Despite formal decentralization, agricultural services in Ethiopia are generally “top-down,” claim the authors of a recently published paper on gender and agricultural innovation. “Extension services,” they explain, “are supply-driven, with off-the-shelf technologies transferred to farmers without expectation of further adaptation.”
Drawing on GENNOVATE case studies from two wheat-growing communities in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, the authors examine how a small sample of women and men smallholders attempt to innovate with improved wheat seed, row planting, and the broad bed maker, introduced through the Ethiopian agricultural extension system. They also introduce the concept of tempered radicals, an analytic lens used to understand how individuals try to initiate change processes, and assess whether this can have validity in rural settings.
Dinke Abebe shows a handful of wheat at a traditional seed storage house in Boru Lencha village, Hetosa district, Arsi highlands, Ethiopia. (Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT)
As the authors demonstrate through their literature review on cultural norms in the region, there are powerful institutional gender constraints to change processes, which can be punitive for women.
Ethiopian women smallholders are particularly disadvantaged because they have limited access to productive assets such as irrigation water, credit and extension services. Therefore, they find it harder to implement innovations. The study asserts that strategies to support innovators, and women innovators in particular, must be context-specific as well as gender-sensitive.
Development of research methodology and data collection was supported by the CGIAR Gender and Agricultural Research Network, the World Bank, the Government of Mexico, the Government of Germany, and the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat. Data analysis was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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