Special Issue

Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security

This special issue profiles GENNOVATE as an empirically and methodologically innovative research initiative. Empirically, GENNOVATE examines the interlinkages between gender norms, agency, and local innovation processes in agriculture and natural resource management, an intersection still sparsely addressed in the literature, but central to understanding barriers and opportunities for gender-transformative change in agriculture- and natural resource-based livelihoods. The papers that follow address diverse aspects of these interlinkages at different levels.


Qualitative, comparative, and collaborative research at large scale: An introduction to GENNOVATE

This publication provides an overview of the conceptual approach and the methodological strategy that informed GENNOVATE’s twin objectives and research design. The conceptual framework underlying this original research initiative is introduced, and the challenges and opportunities faced when combining inductive and deductive analytic approaches are discussed. The empirical and methodological issues are explored and the broad relevance of GENNOVATE’s research approach beyond the field of agricultural development is reflected upon.

Qualitative, comparative, and collaborative research at large scale: The GENNOVATE field methodology

This article presents GENNOVATE’s “medium-n” qualitative comparative methodology, which enhances understanding of the strong and fluid influence of gender norms on processes of local agricultural innovation in the Global South.  It discusses GENNOVATE’s analytic approach, sampling framework, data collection, and analysis procedures, and reflects critically on the research strategies adopted to document and learn from the perspectives and experiences of women and men farmers. 

What drives capacity to innovate? Insights from women and men small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

This publication examines the key characteristics of rural innovators from a gender lens. It draws on individual interviews with 336 rural women and men known in their communities for trying out new things in agriculture. The data form part of 84 GENNOVATE community case studies from 19 countries, and the analysis combines variable-oriented analysis with specific individuals’ lived experience. Results indicate that factors related to personality and agency are what most drive women’s and men’s capacity to innovate.

Gendered aspirations and occupations among rural youth in agriculture and beyond: A cross-regional perspective

This paper explores rural young women’s and men’s occupational aspirations and trajectories in India, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Mexico,
Nigeria, and the Philippines. It draws on data from 50 sex-segregated youth focus groups to show that across the study’s regional contexts, young rural women and men mainly aspire for formal blue- and white-collar jobs. Yet, they experience an aspiration achievement gap, as the promise of their education for securing the formal employment they seek is unfulfilled, and they continue to farm in their family’s production.

Local normative climate shaping agency and agricultural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

This publication introduces the concept of local normative climate to improve understanding of community-level social processes that shape women’s and men’s sense of agency and capacities for taking important decisions, including in their agricultural livelihoods. It applies a normative climate to a qualitative examination of men’s and women’s assessments of decade-long changes in their decision-making capacity in two village case studies as well as comparatively with 24 village cases from seven sub-Saharan African countries.

Community typology framed by normative climate for agricultural innovation, empowerment, and poverty reduction

This paper employs the concepts of gender norms and agency to advance understanding of inclusive agricultural innovation processes and their contributions to empowerment and poverty reduction at the village level. We present a community typology informed by normative influences on how people assess conditions and trends for village women and men to make important decisions (or to exercise agency) and for local households to escape poverty.

Other GENNOVATE publications

Leaving no one behind: How women seize control of wheat-maize technologies in Bangladesh


Bangladesh is strongly committed to the “leave no one behind” principle of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. However, social norms and institutional biases in agricultural organisations can prevent indigenous peoples and women from participating in wheat–maize innovation processes, as they rarely meet the requisite criteria: sufficient land, social capital or formal education. The GENNOVATE (Enabling Gender Equality in Agricultural and Environmental Innovation) research initiative in Bangladesh shows that indigenous Santal women are obtaining access to and benefiting from wheat–maize innovations, enabling low-income Muslim women to benefit as well.

Gender norms and agricultural innovation: Insights from six villages in Bangladesh

This paper analyses how men and women in South West Bangladesh perceive gender norms to affect their ability to innovate, adopt, and benefit from new technologies in aquaculture, fisheries and agricultural systems. The qualitative findings from six villages in 2014 confirm that the engagement of women and men smallholders with agricultural innovation and its opportunities is gender-differentiated. The authors also explore further: how gender norms shape these differences; which gender norms are the most significant in the given context, when and for whom; and, finally, when and how some women and men are able to innovate in the context of these norms.

Gendered mobilities and immobilities: Women’s and men’s capacities for agricultural innovation in Kenya and Nigeria

This paper discusses how gendered mobilities and immobilities influence women’s and men’s capacities to innovate in agriculture. The authors analyze four case studies from Western Kenya and Southwestern Nigeria that draw on 28 focus group discussions and 32 individual interviews with a total of 225 rural and peri-urban women, men and youth. Findings show that women in both sites are less mobile than men due to norms that delimit the spaces where they can go, the purpose, length of time and time of day of their travels.

Women’s agency in changing contexts: A case study of innovation processes in Western Kenya

This paper describes social change and the potential of agricultural innovation processes to create, or expand, spaces for women to exercise agency in economic and agricultural decision-making in Kenya. The authors draw on a qualitative case study with 140 research participants from rural and peri-urban villages in Western Kenya. They examine how global processes have fostered local level changes in the last decade to contextualize innovation processes. Their key findings highlight how economic pressure and agricultural programs that focus on women have brought women into public spaces in new ways and created gendered opportunity spaces.

Gender and agricultural innovation in Oromia region, Ethiopia: From innovator to tempered radical

This paper explores whether the concept of tempered radicals provides a useful analytic lens through which the strategies of women and men farmer innovators, who are ‘doing things differently’ in agriculture, can be interpreted. The paper uses research data derived from two wheat-growing communities in Oromia Region, Ethiopia. The findings demonstrate that women and men innovators actively interrogate and contest gender norms and extension narratives. Both men and women innovators face considerable challenges, but women in particular are precariously located ‘outsiders within,’ negotiating carefully between norm and sanction.

From working in the wheat field to managing wheat: Women innovators in Nepal

This article presents research conducted in Nepal’s Terai plains in 2014-15 showing that women are innovating in wheat to the
extent that wheat farming is experiencing a shift from feminization of agricultural labor towards women taking control over decision making. Processes accounting for this include male out-migration, non-governmental organizations working on promoting women’s equality that has developed women’s confidence, individual support from extension agents, and strong cooperation between women to foster each other’s “innovation journeys.”

Innovation and gendered negotiations: Insights from six small-scale fishing communities

This publication investigates how gender relations shape the capacity and motivation of different individuals in fishing communities to innovate. It compares six fishing communities in Cambodia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. The findings suggest that gendered negotiations mediate the capacity to innovate but that wider structural constraints are important constraints for both men and women. The paper shows that men’s and women’s capacity to innovate is strongly mediated by the behavior of their marriage partner.

Understanding adaptive capacity and capacity to innovate in social-ecological systems: Applying a gender lens

This paper examines the social and gender differentiation of capacities to adapt and innovate. It is a qualitative study in three communities in the Solomon Islands, a developing country where rural livelihoods and wellbeing are tightly tied to agriculture and fisheries. The article finds that the five dimensions of capacity to adapt and innovate (assets, flexibility, learning, social organization, and agency) are mutually dependent. The findings are of value to those aspiring for equitable improvements to wellbeing within dynamic and diverse social–ecological systems.

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