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Catalyzing Innovation for health, equity and resilience

Vulnerable socio-economic groups like women, landless, small and marginal, poor farmers have historically faced barriers in accessing science and technologies resulting in gaps which have led to lower productivity, hunger and poverty.

Without reaching women, children and the poor we cannot end poverty, hunger or malnutrition. There is a pressing need to bridge the gaps in access to rice science and knowledge these social groups face. We do this through developing and delivering tailored solutions for these vulnerable groups and building their capacity and skills to use them. We systematically learn from these efforts and design context-specific strategies for impact at scale.

There is a need to facilitate and catalyse people-centered innovation processes that would bridge the gap in access to knowledge/science and capacity for vulnerable groups that are dependent on rice-based agri-food systems. This would help in creating conditions for rural women’s empowerment; creating viable and dignified employment opportunities for youth; better maternal and child health and nutrition and; enhanced smallholder resilience.

Challenge

Inequities and inequalities significantly constrain livelihood, food choices and, resources available to vulnerable social groups.

Women, for instance, play an important role in the global rice sector. In many parts of Asia, women contribute at least half of the total labor input in rice production, performing backbreaking tasks such as transplanting and weeding. After harvest, it is usually the women who take care of seed storage and processing of rice (drying, milling) for home consumption.

In Africa, women do much of the work in rice production systems and play an important role in the rice value chain after harvest. Yet, these women face many constraints because of the prevalence of gender stereotypes and social restrictions that hamper their access to technical knowledge and technologies.

IRRI acknowledges that increased participation of women and youth in agricultural research for development and extension will accelerate the realization of development goals, such as reducing poverty and increasing food security. IRRI is working to strengthen their role in the design, experimentation, and evaluation of agricultural research for development, as well as improved access to resources and control over benefits.

At IRRI, we seek to generate evidence to drive much needed transformative change by:

  • Testing and assessing efficacy and efficiency of delivery mechanisms (including use of ICTs) that make technologies, knowledge and services accessible at scale
  • Generating evidence on impacts of technical, institutional and policy innovations and processes for target socio-economic groups over time and across locations

Response

IRRI's vision is to promote high quality transdisciplinary R4D for facilitating effective people-centered innovation processes in rice-based agri-food systems for:

  • Rural women’s empowerment
  • Creating opportunities for youth,           
  • Better maternal & child health and nutrition
  • Enhanced smallholder adaptive/ innovation capacity

Using participatory processes, identifies the problems and needs of vulnerable stakeholders who are left behind by research and development programs.

Working with women farmers in Eastern India, IRRI has generated evidence of their technology gaps and needs (e.g. CSISA, STRASA), is generating information on the trait preferences of men and women farmers in rice varieties and their access to agricultural information/knowledge and good quality seeds of preferred stress tolerant rice varieties (STRASA).

Designing and delivering science-based solutions

IRRI designs science-based solutions tailored to the identified needs of vulnerable farmer groups. Together with its partners, IRRI design effective delivery mechanisms for these groups.

In collaboration with women’s collectives in Eastern India, IRRI is able to extend mechanized technologies through women-led custom hiring centers and, provide high quality seed through development of women-led informal seed systems.

IRRI is developing women’s leadership and entrepreneurship through supporting women farmer owned producer company in rice-based system in Kalahandi district of Odisha.

Understanding the effect of our science and technologies

IRRI seeks to learn how these delivered solutions have contributed a positive change in the lives of vulnerable social groups who depend on rice based agri-food systems for food, nutrition and livelihood security and reduced inequalities.

Documentation of significant changes that are occurring through the delivery of tailored solutions for women in Eastern India have shown that these solutions are not only helping bridge the gender gaps, but are also contributing to women’s economic empowerment through their entrepreneurial engagement in the value chains and influencing strongly held social and gender norms.

Impact

Equitable development in the rice sector through institutional innovations

  • Custom Hiring Centers in Bihar, India led by women Self Help Groups
  • Women-farmer driven and community-based informal seed system of stress-tolerant rice varieties

Looking forward, we would like to strengthen this work in future in other parts of South and South-East Asia and Africa; support development of gender-responsive breeding products and; unlock the full potential of the agriculture-gender-nutrition nexus in rice-based agri-food systems.

By ensuring that science-based innovations become accessible to the most vulnerable socio-economic groups, IRRI is catalyzing equitable development in the rice sector.