By: HIllary Mara, GREAT Graduate Student Assistant and Cornell University Master’s in Public Administration Candidate
KAMPALA, UGANDA: GREAT is excited to announce that 11 teams of interdisciplinary professionals from four continents will participate in a training course on “Gender Responsive Root, Tuber, and Banana Breeding,” in Kampala, Uganda, from September 12-21, 2016. The cohort consists of 33 researchers and 16 trainers from 11 countries, representing a wide diversity of practitioners and scientists working across sub-Saharan African (SSA) on challenges related to cassava, banana, potato, and sweet potato.
“Our goal is for agricultural researchers working across sub-Saharan Africa 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 the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who leads the project team from Cornell University. “We are working to equitably extend the benefits of agricultural research to both women and men.”
In SSA, the livelihoods and food security of a majority of people — especially in rural areas — depends to some extent on roots, tubers and bananas. In the “Gender Responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding,” or RTB course, research teams are focused on challenges like banana bunchy top disease, banana xanthomonas wilt, cassava breeding and processing, potato production, banana breeding, micro-nutrient enhanced cassava, and sweet potato improvement.
“GREAT training will improve the outcomes of agricultural research for smallholder women farmers, entrepreneurs and farmer organizations across SSA,” said Margaret Mangheni, an associate professor at Makerere University with more than 20 years of experience in gender-sensitive agricultural development projects across SSA who leads the project at Makerere.
Researchers learn the concepts and tools for gender-responsive research during the introductory week-long training taught by African and international experts, hosted by Makerere. Then they undertake several months of practical field experience collecting data from their ongoing projects, while receiving support from mentors and e-learning modules through resources on the GREAT course website. A second week-long training on data analysis, interpretation, and advocacy is scheduled for February 13-17, 2017 at Makerere.
Researchers in the RTB course represent a mix of projects and institutions: the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Cameroon, Bioversity International in Burundi, the Centre de Coopération International en Recherche Agronomic in France, HarvestPlus, NEXTGEN Cassava Breeding in Uganda and Nigeria, the Program for Emerging Agricultural Research Leaders in Ghana, the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement in Ghana, the International Potato Center in Colombia, and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute in Ghana.
Trainers have a wealth of expertise in gender-related issues, including data collection, value-chain development of staple crops, socioeconomic development challenges like gender equality, equity and development; transformative leadership; and understanding gender patterns in farmer decision-making strategies, among others.
By 2020, GREAT expects to have trained eight cohorts with up to 10 research project teams each, or more than 200 researchers representing at least 30 national and international research institutions in SSA.
Subsequent trainings to create more inclusive and effective agricultural systems will be offered on the themes of grain and legume breeding; small ruminant breeding; dairy and legume value chains; nutrition and food systems; knowledge exchange (extension); and agricultural mechanization.
In addition to the numerous international and national research program partners whose researchers will participate in the training courses, GREAT will collaborate in SSA with African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA). GREAT is funded by a $5M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.