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On November 23rd and 24th, 2020, the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project hosted its first virtual symposium on the theme Gender-Responsive Crop Breeding: Sharing evidence and experience from the field. The convening brought together 60 GREAT fellows, trainers, and staff on the first day – a closed session – and 136 participants on the second day – an open event –  in a community research showcase. The presenters demonstrated that progress has been made in giving crop improvement teams the theory and practical knowledge they need to create transformative change through their projects.

virtual symposium on the theme Gender-Responsive Crop BreedingThe event highlighted 17 presentations from GREAT fellows from different cohorts we’ve trained over the past five years, including 12 projects funded by GREAT seed grants. Presenters also came from a diversity of institutions – eight presentations represented CGIAR-affiliated programmes, while six presentations came from national agriculture research institutes, and five presentations came from universities.

Day 1
The Day 1 keynote address, titled ‘Gender responsive crop breeding: The GREAT journey 2016-2020, milestones and achievements’, was delivered by Dr. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, the GREAT co-PI at Makerere University. Mangheni spoke about impacts over the past four years of GREAT, including:

  • Reach of 259 participants from 51 institutions and 26 countries
  • Delivery of 4 mainstream courses and 6 customized spinoff ‘courses’
  • Development of fine-tuned new interdisciplinary training models for gender-responsive crop breeding,

Mangheni noted that GREAT is backstopped by a strong team of 13 faculty trainers and researchers at Makerere University, representing diverse units. Over the years, GREAT has developed a vibrant, international and collaborative community of practice (CoP) of fellows and trainers, and has provided mentoring, training and research funding to seven emerging gender specialists from National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS). Through targeted recruitment, selected NARS have been equipped with a critical mass of staff trained in gender-responsive crop improvement theory and practice, according to Mengheni. The keynote reflected on what can be done to improve the GREAT CoP, scaling GREAT and new partnerships, and visions for future work.
Mangneni’s keynote on Day 1 was followed by ten presentations from the GREAT community. Eight were about completed studies, while two were research proposals:

  • Understanding the needs and consequences of mechanized harvesting in Myanmars’ mungbean production (Lutz Depenbusch, World Vegetable Center)
  • Gender differences in determinants of hybrid maize growing: The case of Kayanza province in Burundi (Immaculee Mayugi, Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi, Burundi)
  • Understanding gender roles, household and farm practices on plantain production in Cameroon (Gérard Ngoh Newilah, University of Dschang, Cameroon)
  • Cowpea Growers’ Gender-Based Features in Burkina Faso (Ouedraogo Pingdéwinde Adelaide, Institut de l’Environnement et du Recherches Agricoles, Burkina Faso)
  • Gender influences on cassava seed conservation and enterprise, (Durodola Owoade, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria)
  • Gender perspectives on constraints and seed systems in Kersting’s groundnut production systems in Benin (Eric Etchikinto Agoyi , University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin)
  • Gender dynamics in bean seed distribution models: A case of the seed credit model in Uganda, (Grace Nanyonjo, National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda)
  • Who are the smallholder cassava farmer-processors in Nigeria and how can their conditions be improved? Lessons from life histories interview (Deborah Olamide Olaosebikan, IITA Nigeria)
  • Prioritization of cassava stakeholders’ preferences and its implications for breeding: Lessons learned from the RTB foods project in Nigeria (Bello Abolore, IITA Nigeria)

Day 2
On Day 2, a keynote titled ‘Gender-responsive crop breeding: Lessons from the GREAT project and the vision for the future’, was delivered by Dr. Hale Ann Tufan, GREAT Co-PI, Cornell University.
Tufan summarised the GREAT story, recounting that there were no courses for crop breeding teams to receive applied gender training as recently as 2015. Since starting the GREAT project in 2016, 259 participants from 51 institutions and 26 countries have been brought into the GREAT community, as of 2020 – with more to come shortly from the first online GREAT course, to be held in March, 2021.

Tufan elaborated on the relevance of GREAT, and where it fits into crop breeding programmes. In addition, she presented the principles of the GREAT course model, using testimonies and quotes from participants to illustrate how GREAT training has worked to shift gender from rhetoric to practical action within the crop breeding research community.
On Day 2, the following community presentations were showcased, and streamed live through Zoom and Facebook:

A lively panel discussion became the highlight of Day 2, with the theme, Gender focused research in a breeding program: skills and training for success. The panel was moderated by Dr Elisabeth Garner from Cornell University, with three featured panelists, Dr Eileen Nchangi, Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT; Eyram Natson Amengor- a research scientist at CSIR, Ghana; and Dr Losira Nasirumbi Sanya, a Lecturer at Makerere University. The three guests described their unique paths and perspectives on career development as gender responsive crop research professionals.

Would you like to see more virtual events from GREAT Agriculture? Drop us a line at and let us know your feedback!

About the author

Chris Knight

Chris Knight is a documentary filmmaker, photographer, journalist, and audio-visual technician at Cornell University.

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