The GREAT course on gender-responsive plant breeding that began in July 2019, ended earlier this month on January 17th, six months later. The five-day final phase of the course was held at the Forest Cottages in Bukoto-Kampala on 22nd -31st July 2019. The course was attended by 26 participants (14 social scientists,12 biophysical scientists; 7 women, 16 men) from India, Thailand, Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe in addition to the 11 trainers from Makerere University, National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Cornell University (USA), and University of Wisconsin (USA).
During the course certificate award ceremony, Makerere University’s Project Principal Investigator Assoc. Prof. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni expressed gratitude that the participants were able to apply the learning derived from the course.
“I am glad that most of you [the course participants] have been able to implement what you learnt in Week 1 and Week 2 to design, implement and report gender-responsive case studies. The posters you have presented are evidence, and they show it all,” Prof. Mangheni said.
Prof. Mangheni notified the audience that the project management and external advisory teams were happy that GREAT was advancing, and has trained more than 120 participants working on various breeding programs in Africa.
She further noted that initially, GREAT targeted Sub-Saharan Africa but as time went on, the demand went higher and applications started coming in from areas beyond Sub-Saharan Africa. “There was no way we could stop people who wanted to transform the breeding programs from attending the GREAT course as long as they met the major criteria ” Prof. Mangheni said.
In concluding her remarks, Dr. Mangheni appealed to the participants to continue applying the learnings from GREAT, to become gender champions, and to be agents of change for gender-responsive research in their respective institutions. She encouraged them to always get in touch with the GREAT Training team for advice in case they encounter any application related challenges.
The closing ceremony was officiated by Dr. Christine Leuenberger, who represented Cornell University. In her remarks, Dr. Leuenberger applauded Makerere University for its willingness to partner with Cornell University to implement the GREAT course.
She said what GREAT represents in terms of its focus on interdisciplinarity, community engagement and practice-oriented learning is in line with what Cornell has increasingly focused on in the last few years.
“Indeed, GREAT is innovative and novel, and a model of collaboration for various reasons:
“For one, because it brings together interdisciplinary research teams!
“And as we know, in order to address the complex problems of today we need interdisciplinarity in order to come up with solutions.
“Secondly, GREAT brings together research teams from all over Africa as well as other countries, ranging from Thailand to India. Such cross-cultural and international learning and research communities is the way of the future.”
Related to the theme of applying course learning, Dr. Brenda Boonabaana, the Project Associate Coordinator and leader of the Field Training component also observed that participants exhibited learning from the GREAT course. She said when participants submitted their first-draft case study concepts and data collection tools, gender was not duly integrated. When the Field Trainers gave feedback and guidance on the what and how to integrate gender in their case studies, most participants who took the feedback were able to conduct better studies.
Dr. Boonabaana added that, “on Monday, when they [participants] came, they shared their experiences in conducting gender-responsive field case studies, and we could tell that both breeders and social scientists participated in the fieldwork, which is a very good practice for learning and appreciating interdisciplinarity in the breeding programs.
“We have had some aha moments in this course. Participants were able to critique their own studies. For example, when one breeder realized that the team’s data could not properly meet the standards for qualitative data analysis, she pledged to go back in the field to collect ‘better data’ that is analyzable,” Dr. Boonabaana said.
During Week 2, the course focused on hands-on analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, operationalizing gender in breeding programs, mixed methods synthesis, and communicating gender research to different audiences. Participants experienced exercises that enabled them to apply their own gender data collected in their breeding programs.
The session on breeding was complemented by a session on experience sharing by a senior breeder from NARO. Dr. Kalule David Okello, a GREAT Fellow and head of the groundnut breeding programme in Uganda, shared his experiences on how gender is applicable to his day-to-day work. He urged the participants to incorporate gender data in their breeding work in order to get better research outcomes.
During and after the course, the participants reported learning. Dr. Eileen Bogweh Nchanji a gender specialist working with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Pan African Beans Research Alliance described the course as helpful.
“I am a gender specialist at CIAT and have worked in the gender field for quite a number of years. Attending this course I have learnt more, interacted with the experts and this will sharpen my work. In addition, the fact that some of the breeders on my team such as Bruce [ Bruce Mutari] have been trained on gender, I know this will make my work easier,” Dr. Nchanji said.
At the end of the course, Eileen was elected as the Community of Practice Lead for the Social Scientists along his breeder counterpart Dr. Eric Agoyi, from the University of Abomey Calavi in Benin.
Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) is a 5 year (2015-2020) Makerere University (Uganda) and Cornell University (USA) joint certificate program in applied gender training for agricultural researchers funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It offers skills in gender-responsive research tailored to assisting agricultural researchers to address gender issues along the design, implementation, evaluation, and communication pathway of their research projects.
The project is jointly implemented by Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the School of Women and Gender Studies (SWGS). The project has been operational for the past four years and now in its fifth year. Applications for Cohort five are open at https://www.greatagriculture.org/content/courses/upcoming-courses