Typologies of Change: Gender Integration in Agriculture and Food Security Research


K. Danielsen, F. Wong, S. Sarapura

In many respects, agriculture as a sector is ground zero for gender in development theory and practice: agriculture and rural development were Boserup’s empirical base for her 1977 landmark book Women’s Role in Economic Development. Her finding of the inconspicuous absence of the role of women in rural development policy and practice inspired an era of initiatives to integrate women in development. Subsequent critiques of these efforts swerved as an impetus to situate women’s social positionings relative to that of men’s within the wider contexts of development itself.

What is remarkable in light of the trajectories of gender and development in theory and practice is the persistence of gender inequity across all social and economic spheres, including agriculture and food security. Today, the critical need to redress gender inequality in rural communities as well as the gender biases of the sector itself is as urgent as it was in 1977.

This gender synthesis of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) aligns with these trajectories. This is both in terms of the program’s efforts to address women’s agriculture and food security needs, and also the shift in thinking about women and agriculture it represents. Currently, gender transformative approaches are seen as an opportunity to inter-relatedly improve nutrition sensitive agriculture and promote gender equality.

CIFSRF is a CAD$124.5 million research for development program implemented by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada since 2009. The program aims to improve food security and nutrition through applied, collaborative, results-oriented research that informs development practice. To date, CIFSRF has conducted six calls for proposals, over two phases, and funded 39 projects implemented in 24 countries by 20 Canadian organisations working in partnership with 40 southern organisations.

From the beginning of CIFSRF, gender integration was a key feature of the program where gender concerns have been mainstreamed throughout the research funding cycle. For example, with a gender strategy as guidance, CIFSRF included gender criteria in the funding of proposals, supported research partners with gender capacity strengthening to engender research design and implementation, and consistently collected and reported on gender data. The introduction of these gender integration features should be understood as an evolution of practice within the program: it was initially conceived with a strong commitment to targeting women that evolved to an ambition to both address current gender gaps while also addressing underlying causes of gender inequalities.

IDRC commissioned this synthesis of gender integration of CIFSRF projects2 to categorise the different strategies that projects used to address and integrate gender and relate them to gender outcomes of the projects. As its empirical base, it draws from the eighteen agriculture and food security projects of Phase 2 of the program. 1 Phase 1, completed in March, 2015, supported 21 large applied agriculture and nutrition research