GENNOVATE publications

Towards gender-inclusive innovation: Assessing local conditions for agricultural targeting

Towards gender-inclusive innovation: Assessing local conditions for agricultural targeting

The importance of gender norms in agricultural innovation processes has been recognized. However, the operational integration of these normative issues into the innovation strategies of agricultural interventions remains challenging. This article advances a replicable, integrative research approach that captures key local conditions to inform the design and targeting of gender-inclusive interventions. We focus on the gender climate across multiple contexts to add to the limited indicators available for assessing gender norms at scale. The notion of gender climate refers to the socially constituted rules that prescribe men’s and women’s behaviour in a specific geographic location—with some being more restrictive and others more relaxed. We examine the gender climate of 70 villages across 13 countries where agriculture is an important livelihood. Based on data from the GENNOVATE initiative we use multivariate methods to identify three principal components: ‘Gender Climate’, ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Connectivity’. Pairwise correlation and variance partitioning analyses investigate the linkages between components. Our findings evidence that favourable economic or infrastructure conditions do not necessarily correlate with favourable gender normative conditions. Drawing from two case-study villages from Nepal, we highlight opportunities for agricultural research for development interventions. Overall, our approach allows to integrate local knowledge about gender norms and other local conditions into the planning and targeting strategies for agricultural innovation.

Women farmers and agricultural innovation: Marital status and normative expectations in rural Ethiopia

In this paper, we focus on married women in acknowledged male-headed households and women heading their own households to examine how marital status influences women’s capacity to innovate in their rural livelihoods. Using data from eight community case studies in Ethiopia, we used variable-oriented and contextualized case-oriented analysis to understand factors which promote or constrain women’s innovative capacities. Single women are more likely to own land and experience control over their production decisions and expenditures than married women, but engage in considerable struggle to obtain resources that should be theirs according to the law.

Unequal partners: Associations between power, agency and benefits among women and men maize farmers in Nigeria

This article asks: How do women negotiate power relations and their expression in gender norms to secure benefits from improved maize varieties (IMVs), and more broadly, to expand their decision-making space? We draw on data from four Nigerian case-studies, two from the North and two from the Southwest. Women are constrained by powerful gender norms which privilege men’s agency and which frown upon women’s empowerment. There is limited evidence for change in some contexts through expansion in women’s agency.

Continuity and change: Performing gender in rural Tanzania

This paper draws on the perspectives of 144 women and 144 men, in four rural communities in different regions of Tanzania, to build an understanding of how they perceive gender equality, and how their perceptions relate to decision-making, women earning incomes, women as homemakers, and control over assets. Understanding gender as a performance we contextualise our analysis through a historical overview of women’s struggles to secure rights from colonial times to the present day. We find that while local discourse appears to embrace the idea of gender equality, practice remains quite different with the threat of sanctions restricting the scope for re-negotiation of gender.

From working in the fields to taking control. Towards a typology of women’s decision‑making in wheat in India

Women in India perform a range of roles in wheat-based agricultural systems. Cultural norms which construct men as farmers serve to conceal women’s contributions from researchers and rural advisory services. We use data from communities in four Indian states to provide insights into how women are challenging norms which privilege male decision-making in order to participate in innovation processes. We hypothesized the transitioning of women from labourers in wheat to innovators and managers of wheat is likely to be far from straightforward. We further hypothesized that women are actively managing the processes unleashed by various sources of change.

Making room for manoeuvre: Addressing gender norms to strengthen the enabling environment for agricultural innovation

Local gender norms constitute a critical component of the enabling (or disabling) environment for improved agricultural livelihoods. Yet, they have been largely ignored in AR4D. This viewpoint is based on many years of experience, including a recent major comparative research initiative, GENNOVATE, on how gender norms and agency interact to shape agricultural change at local levels. The evidence suggests that approaches which engage with normative dimensions of agricultural development and challenge underlying structures of inequality, are required to generate lasting gender-equitable development in agriculture and natural resource management.

Bridging youth and gender studies to analyse rural young women and men’s livelihood pathways in Central Uganda

In this paper, the authors studied the livelihood pathways of rural-born young men and women from Central Uganda and in particular; 1) their aspirations, 2) the extent to which these aspirations are associated with agriculture, and 3) the importance of gender in shaping their opportunity spaces. The findings suggest a large proportion of youth out-migrating from the rural communities, with young women migrating more often than young men. Additionally, the authors uncovered how the livelihood pathways of young men and women were linked to a set of normative and structural constraints maintaining gender inequality.

Gender norms and poverty dynamics in 32 villages of South Asia

This paper explores local understandings of and experiences with moving out of poverty and with remaining poor by employing the concept of gender norms, or the various social rules that differentiate women’s and men’s roles and conducts in society. The data demonstrate regularities in the influence of restrictive gender norms on understandings of poverty transitions, as well as how these norms are negotiated and bend to accommodate more gender-equitable practices on the ground.

Gender norms and relations: Implications for agency in coastal livelihoods

Despite advances within development and feminist studies, many livelihood initiatives proceed gender-blind. This application of GENNOVATE attempted to challenge that trend in the Pacific. We investigated how gender norms and relations influence agency (i.e., the availability of choice and capacity to exercise choice) in Solomon Islands. We find that men are able to pursue a broader range of livelihood activities than women who were constrained by individual perceptions of risk and socially prescribed physical mobility restraints. However, our findings challenge the broad proposition that livelihood diversification leads to improvements for agency as women’s more immediate freedoms were limited by intensified time and labour demands. We suggest that better accounting for these gendered differences not only improves livelihood outcomes, but also presents opportunity to catalyse the re-negotiation of gender norms and relations; thereby promoting greater individual agency.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Contact us

For more information, please contact Marlène Elias, CGIAR GENDER Platform Alliances Module leader and Senior Scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT,