Mak GREAT & IRRI Train 30 Scientists from Asia on Gender Responsive Plant Breeding

Makerere University’s Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has trained 30 plant breeders and social scientists from South Asia and South-East Asia on gender responsive rice breeding. The two weeks training was conducted via zoom from 17th-20th & 24th-27 May 2021

The purpose was to enhance the capacity of partners to develop gender responsive rice breeding strategies and products and understanding of gender responsive preference analysis to ensure the products address needs of men, women and the youth.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor Makerere University signed the certificates

At the end of the training, participants virtually received certificates of participation from Makerere and Cornell University signed by the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the Director of International Programmes at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University Prof. Ronnie Coffman.

The training dubbed,  “GREAT-IRRI” adopted a  blended approach of  Self-study materials on Google classroom platform comprised of exercises, handouts and discussion activities, Online interaction among trainers and participants through forums and discussion boards and Live delivery/ Synchronous by Trainers through Zoom (3 hours a day).

The  course which  attracted   participants from the biophysical and social  Sciences (28 participants from South Asia and two  from South East  Asia) was  conducted  by  experts in gender and agriculture from Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), the School of Women and Gender Studies (SWGS), Cornell University and international experts

One of the certificates awarded

The trainees  were drawn from various disciplines  including breeders, soil scientists. horticulturalists. plant pathologists, agronomist, seed system experts, agricultural economists, Social scientists , agricultural extensionists and project managers and evaluators among others.

Majority (50%) were from Nepal (15), Bangladesh (10) India (3) and  Philippines(2) representing different institutions including the International Rice Research Institute(CG) Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARs), Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture. Other institutions represented were Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Ministry of Agriculture and Development Nepal and from the Prime Ministers Agriculture Modernization project, Nepal.

(clink on the lick to see participants)

https://padlet.com/lisamwe20/84u2dqnvwmp6qt53

The participants were working on different research projects in their respective institutions and countries and at the end of the course presented action plans on how research teams will incorporate a gender responsive lens in their respective work, in order to develop products suitable for men, women and youth.

The researchers were taken through different aspects of the training including gender concepts, what men and masculinities have got to do with gender and agricultural development, why gender matters in agriculture with a focus on South and Southeast Asia and why gender matters in plant breeding.

The trainees were also introduced to gendered qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods, important considerations while conducting interdisciplinary research and how to apply gender to ongoing plant breeding projects. Other training sessions focused on how to identify the needs of men and women when setting priorities, implementing breeding projects, measuring and communicating project outcomes.

Dr. Margaret Mangheni , Project Coordinator Makerere University

Speaking during the closing ceremony, Makerere University’s GREAT project coordinator Assoc. Prof. Margaret Mangheni said the focus in the last five years has been  in the Sub Saharan Africa but have had an opportunity to go into South East Asia where the first course has been conducted.

“I want to congratulate you because IRRI did not make a wrong choice in selecting you. You have been very active and you have demonstrated a lot of learning and you know that you will be the people to lead GREAT into South -East Asia to transform Agricultural research. The niche is expanding beyond plant breeding seen in the course so that it is inclusive to meet the needs of men and women,” the PI said.

Prof. Mangheni said the materials delivered to the participants was a rich mix developed by a collaboration of many  partners internationally  like CG , Cornel and some individual consultants from the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of Uganda, NARO.

She thanked the team of trainees for delivering the materials and those who contributed in absence. “I also thank Makerere University for hosting this course. We thank the administration of Makerere University that has allowed us to host this course. The Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for signing the certificates for today and the Principals who lead the two colleges where GREAT falls.” Prof. Mangheni said.

Prof. Ronnie Coffman, Cornell University, signed the certificates

Mangheni also thanked Cornel University especially the Director of International Programs at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at Cornel University Dr. Ronnie Coffman for signing the certificates.

The Professor also thanked participants on behalf of the trainers saying, they were impressed by their commitment, determination  and demonstration that they learnt a lot in the few days virtually from the presentations made, noting that they have surpassed their expectations.

She said GREAT trains for application and transformation and would want to be part of the participants’ journey.

She said GREAT has a community of practice where everyone that trains and gets a certificate and graduates, joins the community.

“We will be sending you a link where you join other researchers all over the world who have participated in the GREAT course before and you belong to a WhatsApp group and other social media platforms where we share opportunities in this gender and agricultural research and development space.

The other opportunity is that we are in our Phase II working with the CG gender platform, we are going to be working in South Asia for deepening capacity development. So we shall be reaching out to you again so that those that are interested can be able to join the level II of deepening course for gender responsive research and that is why you were asked for the technical support that you would like to have in your ongoing work. You can also be recruited as social scientists, gender specialists and build capacity of your research teams,” Prof. Mangheni said.

Dr. Mary Kanui Ngendo , IRRI

On behalf of IRRI, Dr. Mary Kanui Ngendo expressed hope that the participants had benefitted from the two weeks training both professionally and personally.

“The idea was to build capacity for gender  responsive rice breeding for both India and other partners so this  course was for breeders and social scientists. So we hope that the course has enabled all participants to understand key concepts of relevance to gender responsive breeding and  has  led to various outcomes”, Dr. Kanui said.

Recapping on the journey of gender responsive breeding, Dr. Kanui said back in November 2019 the original agreement was to conduct a course with Africa including  Kenya Uganda, Tanzainia , Burundi, Ghana Senegal  ivory coast and Mozambique.

She reported that among the notable action point was the way researchers do rice variety collection that has evolved to be more participatory and inclusive

Because of the course, she explained that researchers were all open to make changes in their methodology and also ask deeper questions like the why unlike previously when   researchers focused on men and women farmers and all stakeholders lamped together.

“The contribution was supporting collection of qualitative and quantitative data which helped the IRRI team to understand the reason behind different varieties, the traits and why different stakeholders both men and women prefer different varieties. So I hope that course has been an enriching experience in multiple ways.

Certificate awarded to one of the participants

She stressed that the overall objective of the course was to enhance the ability of the participants to recognize the relevance of gender to agriculture in general and in this case, to plant breeding in Africa and Asia notably by equipping participants with the competencies to conduct gender responsive breeding, priority setting and also design gender responsive methods that utilize different models and conduct interviews in agricultural research.

She expressed gratitude to the GREAT .trainers, the consortium organizers, the technical team and all other contributors behind the scene that made the training successful and the brains behind customizing the course to meet the Asian needs and the participants for accepting the invitation and actively participating in the course.

GREAT is an international course and collaboration between Makerere university in Uganda and Cornell University in the United States. At Makerere the course involves two colleges namely the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES) and the School of Women and Gender Studies which falls under the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS).

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer, CAES



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