Category Archives: Gender

Ugandan researchers bring gender equality to cassava breeding

By Samantha Hautea 22 September 2017

ZOMBO, UGANDA – This October, researchers with the Next Generation Cassava Breeding project (NextGen Cassava) will launch their first gender-responsive participatory variety selection (PVS) trials in Uganda. These trials engage both men and women farmers in identifying the top cassava varieties for Ugandan consumers and producers.

Robert Kawuki

Robert Kawuki is a a cassava breeder based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) overseen by Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).

“By releasing a cassava variety for the highland areas, we aim to reduce the acreage of the local low-yielding varieties and potentially increase productivity,” said Robert Kawuki, a cassava breeder based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) overseen by Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).  “We will also have the opportunity to gain experiential learning from the process, as the PVS trials will include an assessment of a fermented cassava product locally referred to as ‘kwon,’ in that part of Uganda.”

Selecting cassava varieties for cultivation is a long and daunting process. For example, in 2013, researchers began with 3000 cassava seedlings that were established in the Zombo district of northern Uganda. From these, they systematically narrowed the selection size to the most promising clones, which were then advanced to the subsequent season. In 2016, they identified the top 30 clones for the highlands. From these, the six most promising clones were selected, which are the varieties that will be planted in farmers’ fields this October and harvested in November 2018 as part of the trials.

For the first time, these trials will use a gender-responsive research protocol developed by researchers trained in gender-responsive methods and tools. Stephen Angudubo, an agricultural economist, and Winifred Candiru, a research assistant doing socio-economic research, will be working with the NextGen project to implement the protocol, monitor the trials, and evaluate the reported data.

Farmers participate in a group discussion held during the GREAT Gender Responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding course in 2016-17

Farmers participate in a group discussion held during the GREAT Gender Responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding course in 2016-17.

The trials will be conducted with the support of NextGen Cassava researchers who participated in the GREAT Gender-responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding course held at Makerere University in 2016-17: Ritah Nanyonjo and Williams Esuma  from Uganda, and Andrew Smith Ikpan, Okoro Maria Justin, and Tessy Ugo Madu from Nigeria.

“The implementation will involve researchers, farmers and pre-identified agricultural extension workers as well as pre-trained village assistants to guide farmers in collecting data and monitoring farmer-managed fields,” Candiru explained. “Farmers will have the chance to be involved in various stages of the process, including preference analysis and sensory evaluation before and after harvest.”

Farmers selected for participation in the trials will include men and women as well as youth (18-35 years old) and adults (36-70 years old). Working with the researchers, evaluation criteria for the clones will be developed through group discussion. After evaluating how the clones perform in the field, researchers will then conduct a preference analysis and sensory evaluation of the varieties after they have undergone typical processing into the favored local consumable product known as “kwon.” Finally, the outcomes from the researchers’ evaluation and selection will be compared with farmer varietal preferences to determine similarities and/or differences. Ideally, this process will allow the identification of the clones that combine excellent suitability for processing and good agronomic characteristics in the field.

The aim of the participatory trial is to identify the best performing cassava clones suitable for adoption by the farming communities in the highlands of Uganda. Based on the outcomes of these trials, the top two clones will be distributed and officially released to farmers as the first highland cassava in Uganda. The others will be used for further breeding and development of better cassava clones.

“We see high potential that these new cassava varieties bred for the highlands will not only increase productivity, but do so equitably,” said Hale Tufan, project manager for GREAT. “Designing a PVS trial in a gender-responsive manner increases the likelihood that women, as well as men, will benefit equally from these new varieties.”

Tufan added that she hopes the outcome of these trials will set a precedent for gender responsiveness as a standard in research conducted at NaCCRI.

NextGen Cassava is a project funded by a $25 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.. Both projects are managed through International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University with partners in the U.S. and Africa.

NEXTGEN Sends 58 Team Members to Nanning, China for World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops

World Congress on Root and Tuber CropsFifty-eight NEXTGEN scientists representing NEXTGEN partners from Africa, North America, and South America will attend the first World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops (WCRTC) in Nanning, China January 18-22. A 5-day conference drawing more than 500 scientists from across the globe, WCRTC represents the merger of the 3rd Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) & the 17th Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC). During the conference, dedicated to adding value to root and tuber crops, more than twenty NEXTGEN scientists will give presentations on their current research on topics ranging from diseases threatening cassava to breeding to biodiversity. Additionally, 17 NEXTGEN Masters and PhD students will present posters on their research at Cornell University and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

NEXTGEN is a proud sponsor of the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops and is honored to support four outstanding female cassava researchers with NEXTGEN Cassava Early Career Female Scientist travel awards to attend the conference. These awards, presented to Teddy Amuge from Uganda; Sally Mallowa-Nyawanda from Kenya; Sarah Nanyiti from Uganda; and Nneka Okereke from Nigeria, will provide an opportunity for the awardees to meet with cassava experts from around the world and to present their research to a large and influential audience.

World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops

Joy Adiele Attends AWARD’s Enhancing Negotiation Skills Course

AWARD logoJoy Adiele, PhD student at Wageningen University and researcher at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Nigeria, recently attended the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) course, Enhancing Negotiation Skills, in Nairobi, Kenya, supported by NEXTGEN Cassava. Below is Joy’s report on the course:

The course began with a lecture from Deborah M. Kolb, the founder of the Center for Gender in Organizations at the Simmons College School of Management and former executive director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Joy Adiele receives AWARD certificateThe one-week course was focused on negotiation processes and how women fare in them, including understanding the ways in which organization’s policies and practices, though appearing gender neutral, could have unintended but differential impacts on different groups of men and women. I learnt how to adopt negotiation skills in different capacities that could directly initiate other changes and help realize joint gains, especially in gender-related issues. I got to develop some practical skills on how to identify potential wins and craft strategies to achieve them. Now I understand the simple actions that oneself, people, or organizations can take that could accumulate to create substantive change.

AWARD Negotiation Skills course group photoThe Enhancing Negotiation Skills course is of essence for women who want to break the glass ceiling. The ability and confidence it impacts into one is invaluable. I am grateful to the Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project for giving me the opportunity to participate in such a life-changing course. It is a needed skill for my career success.

Incorporating Women’s Needs and Preferences into RTB Breeding – Blog Post from CGIAR RTB Highlights NEXTGEN Cassava Gender Initiative

Thanks to Myriam Vitovec for highlighting the work of NEXTGEN Cassava’s Gender-Responsive Cassava Breeding Initiative in a recent post for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB):

There have been many cases in which improved crop varieties released by national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) were poorly received by farmers because they lacked the flavor or another trait that farmers or consumers wanted. To ensure high adoption rates for the varieties they develop, breeding programs usually survey farmers about the traits they prefer, but all too often, those researchers rely disproportionately on the opinions of men. However, specialization of household roles means that women and men have different knowledge about and preferences for varietal traits. Women are usually responsible for food preparation and small scale processing, but their knowledge is rarely used for the varietal development process.

As RTB works to unlock the genetic potential of roots, tubers and bananas for improving food security, nutrition and incomes, it is also supporting field research to document gender-disaggregated trait preferences. The aim is to ensure that the improved RTB varieties developed in the coming years will have as widespread and gender-equitable an impact as possible.

“Next-generation breeding is helping breeders to speed up the process of developing new RTB varieties, but if we overlook the traits that farmers want, if we don’t have the right targets, then next-generation breeding could simply get us to the wrong place faster,” observed RTB Program Director Graham Thiele.

An example of this problem was discovered by CIP gender researcher Netsayi Moris Mudege in a project promoting the cultivation and consumption of nutritious orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties in Malawi. Farmer consultations had resulted in the release of a variety that produces large roots, which men prefer because they fetch a good market price. However, most women prefer another variety that wasn’t released, because sweetpotato leaves are an important part of the local diet and the lobe-shaped leaves of that variety are better for cooking.

Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba (fifth from the left) and her colleague (first from the left) together with adult women cassava farmers after a focus group discussion in the Arua district.

Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba (fifth from the left) and her colleague, Winifred Candiru, (first from the left) together with adult women cassava farmers after a focus group discussion in the Arua district.

To avoid such oversights, RTB supported various initiatives in 2014 to get the trait preferences of both men and women into breeding pipelines. For example, Mudege and CIP potato breeder Asrat Amele produced an FAQ sheet on integrating gender into the participatory varietal selection of potato in Ethiopia and organized a training workshop in Addis Ababa for 20 representatives of CIP’s main partners there.

RTB and NEXTGEN Cassava have co-funded the collection of gender-disaggregated trait preference data for cassava in Nigeria, using a methodology developed by NEXTGEN Cassava Project Manager Hale Tufan and IITA Gender Focal Point Holger Kirscht. Tufan and Kirscht coordinated research in 2014 by interdisciplinary teams from IITA and NRCRI in eight farming communities in southeast and southwest Nigeria. The teams interviewed 10 women and 10 men of diverse ages and marital status in each village and conducted sex-disaggregated focus groups with 20-30 participants in most of them.

“We’re trying to bring diverse voices, including those of women and youth, into the breeding process. Because we want to tailor breeding programs for the diversity of users rather than opting for one-size-fits-all solutions,” said Tufan.

Tufan explained that traits mentioned by the farmers range from agronomic advantages such as good yield to things like ‘drawing’ when cooked, which is important for making the traditional cassava dish gari. The goal is to get those most difficult quality traits into selection indices, to translate them into standardized, measureable breeding variables, and to link them to genetic markers for genomic selection. Cassava breeders Peter Kulakow (IITA) and Chiedozie Egesi (NRCRI) have helped to tailor the data collection tools in order to ensure that they yield data that will be useful for breeding.

Paula holding two cassava roots during a visit to cassava farmer (in the white t-shirt) in the Apac district, one of her study sites.

Paula holding two cassava roots during a visit to cassava farmer (in the white T-shirt) in the Apac district, one of her study sites.

RTB and NEXTGEN Cassava are also co-funding Cornell PhD student Paula Iragaba, who returned to her native Uganda in 2015 to conduct gender-differentiated field research on cassava trait preferences.

Iragaba is working closely with Kirscht, CIRAD postharvest expert Dominique Dufour, and breeders at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) to help them incorporate the preferred cassava traits that she documents into their cassava improvement program.

“This is really exciting because there is an opportunity for Paula to provide information and set up a model on how to capture and integrate gendered trait preferences into breeding programs,” said Tufan.

Paula and a farmer picking cassava leaf samples in one of the farmer's cassava gardens to be used for studying genetic diversity of cassava varieties.

Paula and a farmer picking cassava leaf samples in one of the farmer’s cassava gardens to be used for studying genetic diversity of cassava varieties.

Iragaba had an opportunity to explain her research to Bill Gates in October 2014, when Gates visited Cornell’s campus to learn about the work of NEXTGEN Cassava, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds. Iragaba was one of several graduate students who gave short presentations about their research and answered questions from Gates.

“I talked about how women play a vital role in cassava production and processing in Uganda, and how their role needs to be considered by breeding programs in order to improve the adoption rates of new varieties,” Iragaba said. “I’m sure that if gender issues are taken into consideration by our breeding programs, we are going to have tremendous improvements in adoption rates.”

Find this and other interesting articles in the RTB Annual Report 2014

RTB develops partnerships with US universities for gender research

Lisa Anderberg from Clark University will be the first graduate student to conduct gender analysis directly with a biological scientist working in the RTB Research Program as part of a new partnership between RTB and various US universities.  The initiative, born in late 2014, aims to strengthen the gender responsiveness of research in RTB crops while providing field opportunities for graduate students and collaboration with faculty.
Read the full post at http://www.rtb.cgiar.org/rtb-develops-partnerships-us-universities-gender-research/

Including women’s preferences to enhance cassava breeding programs – conversing with Bill Gates

Graduate student Paula Iragaba uncovered a major disconnect in the course of her research: While plant breeders in her native Uganda focus on developing cassava varieties with high yield or starch content or disease resistance, the people primarily responsible for processing and cooking the plant – women – have their own priorities.

For those end users, traits such as roots that are easy to pound into flour, or that can be harvested piecemeal, without killing the plant, are especially important. “If women want cassava that is easy to pound, and breeders don’t breed for that trait, at the end of the day, women may not adopt improved varieties,” Iragaba said.

Soon after arriving at Cornell University in August 2014 to begin coursework toward a Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics, Iragaba had the opportunity to discuss her findings with Bill Gates himself. The occasion was a lunch roundtable held during Gates’ learning visit to the Cornell campus on October 1st. During the visit, Iragaba and several other graduate students from Cornell’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences also presented their field research on cassava, as well as maize and wheat. Iragaba described her work in Uganda’s Nakasongola District, where she has documented the different cassava traits that are preferred by men and women.