Replacing gender myths and assumptions with knowledge
In this expert opinion blog, CIMMYT Director General Martin Kropff speaks on the topic of ‘Wheat and the role of gender in the developing world’ prior to the 2015 Women in Triticum Awards at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Workshop in Sydney on 19 September. Kropff highlights “If we are to be truly successful in improving the lives of farmers and consumers in the developing world, we need to base our interventions on the best evidence available. If we act based only on our assumptions, we may not be as effective as we could be or, even worse, actively cause harm.” One example is the common perception that women are not involved in the important wheat farming systems of North Africa and South Asia. By recognizing and engaging with these myths, we are beginning to build a more sophisticated understanding of how agriculture works as a social practice, thus Kropff. There are only a few published studies that take a closer examination of the roles played by women in wheat-based farming systems. These studies have found that, in some cases, men are responsible for land preparation and planting, and women for weeding and post-harvest activities, with harvest and transport duties being shared. Between different districts in India, huge variations may be found in the amount of time that women are actively involved in wheat agriculture. This shows that some careful study into the complexities of gender and agricultural labor may hold important lessons when intervening in any particular situation.