Cornell trains gender-responsive researchers in Africa

GREAT support course
Elizabeth Asiimwe/Makerere University
From left, Maria Nassuna-Musoke, Peace Musiimenta and Margaret Mangheni, all from Makerere University, look at wheat growing in the Ithaca Community Gardens with Devon Jenkins, GREAT project support specialist in IP-CALS, during a recent visit to Cornell.

Gender matters most to the 13 teams of two to three researchers each from 10 African countries who will participate in training on “Gender Responsive Cereal Grains Breeding” at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, Aug. 7-16.

In the joint Cornell and Makerere University project Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT), researchers will learn how to identify the needs of women and men when setting priorities, implementing projects, and measuring and communicating project outcomes. They will also broaden their understanding of the integral role of gender in their work as scientists and agricultural development professionals.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, the livelihoods and food security of a majority of people, especially in rural areas, depend to some extent on cereal and grain crops,” said Margaret Mangheni, associate professor at Makerere University, who leads the project at Makerere. “GREAT training will improve the outcomes of agricultural research for smallholder women farmers, entrepreneurs and farmer organizations across SSA.”

“Our goal is for agricultural researchers working across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by considering gender, and prioritizing gender equality goals in their work,” said Hale Ann Tufan, adjunct professor with International Programs in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who leads the project team. “We are working to equitably extend the benefits of agricultural research to both women and men.”

This is the second of five trainings on the theory and practice of gender-responsive agricultural research offered over the course of the five-year project, which started in 2016. The first course, Gender-Responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding, concluded in February 2017.

Participating research teams in the grains course come from Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia and Madagascar.

The teams will focus on pressing challenges in Africa, including: cereal grains production within the Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria; building cereal grain resiliency in changing climates in Niger and Tanzania; and sustaining maize, cowpea, rice and sorghum productivity in Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania and Madagascar. They will address grain-breeding issues ranging from improving productivity and preserving genetic diversity to protecting against plant disease.

All projects will incorporate a gender lens to better address the role women play in these crop production systems.

By 2020, GREAT expects to have trained seven cohorts of more than 10 research project teams each, or roughly 200 researchers, representing at least 30 national and international research institutions in SSA.

Subsequent trainings will be offered in small ruminant breeding, and dairy and legume value chains. For sustainability, GREAT will create a center of excellence for gender-responsive agricultural training at Makerere, and the GREAT curriculum will be integrated into short courses and agriculture degree programs there.

Grain researchers will learn concepts and tools from 25 social scientists, breeders and gender experts who have expertise in data collection; value-chain development of staple crops; socioeconomic development issues like gender equality, equity and development; transformative leadership; and understanding gender patterns in farmer decision-making strategies.

Participants spend several months in the field collecting data from men and women cereal grain farmers involved in their projects. During the practical field experience, they receive support from an e-learning module of resources on the GREAT course website and from mentors from Week 1. A second week of training on data analysis, interpretation and advocacy is scheduled for Jan. 15-19, 2018, at Makerere.

After completion of the course, GREAT fellows continue their professional engagement in gender and agriculture at their institutions and in the growing community of practice.

Among other partners, GREAT collaborates with African Women in Agricultural Research and Development and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa.

GREAT is funded by a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hillary Mara, MPA ’17, is a communications specialist in International Programs.

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Joe Schwartz