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Designing and Deploying Gender Sensitive Agriculture Technologies for Gender Mainstreaming in Agriculture in the Global South

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Women play an important role in agriculture across the Global South, however, there is a significant disparity in their roles and the compensation they receive for the same. For instance, in India, 48% of the self-employed farmers are women. In Sri Lanka and Bhutan, 41.5% and 62% of women work in agriculture, respectively. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that women contribute around 50% of the labour in agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to these data points, female participation in agricultural labour force is often underrepresented as women account for a significant portion of unpaid work or are engaged in the informal sector.  While such a large proportion of women are directly or indirectly associated with agriculture, their role is highly concentrated in non-mechanized farm activities such as sowing, winnowing, and harvesting. Since most of these activities do not include machinery, they are often perceived to be “lighter” while being labor intensive and drudgery prone. The issue intensifies as the definitions of “light” and “heavy” work determine wages, leading to wage disparity on farms. Estimates suggest that women in agriculture in developing economies may earn up to 70% of men’s wage for the same amount of work. In India, for instance, as per the 68th round of the National Sample Survey, women in agriculture in rural areas earned around 60% of men. The differentiation was even higher in urban areas where women earned only 36.6% of the wages of their male counterparts. Additionally, a significant proportion of women in agriculture work as unpaid subsistence labour while performing their dual “household” and “economic” roles. While there are several gender specific disparities in agriculture, the benefits of gender mainstreaming cannot be undermined. Several studies have today established that Gender Mainstreaming in agriculture is supported by both a business case and a social case. For instance, by providing access to equal training and assets to men and women, agricultural productivity can rise by 40% to 131% in some cases. Gender mainstreaming becomes even more important today as there has been a global feminisation of agriculture which can be defined as a trend of increasing women participation in farming and allied activities with men migrating out. Hence, gender mainstreaming becomes crucial for ensuring global food security.

At the same time, use of innovative technologies in agriculture has grown exponentially in recent times and several of these technologies are beginning to demonstrate significant impact. However, for these technologies to reach full potential adoption has to be encouraged among women farmers, a major roadblock to this being the unconscious bias against women in the design and development of agricultural technologies. Agricultural technologies have been at the forefront of reforms across the Global south. This is true for both IT enabled technologies (farm management information systems, mobile-based farm advisory, digital marketplaces, etc) and non-ICT based traditional technologies (like solar processors, solar powered coolers, automatic harvesters, etc). A broad consensus has evolved among the stakeholders on the promising potential of such technologies in improving smallholder farmer livelihoods through a) improving productivity, b) improving price realization per unit volume, c) reducing costs of cultivation, and d) reducing vulnerabilities. Along with an improvement in incomes, farmers using agricultural technologies also tend to demonstrate better self-confidence and reduced drudgery. By impacting a farmer across the above four dimensions, agricultural technologies significantly create and impact the triple bottom line (economic, social, and environmental) for our society. Further, it has also been established that use of these technologies is instrumental in enhancing food security.

Currently, however, several technologies are not gender sensitive and at the same time, there are several whitespaces for technology service providers. The way agricultural technology is designed currently, it does not consider the barriers it creates for their use by women. Gender disparities with respect to a) social and cultural norms, b) gender roles, c) ownership and control of assets and d) role in decision making are not accounted for. Most technology developers partner with agronomists and engineers for the development and deployment of technologies and do not use a gender lens which can help negate the impact of such disparities. Instead, absence of a gender lens in the development of agricultural technology has had a debilitating impact on its use. For instance:

  • Many software solutions that tend to register farmers and provide advisory support to them require land ownership documents for registration. This limits women participation as in most developing countries, women do not hold land titles.
  • In India, literacy in rural areas is low, more for women. Women often understand languages but cannot read. In such cases IVR and graphics-based advisory is essential but is seldom provided. The same IVR and/or graphic-based method is required in other developing countries where women in rural areas mostly own feature phones and not smart phones.
  • Current gender roles in agriculture require women to be involved in activities such as weeding and transplanting which require sickles and spades. Most sickles and spades are made of materials that are heavier than necessary for the operations.
  • One of the key factors that influences adoption of technology at the farm-level is the associated capacity building effort undertaken to train smallholder farmers. But both the trainers and the field agents responsible for providing handholding support are men.

Given this background, Intellecap is seeking to host a session on Designing, Developing and Deploying Gender Sensitive Agriculture Technology. The session will lay down the best practices, which need to be incorporated during the technology design, development, deployment, and commercialization of agricultural technologies while integrating a gender lens in all 4 phases. The output would be a well articulated framework for using agricultural technologies for gender mainstreaming across the Global South.

Confirmed Panelists

There are no confirmations yet, except for the moderator:

Manish Shankar, Lead of Agriculture at Intellecap as Moderator. Manish Shankar has over 25 years of experience in the areas of value chain assessments, strategy consulting, business modelling & planning in agriculture and rural businesses across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. His areas of expertise include analyzing value chains in agriculture, sustainable practices in agriculture and allied sectors, and providing strategic advice for social change in these domains. Some of the value chains that he has worked in include dairy, organic tea, bamboo, tiger shrimps, fresh water shrimps, black pepper, and F&Vs. Funded by DFID, UK, he worked on Business Innovation Facility Project that aimed at developing a robust business plan of startups like Milk Mantra in India, when they were at the cusp of scaling their processing capacity from 5000 liters per day to 1,00,000 liters per day. Through another project funded by the Embassy of The Netherlands and implemented by Solidaridad, South and South East Asia, he was also instrumental in drawing up the business model and the business plan for two Village Super Markets in Bangladesh. Dairy was one of the three major value chains under this project. Funded by DFID, India, Manish led a two year engagement in one of Central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh under the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Program, managed by a consortium of organizations led by Christian Aid, India, which aimed to use innovative technologies to strengthen the livelihoods of the socially excluded communities engaged in dairy sector. Manish has worked with agri-businesses across India, Kenya, Nigeria, China and the Philippines. He is a Post-graduate in Forestry Management from Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, a premiere institute in development sector in India and did his Bachelor’s in Science (Honors) in Physics from L.S. College, BRA Bihar University.

Unconfirmed Panelists

Please note, while the panelists are not confirmed, we are confident of securing:

a. One representation from the agricultural technology supply side, preferably with operations across the Global South. Preferably from CropIn, SourceTrace, XpertSea, or Koltiva

b. One representation from the women farmer side, preferably with work leading women farmers and working with gender mainstreaming initiatives across the Global South. Preferably from MAKAAM, SEWA, Aga Khan Foundation, or IDH

c. One representation from the Donors/DFIs preferably having funded gender mainstreaming initiatives across the Global South. Preferably from the Women Empowerment and Agriculture team of the Gates Foundation or the Agriculture and Rural Development team of World Bank, or from UN Women.

Please note we are well connected with all agencies that have been mentioned above.

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