USAID supports partnership between U.S. universities and CGIAR research for gender-equitable agriculture
About 200 million poor farmers in developing countries use roots, tubers, and bananas for food and nutrition security and income. These crops are produced and processed mainly by female smallholders and play a key part in the livelihoods of many low-income families.
For example, women in Nigeria are in charge of small-scale processing and marketing for gari, a mashed cassava dish.
While in Kenya, mothers and pregnant women grow and cook orange-fleshed sweetpotato to ensure their children have the nutrition they need for a healthy start to life.
Women and girls play an important, largely unpaid, role in generating family income by planting, weeding, harvesting, and threshing crops, and processing produce for sale.
To ensure benefits for men and women alike, the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers, and Bananas (RTB) strives to increase gender-equitable income while exploiting the underutilized potential of root, tuber, and banana crops for improving nutrition and food security.
The RTB has a strong focus on partnerships with universities, national research systems, farmers’ organizations, NGOs, and the private sector, especially to help in delivery of new technologies developed by research.
In 2014, USAID generously awarded RTB a grant as part of the Feed the Future CGIAR-U.S. University Linkage Program. The NEXTGen Project, the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and Bioversity International are also supporting the initiative. Dr. Kayte Meola is leading the initiative with Dr. Hale Tufan from Cornell University.
The goal of the new grant is to establish and strengthen linkages between US universities and RTB in order to: 1) raise awareness of CGIAR and RTB work on US campuses; 2) provide regular research opportunities, field sites, networks, technical, logistical, and project support for US graduate students who would be connected to RTB research projects; 3) facilitate interdisciplinary exchange among faculty, researchers and students to address the challenges of integrating gender into agricultural research; and 4) increase RTB capacity to integrate gender into agricultural projects.
“Cooperation is not a one-way street where universities merely ship us their students,” said Dr. Clair Hershey, cassava program leader at CIAT. “We have a lot to learn from faculty and students alike, but a lot to contribute as well.”
To activate the partnership, gender scholars from U.S. universities and RTB met at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) headquarters in Colombia on October 14th and 15th. Experts from the University of San Francisco, Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, Clark University, University of Illinois-Chicago, and University of Florida, were present to learn and share advances in RTB and gender research, and to discuss new research opportunities.
Also present during the meeting was Philip Jakob, a graduate student from the University of San Francisco who will develop and field test a tool to measure intra-household income allocation with guidance from Professor Elizabeth Katz. He is set to begin field work in a cassava-growing community in northern Colombia where sales from cassava as an income source is of particular interest. Thereafter, the results and tools will be made available to RTB biological and social scientists.
In the longer-term, the initiative aims to connect more students and faculty with RTB research opportunities and networks, facilitate interdisciplinary exchange, and strengthen partnerships between universities and CGIAR Centers to address the challenges of integrating gender into agricultural research.
About the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB)
The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is a joint initiative of CGIAR and partners to improve food security, nutrition, and livelihoods. It brings together the RTB crop-related work of Bioversity International, CIRAD, CIAT, CIP, and IITA.
Photos: Neil Palmer (CIAT)