A new manual outlining how extensionists, development partners and policymakers can promote gender-transformative decision making by smallholders when introducing new technologies has been launched by the Africa RISING gender team. Titled, Gender-transformative decision-making on agricultural technologies: Participatory tools, the 76-paged manual is the latest amongst a series of publications produced by the Africa RISING program promoting gender-transformative approaches.

“This manual provides a set of easy-to-use decision-support tools that when applied correctly, would enable smallholders to make good, gender-equitable decisions around which technologies to adopt,” explains Dr. Gundula Fischer, Africa RISING Gender Lead and one of the Co-authors of the manual.

“The tools are based on Gender Action Learning System (GALS) tools which have been further tailored to cater for assisting farmers to take informed decisions about technologies. The advantage is that these tools can be used by literate and non-literate people. For examples, to use the manual, farmers draw rather than write their aspirations and challenges,” she adds.

gender-transformative decision making
Cover of the newly published manual.

The manual builds on the recognition that farmers are already using innovative approaches and combining these with their own knowledge to improve productivity, diversify, strengthen their nutrition and to build climate resilient livelihoods. At the same time, the manual provides ways to close the “gender gap” in access to, and benefits from, technologies in ways that benefit the whole family. This is important because Africa RISING has, over the past decade, generated a large basket of scientifically tested and validated agricultural innovations from which women and men farmers, extension agents, development practitioners and policy makers can choose depending on their interest, needs and socio-economic, geographic and climatic contexts. The priority is now to get these technologies into use by everyone. Research shows this can be a challenge.

Developed and pre-tested with smallholder farmers in Malawi and Tanzania in late 2021 and early 2022, the manual has received positive feedback upon its launching.

A Tanzanian woman farmer expressed her enthusiasm. “I was surprised, things were different and I loved that, we were learning through drawing. I have never seen that before in any agricultural seminar. We even drew infected plants. We used to write things that we didn’t even know how they looked like, we used to write diseases by words not knowing how they looked like.  I even proposed that drawing should be the new way of training us about agricultural issues.”

Follow up visits with farmers in Tanzania (after being trained using earlier versions of the manual) showed that the majority, though not all, had committed to more joint decision-making on livelihood planning and how to spend their income.

One woman said, “Each of us did things on our own. When he had money, it was his and when I had money it was mine. But after attending that seminar we have unity […] If he wants to do something he will consult me and we will do it together. That seminar brought a positive change in our life, we now have peace and we are living a good life not as before.” Another woman and her husband were inspired to begin saving together for a poultry and duck business (ibid.).

Men talked about how the tool has helped them identify challenges and ways these challenges can be solved, through using resources in the local environment. One man added that his key lesson was “Collaboration, because unity is always power.” Men added their reflections on how household decision-making had changed. “The training helped me to understand that if you sit down as a family and plan together you will be successful than working separately”, said one man. Now he and his wife are now planning to build a house. Another man said, “My relationship has improved after attending that training because before that I was a person who didn’t want to listen when it came to taking decisions, but after the training now I am a changed man. I used to be the one with the last say but now we decide together. I have added children also in making decisions.” A few men confirmed changes in attitude to asset ownership. “We usually believe that mother owns little things in the family like clothes. The training helped us to find out that everything we have in the family we own them together and that helped us to collaborate and work together in different activities in the family.”

Although, it is not possible to immediately change all the participants trained in gender-transformative approaches which this manual promotes, as a program the Africa RISING team has set itself the ambition of bringing as many smallholder farmers as possible to make gender-equitable decisions. In the Foreword of the new manual, Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon and Fred Kizito, the present and former managers of the Africa RISING Project note that “We are convinced that workshops following the format described in this manual will make a unique contribution towards initiating and strengthening fair and inclusive decision-making processes in farm households and improved technology adoption. The language of the manual and the step-by-step instructions and illustrations make it an easily understandable and usable document for farmer groups, development practitioners and scientists alike.”

Download a copy of the manual here: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/127692


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