Kari mcgill food security research project innovating for resilient farming systems
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Esther Njuguna , Leigh Brownhill , Esther Kihoro and Samuel Murachia. KARI-McGill Food Security Research Project Innovating for resilient farming systems. Gender perspectives o n participatory adoption of resilient innovations in Semi-Arid Eastern Kenya. Research to Feed Africa

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KARI-McGill Food Security Research Project Innovating for resilient farming systems

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Esther Njuguna, Leigh Brownhill, Esther Kihoro and Samuel Murachia

KARI-McGill Food Security Research Project Innovating for resilient farming systems

Gender perspectives on participatory adoption of resilient innovations in Semi-Arid Eastern Kenya

Research to Feed Africa

CIFSRF Symposium

Naivasha, Kenya

23-27 June 2014

Photos: IDRC/PANOS, Sven Torfinn

Outline of the Presentation

  • Gender integration in the project

  • Participatory learning and action research

  • Gendered analysis of adoption

  • Policy recommendations

Gender integration in the KARI McGill Food Security Research Project

  • Gendered objectives

  • Gender strategy

  • 2/3 gender balance in farmer groups and project activities (nature of community)

  • Orphan crops and indigenous chicken (women’s enterprises)

  • Gender disaggregated prioritization

  • Training and farmer-to-farmer learning

  • Monitoring and evaluation of impacts

Participatory Learning and Action Research

  • Five seasons of participatory planning, learning, action and research (prioritization of enterprises, demonstrations, field-days, feedback, re-prioritization)

  • Skills development for farmers (choice of seed, crop agronomy, pest and disease management, post-harvest handling, participatory marketing, management of indigenous chicken, nutrition and health, value addition)

  • Farmer adoption of innovations, adjustment of farming practices and adaptation to social and ecological challenges

Gendered analysis of adoption:

the case of green grams

  • Green gram is adapted to the arid and semi-arid zones (grows well under low rainfall)

  • There is a high demand among traders, so it is treated as a cash crop in the semi-arid farming systems

  • Green grams was one of the technologies adopted by most farmers across the three counties

Assessment of the green gram adoption cycle

  • In a survey of 405 households, as part of the gender evaluation of the project, we examined a range of activities that farmers undertake to adopt green grams:

    • the decision to adopt

    • ploughing, planting, weedingand harvesting

    • marketing

    • income use

Gendered participation in green gram enterprise (by farmer group-type and household-type)

Gendered division of labour and income

  • We would have expected that in working with groups in which majority of members are women, and in dealing with what are traditional subsistence food crops, that women would emerge as highly empowered in all aspects of the enterprise, including decisions over use of income.

  • This has not been the case. Women invest more labour than men, but reap fewer rewards in terms of income. Why do they continue to farm these crops?

Non-priced benefits?

Income is not the only incentive for farming activities. There are other benefits that women may control more than men, such as:

  • Provision of nutritious, culturally appropriate foods for the family

  • Ability to save seeds (selection, innovation)

  • Building social capital (love, appreciation, gifts, contributions)

  • Ecological services (organic matter, compost, nitrogen-fixing)

And, reduction of hunger is priceless …

Percentage of households with insufficient food in given months

(2011 and 2013/2014)













*** P < 0.01, ** P < 0.05, * P < 0.10 [McNemar’s test (one-tailed test)]

But women don’t have resources?

Social capital that women build, maintain, use and rely upon increases their:

  • Knowledge and skills

  • Access to financial resources

  • Access to land

  • Access to labour

    …among other benefits.

Policy Recommendations

  • Promote civic education to both men and women that money in women’s control has a bigger impact on household food security than money in men’s control (FAO Study)

  • Promote civic education to both men and women about benefits of women’s participation in farmer groups as a catalyst to food security and development

  • Integrate indicators of non-priced benefits into project monitoring and evaluation processes


We acknowledge the farmers who shared their lives; KARI and McGill management; the project PIs, the research team and assistants.

We especially thank Pascal Sanginga for guidance, support and advice.

This research was made possible through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (#106510). The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) is a program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) and the Government of Kenya.


Photos: IDRC/PANOS, Sven Torfinn

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