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Gender-responsive research to empower women and young people

Young women farmers in Central Asia. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/IWMI

Our research work to make an impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment seeks to give women in drylands better rights and access to productive assets, inputs, information, and market opportunities, and enable them to capture a more equitable share of higher incomes, food, and other benefits.

Gender matters because development stalls if it does not address the views and needs of both women and men. Full development cannot be realized if women are not given the opportunity to contribute. Gender relations affect who grows, prepares, and processes food, who manages cash crops and livestock, and who spends household income and how. Women play an important role in assessing which types and varieties of staple foods, vegetables, fruit, nuts, fodder, livestock, fuelwood, and water sources best fit their circumstances, and in deciding how to feed and nourish their families. In the precarious situations in many dryland areas, communities will thrive when all their members, irrespective of gender, age, or other social characteristics, are empowered fully to contribute to and benefit from agricultural systems. Program research strategies to empower women and young people seek to improve their access to productive assets, inputs, information, and market opportunities, and help them gain an equal share of incomes, food supplies, and other benefits.

Our Gender Strategy

In 2014, the program approved a Gender Strategy to integrate gender into research and empower women in drylands. The strategy aims to promote and enhance:

  • gender equality especially with regard to socio-economic, legal and political rights;
  • gender equity in terms of access to and control of agricultural assets, technologies, services, products, and income in dryland systems to enhance food security, well-being and resilience of dryland households, especially of poor and vulnerable people.

The strategy is fully aligned with the overall CGIAR Gender Strategy and Principles. It directs research to identify agro-livelihood opportunities, analyze the distribution of resources and vulnerability to risk, and understand social issues that affect gender roles, values, norms, and rules.

The Gender Working Group set up in 2014, produced the Guidelines for Gender-Responsive Research for Biophysical Scientists, to facilitate the implementation of the strategy across the program. These guidelines propose practical steps by taking gender into account throughout the research project cycle and outline specific methods, such as gender-responsive systems research. The aim of integrating gender considerations into mainstream biophysical research processes is to empower rural women, encourage gender equity, and out-scale equitable gender development interventions.

Our Approach to Gender

Our research approach to gender in drylands focuses on:

  • Developing and implementing effective interdisciplinary ex-ante diagnostic methods that integrate gender analysis and ensure gender equity in targeting and prioritizing Dryland Systems research

  • Improving knowledge and understanding of the key cultural, ideological, and institutional factors in drylands that lead to gender inequalities, and identifies effective gender-responsive and transformative ways of addressing these to increase production, incomes, and food security, and women’s share of these benefits
  • Contributing to the design of processes, technologies, and related policy and institutional frameworks for vulnerable households in marginal dryland areas that reduce gender disparities and improve access to agricultural and domestic technologies – to reduce female drudgery and improve the resilience and well-being of resource-poor men and women
  • Integrating gender differences and equity goals in the development and testing of technologies to intensify production and add value along selected crop–livestock value chains, focusing on entrepreneurial men and women who have the potential to move out of poverty in the short to medium term.

Youth Strategy encourages young scientists

Dryland Systems was the first CGIAR Research program to draft a Youth Strategy, setting a precedent that may direct serious attention to this critical stakeholder group by other CGIAR research programs and partner. The Youth Strategy may also inspire joint efforts by the Dryland Systems program and partners to engage young people in innovative agricultural development, provide them with opportunities, and help them to build livelihoods in agriculture.

The Youth Strategy was developed through a participatory, multi-stakeholder process and orients program efforts to enable and empower young female and male scientists to lead technical initiatives and develop knowledge in their countries. Leadership is a critical factor in sustaining agricultural growth.

For example, the Dryland Systems Young Agricultural Scientist Program selects motivated young men and women from partner countries to work alongside Dryland Systems scientists so that they can develop expertise in enhancing wheat productivity and the use of research methods applicable to other dryland crops. Topics cover plant breeding, biotechnology, plant protection, agronomy, irrigation, water and soil management, plant nutrition, conservation agriculture, cereal quality and seed technology, agricultural economics, and socio-economics.

For more information on Gender and Youth activities, please contact:

Dr. Karin Reinprecht, Gender Program Coordinator at CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems at


Recent publications on gender-responsive research 

Value Chain Analysis with a Gender Focus

Smart Marketing of Small Ruminants , a gender –responsive analysis

Female and male small scale dairy sheep producers’ decision making on marketing

Sustainability and Gender

Enhancing Gender in Natural Resource Management

Climate Change and Gender