Malawi’s Farming Model Tackling Gender Inequality
Why is it that in Malawi, the three improved varieties of pigeonpea, which were developed with supposed market-desired traits, received zero levels of adoption? Whereas the local Nthawajuni variety spread throughout the country, dominating 80 PERCENT OF T
Perplexing, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it make more sense that those varieties that were supposedly tailored to the market would be those adopted? In this example, this clearly wasn’t the case.
So, why didn’t this work?
In Malawi, pigeon pea production, harvest, preparation and sale are all activities which are important to, and carried out by women. While these varieties may have been selected with market-desired traits, breeders did not fully appreciate the gendered preferences of their end-users, nor fully understand how they drive adoption and use.
Today, a renewed focus on gender, fuelled by donors, has increased the research community’s awareness and appreciation of the diversity of end-users. Many plant and animal breeders have not just come to recognise the importance of end-users’ preferences but also the diversity of those preferences, which arise from their socio- economic and cultural contexts.
Yet, despite this awareness, rarely are these preferences captured sufficiently to improve adoption. End-user preferences therefore, are critical to not only adoption and use but also ensuring the success of gender-responsive breeding programmes.
The coalition of the willing
This shared understanding of the importance of considering end-user preferences was a major topic of discussion at a Gender, Breeding and Genomics workshop led by the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network held in Nairobi last October. While there has been a long history of scientists realising the importance of enduser preferences; for the CGIAR, this presented an opportunity to revisit its approaches and facilitate a dialogue between motivated scientists.
It was invigorating to see that scientists from different disciplines, from the natural to social sciences, clearly recognised the need for, and value of interdisciplinary work, teams, and the vital role of social science in scaling up the impact of breeding programmes.
However, as is most often the case in interdisciplinary work, it
Handsome Chipeta, ICRISAT Technician, describes the benefits of ICEAP-000557, the first medium-duration pigeonpea variety in Malawi. Photo Credit, Swathi Sridharan (ICRISAT)