Researchers discuss importance of gender in international agriculture research

June 22, 2016

Gender researchers from around the world converged at Penn State in June to discuss the importance of incorporating gender concepts into international agricultural research.

Sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences' Gender, Agriculture and Environment Initiative, the events kicked off June 6-7 with the initiative's inaugural event, the Gender, Agriculture and Environment Symposium, which provided participants with an opportunity to learn from gender researchers and practitioners who are leaders in gender scholarship and policies.

Symposium sessions addressed how gender intersects with factors such as climate change, land and water use, biodiversity, access to agricultural value chains and technologies, sustainable agriculture practices, and divisions of labor.

Following the symposium, many attendees remained at Penn State for the Gender Research and Integrated Training program, a three-week series of workshops led by faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The training is funded by a two-year grant from the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. The CGIAR Consortium consists of 15 centers around the world.

The Penn State project supports the consortium's gender strategy, which commits CGIAR research programs to develop agricultural technologies, farming systems and policies to support rural women in improving agricultural productivity and their livelihoods.

"Ensuring that agricultural innovation benefits poor women and men requires investments at different levels," said project leader Carolyn Sachs, professor of rural sociology and women's studies. "Generating a greater body of gender research expertise among young scientists is critical for achieving that goal."

She noted that all CGIAR research programs are required to have an approved strategy for integrating gender into research. Through its cross-program Gender and Agriculture Research Network, CGIAR supports strategic research to deepen understanding of how gender disparities and gender relations affect agricultural innovation, productivity and sustainability. The network facilitates the integration of gender analysis into research on a variety of thematic areas including plant breeding, climate change adaptation and integrated pest management.

Gender, Ag and Environment Symposium

Attendees view a presentation at the College of Agricultural Sciences' Gender, Agriculture and Environment Symposium. Organizers said that accounting for gender when conducting agricultural research can help ensure that agricultural innovation benefits poor, rural women and their families.

IMAGE: Michael Houtz, College of Agricultural Sciences

This year's workshops focused on the historical context of gender and agricultural science, strategies and tools for working on interdisciplinary teams, connecting gender theories of science to agricultural research, state-of-the-art data collection and analysis techniques, designing high-quality research collection and analysis plans, and tools for data analysis. Another three-week session will take place at Penn State's University Park campus in the summer of 2017.

Participants in the training sessions are paired with faculty mentors who will provide support after the in-class portion ends. These relationships will continue over the multiple-year series to maximize the participants' application of gender-related tools and skills to their own research.

"We aim to create an internal network of support and partnership while fostering a cohort of global leaders dedicated to gender issues within the CGIAR system," Sachs said.

The expected outcomes of the symposium and training program dovetail with the goals of the College of Agricultural Sciences' Gender, Agriculture and Environment Initiative, according to Deanna Behring, the college's director of international programs.

"Integrating gender-related dimensions into agricultural research can help improve food and economic security and enhance the well-being of rural populations in developing countries and here at home," she said. "This training, combined with other current and planned projects, could help establish the college as the world's premier interdisciplinary hub for integrating gender into agricultural and environmental research, teaching, extension and mentoring."

Among other College of Agricultural Sciences faculty, staff and graduate students who helped organize and lead the symposium and training sessions were Ann Tickamyer, professor and head, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and EducationLeif Jensen, Distinguished Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography; Ruth Mendum, academic program director in the Office of International Programs; Paige Castellanos, postdoctoral scholar in the Office of International Programs; and Elisabeth Garner, doctoral candidate in rural sociology and women's studies.

For more information about Penn State's Gender, Agriculture and Environment Initiative, contact the College of Agricultural Sciences Office of International Programs at 814-863-0249, email Deanna Behring at or visit the initiative's website.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2017