Gesa Wesseler reports on the success of GenARDIS and highlights the importance of a gender-sensitive approach to ICTs in ACP agriculture.
A gender-sensitive approach to the design and implementation of agriculture, food security and rural development programmes is fundamental to their success. This applies in particular to development programmes in which ICTs, with their tremendous potential for improving rural livelihoods, are being applied. Gender is the term used to recognize that women and men play different roles in society. These roles are culturally and institutionally determined, and can change over time (historically) and space (geographically). Women play a major role in agricultural production and rural livelihoods in ACP countries. However, rural women are much less likely than men to have access to new agricultural technologies because they are generally less well educated and hold less economic and political power. Women, with their special responsibilities for children and the elderly, find it less easy than men to migrate to towns and cities. Today’s ‘digital divide’ is adversely affecting women. The urban bias in connectivity deprives many rural women, more than men, of the universal right to communicate. Their problem is compounded by issues of language and literacy, by the fact that their already heavy workloads mean that they have limited time available to use modern ICTs, and by cultural attitudes that prevent them from visiting public access points mostly frequented by men.
CTA’s 2002 Observatory on Gender and Agriculture in the Information Society recommended the initiation of a small grants fund, in response to the often-voiced concern over the lack of resources in support of gender initiatives. IICD and IDRC joined CTA to fulfil this recommendation, and the GenARDIS Small Grants Fund was established. The fund is intended to support organisations in implementing innovative activities that will contribute to the understanding and application of ICTs in agricultural and rural development programmes in a gender-sensitive way. It has been set up as a competitive grant programme, with the winners receiving one-time grants of
EUR 5000 each.
Following the announcement of GenARDIS in mid-March 2003, no less than 360 proposals were received in less than two months. The list of winners provides an indication of the diversity of applications and of the many different approaches that can be used to address a relatively narrow topic such as gender and agriculture in the information society.
The submitted project proposals dealt with topics ranging from pure research (e.g. the diffusion of ICTs for communicating agricultural information for rural development in a specific area), to commercial projects (e.g. the promotion of a telecom company among rural women). They also included evaluations of ongoing projects, setting up an empirical social study (e.g. to assess the effects of distributing cellphones to women in isolated rural areas), and investment in equipment (e.g. providing laptops and cellphones to enable a team of fieldworkers to improve information dissemination and research).
The nine winning projects are now in the process of being implemented. The winners will present the results of their projects in a workshop to be organized in August 2004. That event is also likely to mark the start of the second round of GenARDIS.
Gesa Wesseler is programme coordinator in CTA's Planning and Corporate Services Department (P&CS).
Winning project initiatives
- Benin: Renforcement des capacités des femmes fonctionnaires qui oeuvrent pour l'autonomisation économique des femmes rurales pour la sécurité alimentaire et la réduction de la pauvreté au Bénin (Strengthening the capacities of female civil servants working for the economic independence of rural women for food security and poverty reduction in Benin), Alice Djinadou Igue Kouboura, Institut national des recherches agricoles du Bénin (INRAB)
- Chad: La radio communautaire au service du développement de la femme rurale au Tchad (Community radio serving rural women in Chad), Grâce Agouna, Audy Magazine
- Ghana: Participatory Community Planning (PCP). ICTs as tools to give rural women a voice in decision making to promote social awareness of their roles in managing natural resources for sustainable agriculture through biodiversity conservation, Joana Francis Adda, Participatory Community Development (PACODEV)
- Jamaica: ICT tools and services in support of the development of organic agriculture in the Caribbean: a regional training workshop for women entrepreneurs, Dorienne Rowan-Campbell, Networked Intelligence for Development
- Kenya: Health and agriculture community radio network, James Onyango, Kenya AIDS Intervention Prevention Project Group (KAIPPG)
- Malawi: FarmWise, Bessie Nyirenda, Computer Land Ltd
- South Africa: Diffusion of ICTs in communication of agricultural information for rural development among women in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Joseph Kiplang'at, Department of Library and Information Science, University of Zululand
- Tanzania: Mainstreaming gender into information, communication and technology in sub-Saharan Africa: A case study of northern Tanzania, Pantaleon Shoki, Community Development and Relief Agency
- Uganda: Women's access to and the use of basic ICTs in accessing information on new agricultural technologies, Akello Zerupa, Makerere University, Entebbe