Transforming gender norms in agriculture for greater development impact

27 June, 2014 by (comments)

The CGIAR has embarked on a global study of gender norms to increase the development impact of its research programs. The study intends to further our understanding of influential gender dynamics, so that programs can be better targeted and innovations better designed.

Women represent 43% of the world’s agricultural labor force. Yet, unequal social relations and “gender norms” tend to make women less productive than their male counterparts.

This is generally related to women having more limited control over productive assets used in agriculture, including natural resources management.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that closing this gender gap in agriculture would allow women to increase their yields up to 30%, thus significantly improving the overall rural economy and helping reduce the world’s hungry by as much as 17%.


Innovation in agriculture and natural resources management is critical to reducing rural poverty. But innovation that ignores gender inequality will have weaker impact and even risks worsening the poverty, workload, and well-being of poor rural women and their families.

But the truth is that our understanding of how and why gender norms actually shape the ability of poor women and men to participate in agricultural innovation is limited. And this constrains our capacity to design and scale out agricultural innovations that deliver benefits fairly to poor women as well as to men.

This is why CGIAR, through its Gender and Agriculture Research Network, has embarked on a global study aimed at analyzing the interactions between gender norms and agricultural innovation, and explaining how these shape the outcomes of all its research programs.


The study will conduct comparative research, using a standardized methodology to investigate at least 50 cases of innovation in agricultural or natural resource management. Cases are being selected to cover a broad range of target regions, environments, crops, and cultures, so that broad patterns in the role of gender norms in innovation and adaptation can be identified across CGIAR research.

The study will provide a stronger evidence base for designing interventions aimed at transforming restrictive gender norms and empowering poor rural women as farm producers, traders, and managers of natural resources.

Members of CGIAR’s Gender and Agriculture Research Network met at CIAT headquarters in Cali, Colombia, on 20-23 May 2014 to train the principal investigators who will carry out the global study. The Network has contracted Patti Petesch to adapt for the purposes of this study her standardized method for qualitative case studies on gender norms, which were originally developed for the World Bank.

The training covered field data collection and analysis with the standardized method and its tools, and was designed to give principal investigators the capacity to later train their own field teams in their region. The training was led by Patti Petesch, and the data collection was carried out with a CIAT field team, which interviewed farmers in the village of Montañitas, near Cali.

The results of the study will be presented as a series of detailed case studies as well as other materials, and the aggregated analysis and results will be available in the second half of 2015.

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