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Valuing women’s involvement in agriculture as full actors: First successful results with the AICCRA

Thanks to the project on “Accelerating the Impact of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA),” 120 women service providers in the project intervention area in Mali were trained through local NGOs in the effective use of the RiceAdvice app that provides field-specific management guidelines for rice production systems in Africa. The main aim is to enable the women service providers to reach female farmers, who due to cultural barriers are not able to access such agricultural advice.

As a result of working with these women service providers, nearly 20,440 women and youth farmers (45% of total number of farmers) in the project intervention area in Mali have adopted the technologies recommended by RiceAdvice. This contributed to rice yield increase by 1.0 t/ha on women’s fields against 0.8 t/ha on men’s fields.

The project also introduced the GEM rice parboiling technology to women as a way to enhance the value of their engagement in the rice value chain with parboiling being a women-dominated activity. The GEM technology helps women to reduce traditional parboiling process, which is laborious, unsafe and inefficient and requires large amounts of firewood and water.

Hence, the adoption of GEM parboiler is great strategy to improve women’s livelihood. About 260 women have been trained in GEM parboiling technology in Mali so far and are able to increase, their income by US$200 on every ton of rice parboiled compared to the traditional process.

Mali has multiple vulnerabilities to climate variability and change. It is one of the least developed countries with an economy that relies heavily on cereal production. Farming and fishing account for 45% of Mali’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employ about 80% of the workforce.

Rice contributes around 5% of the country’s GDP. From 2000 to 2020, rice production in Mali increased by 15% per year. However, such increase in production was not able to keep pace with the increase in local consumption, and about 15% of rice sold on the national market is being imported.

According to Mali’s National Meteorological Agency, Mali has become hotter and drier over the last decades with an increase in temperature, a decrease in rainfall, a shift in the rainy season, and an increase in the occurrence of heavy rains and drought spells within the season. This is an urgent issue given that irrigated rice production contributes to 62% of the total rice production, and that Mali plays an important role in the regional rice supply in West Africa.

Women play an important role in rice and associated crop as well as animal production in the different growing environments. The baseline study conducted by AfricaRice in 19 interventions areas of AICCRA in Mali, provides evidence that while the roles and responsibilities of women and men in rice-based farming systems are clearly defined, they are differently affected by climate change due to socio-cultural norms.

The men and women farmers do not have same facilities to access required resources including improved technologies and services and the gap is large. As a matter of fact, women have challenges to access fertile soil, improved seeds, fertilizers, machineries, formal credit facilities, extension service and labor force.

An example of Ségou and Niono regions showed that although there are few women farmers, they are involved at all stages in rice activities and constitute the main labor force. This reflects an imbalance in social organization and an intentional choice to maintain women in the conditions of dependency.

Their vulnerability is further aggravated by farming rice in marginal lands of low fertile soils with poor water-holding capacity and poor response to inputs utilization. They rely on blind fertilizer application which leads to fertilizer loss, low nutrient use efficiency, low yield, and low-income generations.

The AICCRA project seeks to deliver a climate-smart African future driven by science and innovation in agriculture. It is currently working to scale climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and climate information services (CIS).

In its intervention areas of Mali in Segou, Niono and also other regions such as Koulikoro and Dioila, AfricaRice and its partners are scaling up the CSA and CSI technologies to reduce the burden of constraints faced by farmers, women in particular. Among these technologies, RiceAdvice and GEM parboiler, are making a positive impact on women involved in rice chain value.

The AICCRA project plans to deliver many more technologies for rice-based systems. The proven success illustrated by the RiceAdvice and GEM parboiling technologies shows that women cannot just be relegated to the laborer status. Rather, there is a need to find mechanisms that will encourage men to value women’s involvement in farming activities as full actors instead of helpers. Such mechanisms, from the community, across the value chain, to the policy arena, will be explored and implemented.

Contributed by : Fatoumata Diabate Bagayoko, Elliott Dossou-Yovo, Gaudiose Mujawamariya


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