In my last blog, I concluded mentioning the need to take the time to include the whole community, especially women in planning and implementation of a program. When I thought about this I was reminded of a time when I almost messed up because I thought using the popular participatory research paradigm at the time was critical, I had forgotten to consider factors affecting the community members.
photo credit: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture
I was managing a research project which was supposed to be conducting participatory research through farmer field schools with common beans, which are predominantly planted by women farmers in the Southern Highland of Tanzania. It soon transpired that the research team were not successful in establishing farmer field schools, I demanded to know why ? The research team’s defense was rock solid. When they had first shared their plans for participatory research with the communities, there had been a silence and until one woman spoke up. “Do you realize how busy my day is from dawn until dusk?” she demanded, “I don’t have the time to attend your farmer field schools”. The once quiet audience erupted in an torrent of support.
With the problem identified and discussed, it turned out the women did in fact like the idea of the project letting them conduct their own assessment of varieties and practices. The women’s simple solution placing demonstration plots along the path that the women took to collect water every morning. As water collection was a communal and daily activity, the women would be able to observe the plots and discuss what they were observing among themselves, and if the researchers wanted to join them they could also be involved in the discussions. As a result the project was a success and led to the selection and release of the bean variety which was given the kiSwahili name of ‘Urafiki’ (friendship).
Working with more recent initiatives on gender, I have noticed that even small steps, such as dis-aggregating survey and baseline data by men and women, young and old, can bring about major changes in the success of programs. With information on women in baseline surveys, and by measuring female views and participation, the impact of a change on women can be more easily measured. Although it might take more effort, and there is no hiding away from the implication or potential changes to the program, women must be considered, and doing so reaps greater rewards.
Returning to Tanzania there is a Masaai saying that summarizes this approach nicely: “The fastest way up a mountain is to zigzag”!
Our Gender in Agriculture Series is written by Heartland Global’s partner, Dr. Andrew Ward. Heartland Global’s vision is to deliver value-chain and technology innovations that provide lasting economic and livelihood growth, helping communities solve their own needs sustainably.
For more information on Heartland Global, Inc see www.heartland-global.com.