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Understanding gendered modalities for sustainable adoption of stress-tolerant rice varieties in Odisha

posted Aug 2, 2018, 12:08 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Ranjitha Puskur and Mathilde Thonon

Despite a rapid decrease in its poverty rate during the past decade, Odisha still remains among the poorest states in India. A focus on social components such as gender, ethnicity, or location reveals uneven progress with regard to the state’s social and economic growth. Poverty rates for rural women and scheduled tribes show the weakest signs of improvement. Social inclusion for poverty eradication has yet to reach its full potential. Sixty percent of the state’s rural poor are engaged in agriculture, in which women represent a significant proportion. Agricultural growth is hardly taking off with only a 0.9% GDP increase between 2010 and 2015. In addition, climate-induced events such as droughts are intensifying and jeopardizing a state that is still dependent on rainfall. Given Odisha’s structural, social, and climatic challenges, the introduction of stress-tolerant rice varieties represents a good opportunity for the socioeconomic development of Indian farmers.

Beyond the need for more resilient varieties, a study being conducted in the state is trying to unravel the subtleties and modalities for their adoption. With a main emphasis on gender disparities, the program intends to understand the influence of other intersecting social and economic factors such as age, economic class, caste, and location, among others. In 2016, a survey was conducted in five districts with 1,500 sample households, including some that received stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) in 2014 and others that did not. A preliminary analysis of the data revealed some useful insights. They will be complemented by qualitative data to unpack the subtleties of gender dynamics, lead to a better targeting, and enhance the project’s impact.

Who makes the decision?
For all households, a focus on decision-making dynamics reveals that joint decisions between the wife and husband or husband-made decisions are the most recurring cases for crop and variety choice, including STRVs. Wives rarely have the final say, sometimes surpassed by other family members in making a choice (Fig. 1).

What drives varietal choice?

Among the 750 households provided with Sahbhagi and Swarna-Sub1 varieties in 2014, 84% and 82%, respectively, chose to continue growing these varieties in the following year. Good cooking quality, improved yields, and ability to resist abiotic stress were the most cited traits that induced these households to grow these varieties. Yet, within adopters of both varieties, 22% ceased growing the Sahbhagi variety and 34% stopped using Swarna-Sub1 after a year (Fig. 2).

Challenges for sustained use of STRVs 

In the study area, restricted accessibility and/or availability of seed are the most recurring and common constraints mentioned by respondents who discontinued using stress-tolerant rice varieties (Figs. 3 and 4). Investing in the development of seed systems that can provide good-quality and affordable seed at the right time to poor and vulnerable farmers in remote locations is critical for ensuring benefits to Odisha’s farmers if we have to make a dent in poverty. A multipronged strategy might be in order to address this challenge. STRASA is working with government and nongovernment partners and women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to develop community-based informal seed systems for STRVs. Strategies also need to be developed to engage private seed dealers to reach out to women and poor farmers in the unreached areas through engaging rural youth and women in the seed supply chain.



Women’s groups lead agricultural innovations in Odisha

posted Aug 1, 2018, 11:50 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Deepti Saksena and Manzoor Dar

Photo by IRRI-India

Odisha, India—Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Odisha are being tapped to lead agricultural innovations, including varietal selection and the adoption of climate-smart rice.

Women farmers are often less productive than men because they have limited access to technology and information. However, they have an enormous potential to make significant contributions to improving agricultural productivity and reducing hunger and malnutrition with proper training. In fact, SHGs can be change agents by creating awareness, disseminating knowledge and seeds of new varieties, and by participating in the decision making on technology use.

Through the Evidence Hubs, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is utilizing women SHGs to empower their members through the provision of knowledge, skills and capacity building, self-motivation, and learning that can lead to achieving desirable adoption levels of climate-resilient rice varieties. Evidence Hubs facilitate the process of varietal selection of preferred rice varieties in the region by engaging the different stakeholders of the seed value chain in evaluating available as well as unreleased rice varieties.

In 2017, 894 women farmers participated in IRRI’s evaluation of new and old rice varieties under an Odisha project. These participatory trials are proving to be important in the adoption of new varieties among women groups. In addition, 1,166 women farmers are planting the new varieties in demonstration plots to accelerate varietal adoption and replacement.

In Gananathpur Village in Kalahandi District, the Maa Thakurani SHG, 17 members of the SHG evaluated 19 rice varieties on a demonstration field monitored by IRRI and the State Department of Agriculture. The group selected the best varieties and exhibited their potential to become viable enterprises. The Swarna Laxmi SHG in Deogarh District has taken 0.2 hectares as a demonstration site of for 16 new rice varieties.

IRRI also provide training for building the capacity of SHGs on quality seed production and storage practices. The production of quality rice seeds will help increase their annual income as these command higher prices than grains. (Click here for full story)

Women rice farmers: Agents of change in eastern India

posted Aug 30, 2016, 10:43 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Swati Nayak and Manzoor H. Dar



The project Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) has rolled out initiatives to ensure farm productivity and food security and lessen climatic vulnerability in eastern India through women farmers. STRASA has established significant new strategic partnerships and convergence in the region. Its planning and convergence activities include giving women farmers access to stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs)—the most important input in the agricultural production chain.


These initiatives not only target women’s inclusion. They also provide systemic development, capacity building, and livelihood enhancement with the vision of establishing women as recognized farmers, seed growers, disseminators, and agents of change within their own communities and beyond.

Eastern India is dubbed a critical zone because climatic aberrations and abiotic stresses, such as floods and droughts, repeatedly occur in the region. Women farmers are ranked high in vulnerability mapping. In this context, the mass introduction, use, and seed multiplication of STRVs through women’s groups can be a potential game-changer in the socioeconomic and food production dynamics in the region.

An underlying framework of involving women-led institutions has been proven as one of the most effective means of socioeconomic and political empowerment of women. As an entry point for seed and technology-related interventions for women farmers, STRASA has identified, planned, and converged with many umbrella agencies involved in promoting grass-roots and women’s self-help groups (SHGs), federations, producer groups, etc. Each of the agencies has the expertise for developing and enhancing the lives of millions of women farmers in the region.

STRASA has ensured that seed interventions made are not isolated and random initiatives, but rather active catalysts that can contribute to the overall livelihood of the women and their households in stress-prone areas. The project has achieved this goal by converging seed initiatives strategically with many successful integrated livelihood projects such as farm activity, nonfarm activity, nontimber forest products, forest livelihood, renewable solar energy, efficient irrigation models, as well as cereals-, millet-, and pulses-based integrated farming.

The goal is to make a tangible impact on women’s livelihood by giving women farmers access to knowledge, technology, information, inputs for several value chain processes, and relevant institutions. These strategic initiatives have created research opportunities for comparing, learning, and sharing different models of interventions along with various agencies. (For full story, click in Rice Today Online.)


Does training women separate from men better than training them together?

posted May 12, 2016, 12:51 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated May 12, 2016, 8:16 PM by G.Lavina@irri.org ]

A blog by Sujata Ganguly, Gender Specialist, IRRI-India/STRASA

Training is a key part of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project. A gender component has been developed to systematically reach women across all of STRASA’s activities through training.

There is a dearth of literature available, however, on whether female farmers should be trained in mixed groups (with male farmers) or if they should be trained separately, in female-only groups. It is not clear whether participation and understanding are higher when women are trained in a mixed group or in a female-only group.

To evaluate a training program, the following must be considered:

  • partner NGOs or farmer participants should not be pre-informed about the planned interviews,
  • the same trainer(s) should handle all the groups, using the same approach,
  • the same topics of discussion and the same amount of information should be shared across groups,
  • there should be equal numbers of participants across groups,
  • participants should be interviewed separately, and
  • the duration of training sessions conducted should be the same for all groups.

However, there are certain limitations of training, such as:

  • the dropout rates of the participants,
  • participants opting out of training sessions on some days, or for a few minutes within sessions, and
  • the timing of the interview after the training and the risk of participants being pre-informed before their turn to get interviewed.

I found that when participants underwent training in a combined group of men and women, there was a tendency for the males to sit in front while the females sat at the back, but there was little difference in the level of responses (from the interviews) by gender. However, during the training, the women were less participative than the men. Repeating the content on the second day in separate groups of male- and female-only farmers revealed that the participants, especially the women, did better than on the previous day. Not only did their participation during the training improved, but the number of correct responses from them increased during the interview. Was it repetitive information that increased retention among the participants, or was it having separate male and female groups that promoted greater participation, retention, and confidence?

The research was designed in such a way that new female participants joined Day 1 female participants on Day 2, when Day 1 participants were given new information in addition to a recap of Day 1. For the new participants that came on Day 2, however, the recap of Day 1 and the added information were both new for them and they had to grasp much more information than Day 1 participants. It was assumed that Day 1 participants would perform better on Day 2 compared with the new participants of Day 2.

There was little difference observed in the responses among Day 1 and new (Day 2) participants. Female participants, however, were more confident and vocal on Day 2, when trained in a female-only group. This could be a result of either familiarity with the training environment due to repeated exposure, or familiarity and thus ease with other females.

The training sessions were found more effective done in separate groups for men and women, rather than in a mixed one, resulting in greater participation from the women and thus enhancing the effectivity of the training program.

Economic Brief 7 - PVS and Gender

posted May 11, 2016, 8:36 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

Latest STRASA Economic Brief number 7 highlights work on participatory varietal selection, with focus on women farmers' participation. Click on photo to download.


Creating an oasis in rice: the women farmers of Nagwa Village, Uttar Pradesh

posted May 11, 2016, 7:48 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated May 11, 2016, 8:18 PM ]

Starting in 2015, STRASA highlighted success stories on its seed dissemination and multiplication, benefiting farmers, especially in remote and marginalized areas, particularly women. For its launching story, we featured an article by Ms. Lanie Reyes, editor of Rice Today magazine produced by IRRI, on benefits of Sahbhagi Dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety disseminated to the women farmers of Nagwa Village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Ms. Reyes’ article is included in the Deep Roots publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in partnership with Tudor Rose. The book was published in celebration of the International Year of Family Farming in 2014. Excerpts of the article follow.

A car can usually travel down the narrow concrete road in Nagwa Village of Maharanjganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. However, during this second week of November – harvest time in the fields surrounding the village – piles of rice straw clogged the way, making passage virtually impossible. Most of the women, including Prabhawati Devi, were busy cutting the straw and piling it neatly on jute sacks that were cut open to serve as mats for the straw. As she was gathering the edges of the stalks, Mrs Devi said with a smile, “These are Sahbhagi.”

Sahbhagi is what the farmers and villagers call Sahbhagi dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety released in India in 2009. The straw of Sahbhagi dhan is popular among the women in Nagwa, who feed it to their cattle. Brick and mud houses, scattered along the road of Nagwa, are not big enough to shield from view the residents inside as they go about their daily chores. One woman was cooking just inside her front door, squinting under the almost midday sun and shielding her eyes with her hands from the smoke of the burning fuelwood. Outside her house, another woman was threshing rice manually – raising her arms as high as she could as she smashed a bunch of rice stalks on a surface covered with fine mesh net. She gathered the separated grains with her hands, placing the grains at the centre of the net and putting the empty stalks neatly to her side. She rose once in a while to straighten her back from her squatting position. Yet another woman had just returned from harvesting rice bundles in the field. Women often harvest rice in staggered shifts because they want to give the fresh rice stalks to their cattle. (Full story in Deep Roots, pages 168-170)

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