Everything we do in life, whether we are aware of it or not, is gendered. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative to remember that gender inequality exists in all of the countries where the IPM Innovation Lab implements its research activities. Gender issues such unequal access to land, agricultural inputs, financing, and rural advisory and extension services among other resources, undermines the benefits from investments in agricultural research, policy, and development designed to increase agricultural productivity, promote food security, and enhance nutritional wellbeing.
Inclusive agricultural growth and female empowerment are core development objectives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the IPM Innovation Lab recognizes that gender equality is integral to its overall mission to enhance agricultural livelihoods and generate sustainable development. Designing IPM practices and packages requires an understanding of why, where, and for whom such technologies and practices are most appropriate, accounting for how gender, socio-economic status, and ethnicity affect the integration of IPM into rural agricultural livelihoods.
Vision for Gender-Responsive Research for Development
Through its program-wide and project-level strategies. the IPM Innovation Lab address the gendered components of pest management throughout the design, implementation, and evaluation of all activities, using a number of methods and best practices to explore two broad questions:
- How do gender relations, norms, and attitudes affect the impact and outcomes of IPM Innovation Lab research activities?
- How do IPM Innovation Lab research activities affect gender relations, norms, and attitudes at the household and community level?
Ongoing Research Activities
Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, the IPM Innovation Lab has been working to disseminate Trichoderma to farmers to combat soil-borne diseases, teaching farmers how to produce Tricho-compost at their home gardens and apply it to their vegetable crops. Farmers have reported the benefits from using the Tricho-compost, including improved crop yields and decreased reliance on chemical fertilizers. Women are actively involved in this process, and the program provides them with extra income along with the agricultural productivity. The positive impact to women also includes subjective indicators of empowerment, such as women’s improved self-esteem.
Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus L. is adversely affecting rural livelihoods by reducing agricultural productivity, biodiversity, livestock health, and income generation. Ongoing IPM Innovation Lab research has documented that while controlling Parthenium is a “family affair”, the additional time required to control Parthenium disproportionately affects women. More time is required to manually control the weed, further limiting women’s available time to complete their many other responsibilities within the farming household.
Past Research Activities
Mali: When managing the Tomato yellow leaf curl virus destroying tomatoes and peppers in the Mali, the IPM Innovation Lab found that the best technique is to apply a “no-host period.” This means that farmers wait a couple of months between plantings of these two crops in order to reduce opportunities for virus to spread from the white fly that carries it. Since the virus can only live on tomatoes and peppers, when the farmers plant other vegetables for these months, the virus dies out in these areas. Yet if only men (and men’s fields) participate in IPM projects while women and their home gardens are ignored, the no-host period does not work, as the virus would continue to proliferate on these uninitiated fields, and when the no-host periods ended, the white fly would spread the virus to the tomatoes and peppers again.