The importance of seed systems to empower women has so far been neglected. Applying gender analysis to improve seed systems and reduce/overcome existing biases in access to and availability and use of quality seed of local and improved varieties is an essential first step toward empowering women.
Seed is critical to food security as the first link in the food value chain and can be a powerful agent of change. Similarly, women’s empowerment and gender equality are key to food and nutrition security. The interplay between the two is becoming increasingly important: socioeconomic and gender differences in seed and food security must be understood to target seed interventions effectively.
However, the importance of seed systems to empower women has so far been neglected. This chapter contributes toward closing this gap. Gender analysis is important for a comprehensive understanding of seed systems and to shape effective and inclusive interventions that go beyond reaching women to benefit and empower them. Gender relations shape seed access, use, and outcomes. In developing countries, seed is often managed by men and women on family farms and sourced mainly from farm-saved seed and the local market.
Gender and other socioeconomic factors mediate how farmers access seed sourced through local and formal market channels. These factors influence access to information about seed (e.g., origin, quality, price) and ability to purchase seed (e.g., access to cash, negotiating power), which in turn influence utilization (e.g., who plants which seed and where).
Applying gender analysis to improve seed systems and reduce/overcome existing biases in access to and availability and use of quality seed of local and improved varieties is an essential first step toward empowering women.
This chapter reviews existing literature and evidence to answer the question: How can seed system interventions advance women’s empowerment and gender equality? The study of seed systems does not have a very long history, compared with that of breeding, value chain development, or natural resource management—which likely explains why gender analysis of seed systems is at an early stage. Relevant literature is emerging slowly but still limited.
That made this chapter’s task not an easy one. It, therefore, starts with a more typical framing—of how gender dynamics affect seed system outcomes. It then explores how seed system interventions can benefit and empower women. The central premise of this chapter is that seed system interventions can contribute to women’s empowerment when designed intentionally to be gender-responsive.
Read the study:
Puskur R, Mudege NN, Njuguna-Mungai E, Nchanji E, Vernooy R, Galiè A, and Najja D. (2021) Moving beyond reaching women in seed systems development. In Advancing gender equality through agricultural and environmental research: Past, present, and future, eds. Rhiannon Pyburn, and Anouka van Eerdewijk. Chapter 3, Pp. 113-145. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).