teams. My team members were Eric Dery, from the International Potato Center (CIP) Ghana, and John Bizanki, from Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Savannah Crop Research Institute (CSIR-SARI).

Our project was centered on gender-differentiated sweetpotato trait preferences by men and women producers, consumers, marketers and processors in the Northern and Upper East Regions of Ghana. The breeding objectives of the International Potato Center (CIP-Ghana) are focused on exploiting and expanding the diversity of quality types of sweetpotato (including non-sweet/staple types) suitable for fresh and processed products, breeding the nutritious orange-fleshed sweetpotato, and reducing postharvest perishability. Through the GREAT project, we identified men- and women-differentiated sweetpotato preferred varieties and traits as well as gender-based constraints and roles in sweetpotato production within the Northern and Upper East Regions of Ghana.

Both men and women producers preferred sweetpotato varieties with long shelf life, good yield, resistance to diseases and early maturing. Women’s preferred varieties and traits were centered on cooking traits, nutritional and health benefits. Preferred varieties and traits by men were based on agronomic traits (yield, long shelf life, etc.), access to vines and available market / income.

The GREAT training implications for sweetpotato breeding in Ghana includes providing an avenue to identify gender-differentiated preferred traits and varieties for sweetpotato. This is important in helping us understand what traits we are breeding for, who we are breeding for as well as expected benefits and outcomes. Further work in understanding these traits, phenotyping sweetpotato genotypes for the identified traits as well as utilizing suitable methods for improvement will ensure we are breeding sweetpotato that meets the preference of men and women end users and speed up varietal adoption.

Overall, taking into account a gender perspective, we can help insure that breeding outcomes of improving health, nutrition and income in Ghana will be realized.