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Boosting barley production and incomes through gender-responsive research in Ethiopia

To mark the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2016, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is stepping it for women to raise awareness about their roles and recognize their invaluable contribution to agriculture and other socio-economic, cultural and political aspects of life in the world’ most vulnerable communities in rural drylands.

In this video, we showcase the work by our researchers at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and local partners are working to close the gender gap in barley farming in order to empower women and boosts production and incomes in Ethiopia.

Aselefech Telila is a farmer who now heads the Smallholder Women Farmers’ Association in Welmera district in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. She and her group of 25 women were initially introduced to a new improved barely variety and a package of trainings on best farming practices and crop management.  As a result, the barley yields increased from less than 1 tonne per hectare to up to 6 tonnes per hectare.

The seed produced by the women were distributed to benefit more women farmers in the area and the new variety and management package demonstrated to men and women farmers across the community through farmer field days.

Today the women’s association has grown from 25 to 250 members. Aselefech has become  a role model for other women farmers in her community. Barley production in the district has increased from 10 tonnes to 60 tonnes per year. Over 90 percent of smallholder farmers in the district are not only producing enough for their own needs but are also able to sell their surplus in the market to generate income.

Commenting on the role of gender-responsive research to the successful  uptake and adoption of the new improved practices and techonologie for barley production, Bezaiet Dessalegn, gender and monitoring and evaluation specialist at ICARDA noted:

 The project results point to the critical importance of understanding the role of women and men in farming for both development and dissemination of technology.” She explains, “In this particular case, women were suffering from poor harvests as they cultivate barley, use it in their foods and also take care of livestock.  The improved barley seed directly solves their problems, which explains the large success with technology uptake when we started out with training women farmers."

The women have been applying all that they learnt on their farms and continue to attend monthly and biannual training conducted by our local partner, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).

For Aselefech, this success means that the farmers are earning more and can take better care of their homes and children. Quietly, she  enjoys another achievement – a small victory for women in her community, where women farmers often do not have a voice and are not recognized as skilled farmers. 

“Even men are now coming to us to ask and consult with us about improving barley productivity in their farms,” she beams.

According to FAO, a substantial gain in food production can be achieved by closing the gender gap in agriculture.  Yields on women’s farms suffer from fewer inputs and less access to important services such as extension advice. With improved access, women could increase their yields by 20 to 30 percent.


This research work is conduceted under the framework of the CGIAR Research Program. It is led by ICARDA and the Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research. 


This story first appeared at the ICARDA website here