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Note: In late November, 2018, GREAT hosted its first Custom Course in Kampala, a six-day training for advanced teams from the Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) project. This blog is a continuation in a series on the training, kicked off with a post from ICRISAT gender scientist Esther Njuguna-Mungai, followed by a post from our Co-PI Margaret Mangheni. This blog contains several entries originally posted on the TLIII website.

How GREAT-TL III training transformed me from being a conventional breeder to being a more gender responsive breeder

By Dr. Umar Mohammad Lawan, Plant Breeder, Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria

My mindset prior to this training was that it will be either impossible or too difficult to relate specific breeding program or activities to desired societal goals, considering different market segments and agro-ecologies. However, the Gender Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) course has generated impressive results  by converging social scientists, breeders and gender specialists to discuss and understand a common language. With the rigorous training we had this week, I have a better understanding of the need to integrate gender into our breeding activities from pre-breeding to variety release stages. This will really help me  come up with different crop varieties that will satisfy different market segments and increase the adoption rate of the future varieties.

This kind of workshop is going to transform African plant breeding programmes and make Africa more food secure. “ Food security” is assessed based on the availability, affordability and quality of food for both human and livestock. The quality of food relies on  particular crop varieties that address the different needs of various market segments.To develop such crop varieties, we need to fully adopt gender-responsive breeding that will help us to: recognize different needs, and assign roles and responsibilities to every member of the research team. This will positively enhance the  participation of men and women farmers in the process of crop variety development.

Other things that are became clear to me and which I consider to be the pillars of success in gender-responsive breeding include: choice and description of methods to include in collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data, and an explanation of how the research results will help to reduce identified gender-based constraints related to the research focus. Careful design of research questions and/or proposal monitoring and evaluation indicators is required to be able to track changes in both women’s and men’s outcomes such as yields, participation in trainings,and  embedded gender differences that may inform better actions.

The value of mixed methods approach: Lessons from the GREAT-TLIII Training on Gender Gaps

By Edward Bikketi – Gender Post-Doc Fellow, ICRISAT

This training on 26th November – 1st December 2018 by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, was a great opportunity for the Gender Breeding Initiative (GBI) and the multidisciplinary teams involved.  Empirical studies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have consistently shown a persistent gender yield gap in agricultural productivity despite novel research investments in agricultural productivity. However, what is not clear is what shapes gender yield gaps in specific contexts and crop enterprises, and what the responsible drivers are. Mixed methods are identifying challenges and providing concrete solutions to unpacking the gender gaps in productivity. However, there is a lacuna in integration of mixed methods from project inception to implementing practical solutions for closing gender gaps. Mixed methods remain just a prerequisite with a lot of emphasis from donors and research teams.

However, pathways for disseminating proofs of concept and demonstrating their effectiveness in terms of publications and various communication products are almost non-existent. This training helped highlight the different levels of capacities among the teams and facilitated areas of intervention in terms of capacity building for mixed methods. In my view, we should continue with such initiatives that attempt to synergise  disciplines such as gender and breeding in order for us to realise gender transformation for sustainable agricultural development.

The power of teamwork and a visionary leader at the GREAT- TL III Training

By Jenipher Bisikwa, GREAT Trainer, Agronomist, Senior Lecturer, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University

A focused team can overcome any obstacle and having a visionary leader can move mountains! I like giving my best when I commit myself to doing anything. Being a GREAT Trainer has opened my world. I have been able to interact with several focused gender experts and plant breeders, who deem gender-responsive agricultural research as the way to enhance technology adoption. Plant breeding as a process can develop improved varieties but getting these varieties adopted by farmers needs an interdisciplinary approach, integrating both breeding and gender knowledge. Therefore, training research scientists to incorporate gender-responsive approaches into their research programs takes teamwork and interdisciplinary cooperation.

During the Tropical Legumes Breeding III (TL-III) GREAT training workshop held in Kampala, Uganda from November 26-December 1, 2018, Dr. Peace Musiimenta (a gender expert) and I had an opportunity to work together as a team to prepare and give a keynote presentation on “Gender-responsive Agricultural Research in Sub-Saharan Africa.” We highlighted the importance of including gender concepts while designing and implementing TLIII Plant breeding programs. As a biophysical scientist, working hand in hand with the social scientists has opened my eyes to learning new things and has led to a total mindset transformation for me at both a personal and professional level. Being part of the GREAT-TLIII training Team and actually working together with gender experts to incorporate gender concepts into plant breeding and seed systems has taught me to use my gender-responsiveness lens to think beyond just agricultural research.

In addition to the power of teamwork in processing all the Gender concepts into practice while designing and implementing Plant Breeding Programs, having an inclusive and a visionary team leader puts everything into perspective. Professor Margaret Mangheni, the GREAT Team Leader, is one of a kind, who gives her best and listens to everybody’s views. She is a transformative leader, who believes in you and personally mentors you into the gender-responsive trainer that makes a difference. When I joined the training team, I wasn’t very confident enough because gender was still an evolving concept for me as a hard biophysical scientist. I had done a lot of community-based action research with farming communities in Uganda but had never focused on gender-responsive preferences for both women and men while developing new varieties.

I am now a strong believer that without including a gender-lens in my research design and implementation plan, then I can never make an impact on food security and farmer livelihoods. GREAT is indeed a life changing initiative that has made me a better scientist.

The authors

Umar Mohammad Lawan; Edward Bikketi; and Jenipher Bisikwa

Umar Mohammad Lawan is a plantbreeder at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Nigeria; Edward Bikketi is a gender postdoc fellow at ICRISAT; Jenipher Bisikwa is a GREAT Trainer and senior lecturer at Makerere University