Despite the active involvement of both men and women in rice farming, processing and
marketing, the overall research-for-development agenda has not always fully appreciated or considered the gender perspective. AfricaRice is building up its capacity in gender research to improve targeting of its technologies and services to all the rice value-chain actors.
Africa’s rice sector depends primarily on the efforts of small-scale resource-poor farmers, particularly women. Women often have specific tasks such as transplanting, weeding, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, pounding/milling, parboiling, cooking, trading, etc. and contribute in general to household nutrition and food security. They also play a critical role as repositories of local knowledge in seed selection, seed storage, genetic conservation and seed health.
Various studies have shown that women have less access than men to critical productive resources and services, including credit, farm inputs (seed, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.), marketing facilities, extension and information. Even when national laws endorse equal rights to own and control land, existing customary laws often prevent women from sustainable access to fertile farmland. As a result, women’s rice production in their marginal lands faces numerous stresses.
There is a need to take into account the specific needs and preferences of women in the development of rice technologies to increase adoption rates and accelerate achievement of development goals. This can be achieved by addressing the constraints they face in terms of access to key productive assets, inputs and services and by supporting opportunities that allow women to express their full potential.
Africa-wide Task Force on Gender in Rice Research and Technology Development
An Africa-wide Task Force on Gender in Rice Research and Technology Development was established in 2011 to ensure an effective gender mainstreaming in rice R4D and address gender concerns, especially gender gaps in access to technologies and knowledge, specific technology needs of women, and women’s potential roles as contributors and beneficiaries of technologies in rice value chains. The Gender Task Force functions through gender focal points in AfricaRice member countries. It is also engaged in capacity building activities.
Involving women participation
AfricaRice has been actively involving women rice farmers in the evaluation of promising new breeding lines through participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials to understand women’s criteria for varietal selection. For the development of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties, for instance, special attention was paid to getting feedback from women, who appreciated the short duration of the upland NERICA, as it allows them to have food during the ‘hunger period’ while waiting for the harvest of other crops.
Lessening women’s drudgery
To lessen the burden on women and increase efficiency, AfricaRice has generated technologies such as locally-adapted mechanical and motorized weeders, a women-friendly multiple-crop thresher and a rice parboiling system, called GEM (Grain quality enhancer, Energy-efficient and durable Material), which is safer and has labor-saving devices for women, who are the main rice processors in Africa.
AfricaRice agronomists and gender specialists have collaborated in identifying and adapting small-scale labor-saving technology for use by smallholders on their rice fields. This has resulted in the development of the ‘fertiseeder’, a small-scale machine that deposits fertilizer along with seed in rows. This machine is appreciated as a time-saving technology by men and women rice farmers alike. In response to women farmers’ request, AfricaRice is working to produce an improved, lighter version of the fertiseeder.