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International Day of Rural Women 2020

The pandemic magnified a number of cracks in the food systems and aggravated the vulnerability of select groups in society like rural women. The impacts of COVID-19 intensifies their existing challenges and struggles. How can we stand with them in building resilience toward the road to post-COVID recovery and other future shocks?

COVID-19 opens unknown chapter on rural women’s plight in India’s migration saga

For decades, millions of Indian men have migrated away from rural areas to seek employment in cities. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing men to go back home, a reverse migration crisis is exposing risks to rural women’s resilience.

The Indian government has taken stringent measures to arrest the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A complete lockdown of the vast country seems to have been a successful strategy. At the same time, the government has come under flack for not anticipating the consequences this lockdown has had for the large number of rural migrant workers, mostly men, who have been left stranded in cities throughout the country.

One group that is receiving woefully little attention, however, is rural women. Given the ongoing large-scale return of men back to rural areas, it is relevant to ask what impacts this reverse migration will have on women, on farm productivity and on food security in the short, medium and long term.

In this post, we set out to shine a light on this blind spot and lay out potential risks that require immediate attention from researchers, practitioners and policy-makers to protect women’s health, jobs, income and well-being as the reverse migration crisis unfolds.

International Day of Rural Women 2020 Across One CGIAR

International Day of Rural Women 2020 Across One CGIAR
In parallel with the observance, CGIAR GENDER Platform asked CGIAR Centers and Programs to answer this question, How is One CGIAR research supporting rural women during this time of unprecedented crises?

Pratima Baral (right) CIMMYT researcher demonstrates the use of a farming app in the field with Sita Kumari (center), farmer, and her friend Nilam (left). The technology assists farmers in remote areas, who would otherwise have limited access to information on market prices and services. Photo by C. De Bode/CGIAR.

On climate change’s fury road: Equipping women to steer towards resilient agricultural systems and livelihoods

“A third of my country was underwater last month,  said Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.  “The heaviest rains in almost a decade began and have still not abated. More than 1.5 million Bangladeshis are displaced; tens of thousands of hectares of paddy fields have been washed away. Millions of my compatriots will need food aid this year.”

All this was happening in the midst of the  unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladesh, along with several other nations, are faced with a highly daunting task: to deal with back-to-back crises, both complex and with multiple ramifications, and come out from it with minimal damages.

One essential step will be realizing that rural women are the lifeline of Bangladeshi agriculture. However, to help the country through these crises, women need access to new knowledge and improved technologies, alternative economic opportunities, and a better enabling environment.

Empowered rural women take on entrepreneurship

Sashimoni Lohar, a fifty-three-year-old from Badbil village, in Odisha, is like any other woman you would encounter in India’s rural heartlands. Her life is mostly confined within the boundaries of her home and farm.

The COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on people across India, but particularly agonizing for families like Lohar’s. Both her sons lost their jobs as laborers, one in a town near home, and the other in a city in a different state. Her younger son Debodutta, a migrant laborer stuck in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru when the midnight lockdown was announced, managed to survive and returned home two months later, aggrieved and penniless. Her husband remained the only earning family member, though on a meager salary, and the family dreaded not only the virus but hunger, as the small reserve of income and rations they had was coming to an end.


(Farmers show off their new maize stalls next to their farms. Photo: Wasim Iftikar/CIMMYT)

Distributing high-iron and zinc bean varieties to women farmers during COVID-19

Achieving food and nutritional security and economic prosperity is possible within an equitable system where structural barriers are removed and traditional gender norms and stereotypes are broken. With additional stress on food security caused by social and economic disruptions of the pandemic, it is key to continue working with women farmers to ensure healthy and reliable harvests to support their families during the crisis.


(Agricultural officer Florence Mwachugha providing farmer-to-farmer crop management training; Smart Logistics weighing the seeds for purchase from the Ushirikiano Women SHG in Nakuru (from left to right). Photo: Florence Mwachugha.)

Understanding gender relations for landscape restoration and rural women’s empowerment

Land degradation poses a dangerous threat to rural women and men in East Africa and the Sahel. It has numerous causes, including deforestation, water erosion, and overly invasive practices such as overgrazing.

A recent podcast episode by IFAD features World Agroforestry’s Ana Maria Paez Valencia and Fergus Sinclair who discuss how this project’s finding can guide land restoration in the future.


(Pastor Grace Josphat viewing the gulley on her farm in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo: ICRAF)

Burkina Faso: Rural women’s perspective on COVID-19

There is no question that 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year globally. Coupled with the looming climate crisis, the erosion of biodiversity, and severe land degradation, COVID-19 has increased global food insecurity and triggered an economic recession that is pushing the nearly one billion people who live on the poverty line towards an even-more precarious existence. Rural women are at the center of this perfect storm.

Long before COVID-19 hit, rural women have fared worse than men and urban women on every human development indicator. Yet, the pandemic has surfaced and exacerbated inequalities, including those based on gender, that shape COVID-19’s social and economic fallouts. Women have been in the spotlight for carrying a disproportionate burden as caregivers, workers in precarious jobs lacking basic protections, and victims of violence within their own households.


(Burkina Faso – Women sharing their life experiences in the period of COVID-19. As women do not have the same capacity as men to access the labor of household members, they are highly reliant on mutual help. Credit: Association Tiipaalga). Photo: Florence Mwachugha)

Q+A: Building just societies and resilient landscapes alongside rural women

Gender equality key to sustainable resource management, says Markus Ihalainen

Rural women play an essential role in using and managing natural resources in forest and tree-based landscapes across the world — at least they should. When women are able to participate in decision-making and equitably share resources and benefits, policies and projects in the forest sector often see increased buy-in and improved outcomes; while initiatives that ignore gender difference or exclude women tend to reinforce or even exacerbate existing inequalities, according to a 2017 brief from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


(A tea picker from Cianten, within the boundaries of Mount Halimun Salak National Park in West Java, collecting tea leaves in a basket. Starting their day at 6 am tea pickers finish at 10 am and have no other source of income. Photo: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR.)

Gendering agriculture so women take the lead in feeding Africa

Africa’s hopes of feeding a population projected to double by 2050 amidst a worsening climate crisis rest on huge investments in agriculture, including creating the conditions so that women can empower themselves and lead efforts to transform the continent’s farming landscape.

As we celebrate the 2020 International Year of Rural Women, Africa needs to reflect more on the role women play in food and nutrition security, land and water management.


(Woman counting money from the sales of yams at a yam market in Accra, Ghana. Yam is a staple food for food security. Photo by Olaoluwa/IITA)

Ghana: Why goats won’t die on her watch

In northern Ghana, rural women are traditionally not supposed to own livestock, even though they are often in charge of looking after animals on the farm. Supporting women to become animal health service providers is helping overturn ingrained cultural beliefs that have hampered women from owning animals and making decisions about their health.

The worried-looking man stands outside a neat, semi-circular thatched cottage. Shifting from foot to foot, the man’s anxious gaze moves to the small goat cradled in his arms. Forty-five-year-old Samuel Ndaa, chief technical officer at the district veterinary services, comes to the door to see the man, wearing his beige coat.


(Photo: Georgina Smith/ILRI)

Rural women are key for limiting crop pests and diseases

When a community-led disease management strategy in Ethiopia failed to stave off highly destructive potato late blight, investigations revealed it was primarily women farmers who had neglected to implement prevention practices, such as field scouting for disease. Women farmers were also not spraying their fields, which has been set as community by-law. They were fined for not following the requirement.


(Women farmers explaining how they scout for the pest. Photo credit: Sarah Mayanja/CIP.)

Ensuring that women can benefit, alongside men, in the process of rural transformation

Rural transformation has the potential to empower women, expand their livelihood opportunities, and erode harmful gender norms. Ensuring that women benefit, alongside men, from this process is critical—not least to build women’s resilience to shocks such as the recent Covid-19 pandemic. However, it presents a number of challenges that policies and programs promoting gender equality can help address.

Rural transformation is central to the broader structural transformation process taking place in developing countries — fueled by the globalization of value chains, changing food systems, new technologies, conflict and displacement, and climate change, among other factors. When rural economies transform, farmers start to engage in nonfarm activities, agriculture becomes more capital intensive and commercially oriented, and linkages with neighboring towns and cities grow and deepen. Rural transformation can bring about many positive changes in rural areas. Will everyone benefit from those changes equally? More specifically, will women be able to reap the benefits of the transformation in the same way as men?


(Photo: Bjorn Van Campenhout/IFPRI.)

Building resilience and gender equity in the face of COVID-19

“We do not want charity, we just need support so that we can stand up on our feet again.”—SEWA group member, India.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested virtually everyone in some way—but especially the strength and resilience of women in the world’s rural areas. To mark the 2020 International Day of Rural Women (Oct. 15), here we explore some of the burdens the pandemic has imposed on rural women and potential ways to lighten them.


(Farmers are taking care of vegetable they plan in their pond dike. Photo by AWM Anisuzzaman, Bangladesh.)

Rural women are reshaping gender norms in northern Ghana

In northern Ghana’s Upper West Region, climate variability, migration and Covid-19 are transforming the region. Women are adapting by forming farm cooperatives, making, selling and trading goods and taking on additional farming responsibilities traditionally performed by men. In doing so, they are gradually gaining agency over their livelihoods, and ultimately shifting gender roles in their communities.

In Northern Ghana, income and well-being are linked to agriculture. Farmers grow maize, yam, groundnuts, sorghum, rice and other crops, consuming and selling their harvest to maintain food security and bring home an income. But in this semi-arid region, farming is seasonal and growing less lucrative due to climatic variability, with total annual rainfall projected to decline by 20.5% in 2080 in Ghana.


(Woman cleaning maize in Gwenia, Kassena Nankana District in Ghana. Photo: Axel Fassio/CIFOR.)

Developing resources for R4D that keep rural women’s needs at the core of COVID-19 responses

COVID-19 disruptions to global food systems have threatened food affordability and availability as well as the livelihoods of small-scale actors along the value chain. Rural women in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately at risk. The pandemic and potential responses to it may exacerbate multi-faceted gender disparities, with women from marginalized groups hardest hit.


(Cleaning your groceries is a new normal during COVID-19. © ILO/Piemsuk Wanichupatumkul.)

Malagasy women farmers continue to champion good agricultural practices

Exactly one year ago, on the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women 2019, the AfricaRice team had visited three lead women rice farmers in Vakinankaratra region in Madagascar, who received training and technical backstopping in the use of good agricultural practices (GAP) such as certified seeds, planting in lines, application of organic and inorganic fertilizers and use of mechanical weeders, thanks to the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Rice Compact.


(Photo: Africa Rice.)

Youth or young mothers? The paradox of transitions in the rural women’s lives

2020 is a unique year, we have spent most of it ‘surprised’ by the turn of events. In early 2020, we found ourselves in a global health pandemic. We started by learning that we couldn’t travel from one country to another. At first, we thought it will be a few weeks, maybe a few months of disruption, but this has persisted for most of the year 2020. The virus, first reported in China travelled the world, impacting sectors of the national and international economy as well as social processes (no large gatherings like attending schools, colleges, sport events, weddings, funerals in person) and even changing long held traditions like hugging and hand shaking. The year has gone by, we have worked from home, social distanced, worn face masks, maintained research and development collaborations online through amazing innovations on ‘meeting apps’ and now, its October 2020, and our attention is drawn to the UN International Day of Rural Women.


(Crop residue for fuel wood and fattening (IPMS-Mi’eso) – Mirab Hararghe Zone of the Oromia Region, Ethiopia. Photo: A Habtamu/ILRI.)

Building a better future: How gender research supports rural women during times of crisis

Gender research supports more equitable outcomes during and post-crisis, while helping to build more resilient systems.

While scientists and climate activists have sounded the alarm for decades, calling attention to the impending impacts of climate change, it has proven to be exceptionally difficult to shift behavior, at every level, to a more sustainable approach. The global shock felt around COVID-19, however, may be a glimpse into our future, one where system shocks are substantial and felt globally.


(Gender research contributes to equitable and inclusive outcomes during times of crisis. Photo: F. Fiondella (IRI/CCAFS).)

Resource-poor women farmers benefit by forming collectives

Collectives enhance productivity and improve livelihoods

Poor and landless farmers can sustainably improve their livelihoods by pooling their land, labor, capital and skills in self-organized collectives. These benefits are especially important for rural women who, through these collectives, can further develop their skills and knowledge to sustainably increase their farm productivity and create viable livelihoods for themselves and their families. Very importantly, collectives enable tenant farmers to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis landlords in feudal contests. That is the overall conclusion of our research based on an action research project in Nepal and eastern India, recently published in the Journal of Agrarian Change.


(Photo: Hamish John Appleby/IWMI.)

The role of rural women in the Latin American agri-food system

With more than half of the population of Latin America affected by overweight (58%) and a quarter (23%) by obesity patterns, Latin America is going through an unprecedented health crisis generalized throughout the region (FAO 2017). This disease affects women more frequently than men. In general, the region faces what is known as the triple burden of malnutrition: in addition to overweight and obesity, there are also problems of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. This blog discusses some of the existing links connecting the food system, trends in overweight and obesity, and the gender gap in Latin America.


(Colombian farmer. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT.)

The vital contribution of women to livelihoods resilience during COVID-19

Through a survey carried out with 100 male and 100 female dryland farmers in rural Egypt and Tunisia, we examine how COVID-19 affected them, and identify coping mechanisms they employed to maintain crop and livestock supplies, sales, market connections, and personal well-being. Since dependence on digital resources increased during the pandemic, we paid close attention to trends in cellphone ownership, access, and preferred means for receiving digital information.


(Photo: ICARDA.)

Empowering women is key to a stronger rice sector

Gender research in One CGIAR: Where do we go from here?

That’s the question gender researchers from across CGIAR will attempt to answer when they come together for a virtual meeting this week. The questions below are meant to kick off the discussion on solidifying the research agenda for the new CGIAR GENDER Platform.

Bui Van Ben (left) and Dinh Thi Hong (right), Muong ethnic people in Vietnam grow rice and keep pigs, buffalos, chickens in their house to generate more incomes. Photo: ILRI/Vu Ngoc Dung.

It is an exciting time for CGIAR and for gender research in CGIAR. We are making rapid strides toward One CGIAR, with its mission of ending hunger through science-driven transformation of food, land and water systems in the context of climate change.

The new CGIAR GENDER Platform will contribute to this mission by reimagining the CGIAR gender-research-for-development agenda. We envision a new era in which food systems transformation and gender equality reinforce one another, accelerating and amplifying benefits that are equitable, sustainable and lasting.

To realize this ambition, we need to sharpen our gender research priorities. While the GENDER Platform will build on several years of rich gender research, we now need to prioritize transdisciplinary and solution-oriented research to achieve tangible and substantive impact on social equity. The evidence we generate should be of practical value and help shape actions and investments in support of food systems transformation and gender equality.

Recognizing rural women’s role in agriculture

Targeting women and the youth in disseminating climate-smart agriculture in Vietnam

The study on the adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) technologies by men and women in Vietnam is necessary to understand how the different social expectations, roles, status, and economic power of men and women are affected differently by climate change. It will improve actions taken to reduce vulnerability and combat climate change in the country.

Women play a more important role in rice production in North and Central than in South Vietnam while young people find agriculture as an unattractive opportunity. These are among the findings in the study, A comparative analysis of gender and youth issues in rice production in North, Central, and South Vietnam, that have implications for formulating policies in disseminating CSA technologies.

With the wind beneath our wings, we soar together and higher

The Farmer Producer Company has ushered in a new era of farming practices with tangible socio-economic benefits and more, especially for the women farmers. The women are now empowered and brimming with confidence having acquired leadership skills and farming-related knowledge.

Dutika Pujari (23 years old), Hemanti Pujari (30), Pramila Gopal (42), and Dharani Gopal (36) are women farmers that have something else in common: they all endeavored to improve their well-being, social, economic, and health status. Today, they are proud shareholders of the Adarsh Dharmagarh Women Farmers Services Producer Company Ltd (ADWFSPCL) in Kalahandi in the Indian state of Odisha.

Targeting women and the youth in disseminating climate-smart agriculture in Vietnam

A study on the adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) technologies by men and women in Vietnam is necessary to understand how the different social expectations, roles, status, and economic power of men and women are affected differently by climate change. It will improve actions taken to reduce vulnerability and combat climate change in the country.

Women play a more important role in rice production in North and Central than in South Vietnam while young people find agriculture as an unattractive opportunity. These are among the findings in the study, A comparative analysis of gender and youth issues in rice production in North, Central, and South Vietnam, that have implications for formulating policies in disseminating CSA technologies.

Rural women in Myanmar reap the benefits of sustainable rice farming practices

A study on the impact of sustainable rice farming on rural women in Myanmar revealed that smallholder families who adopted best management practices experienced remarkable social and cultural changes in their livelihoods through higher yield and income.

Sustainable farming practices are at the center of food security and improved livelihoods. They are also the basis for research and development interventions, especially in rice-based ecosystems, which provide the staple food of most of Asia.

As one of Asia’s rice granaries, Myanmar aims to regain its past position as a huge contributor to regional and global food security through rice-based adaptive research for improving the productivity of diversified cropping systems.

Mechanized rice straw collection training in Myanmar enhances gender equality on sustainable rice straw management

A training program for mechanized rice straw collection increased the knowledge and capacity of its participants, many of them women, in extending sustainable rice straw management practices to Myanmar farmers.

9 women and 16 men engaged in development and extension work for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation (MOALI) and a non-government organization were given instruction on the operation and maintenance of mechanical rice straw balers during the Rice Straw Management Training Workshop conducted at the Agricultural Machinery Training Center (AMTC) in Yezin on 4-14 November 2019.

ABD-IRRI eye increased investments for sustainable agriculture technologies

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have recently completed a technical assistance project which aims to help governments identify and prioritize appropriate climate-resilient agricultural technologies and practices for high-impact investment.

Under the ADB technical assistance Investment Assessment and Application of High-Level Technology for Food Security in Asia and the Pacific, IRRI and select national research organizations piloted the “Climate-smart practices and varieties for intensive rice-based systems in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Cambodia” project. The pilot had three major components; a) identification of constraints, policy, institutional support, and logistics needed to scale up climate-smart water-saving mechanized technologies; b) demonstration of climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAs) related to rice-based systems; and (c) development of a database along with evidence of benefits from CSAs using participatory approaches.