Connecting farmers, experts and decision-makers – Training for gender-sensitive crowd-sourcing & PVS

“Now I know that PVS is not entirely done by experts, but it is an approach which equally involves farmers at the grassroots level to be researchers themselves”  

 – Ato Abayneh Abiyu, Deputy Head of Limmu Woreda Agricultural and Natural Resource Office

ISSD’s support for  informal seed systems explores alternative seed exchange mechanisms among farmers and ultimately enables smallholder farmers’ access to quality seed at the grassroots level. In line with this support, on July 2-3/2018 ISSD organized a two-day training of trainers (ToT) at Shashemene for the newly incoming woredas on crowd sourcing and participatory variety selection. Overall, 14 participants attended the training.

ISSD’s new partners from four districts obtained awareness on Gender sensitive crowd sourcing and participatory variety selection. Participants of the training were from Agricultural Research Centers, zone and woreda Heads of Agricultural and Natural Resource Development Office, ISSD focal persons and enumerators as well as experts from woreda level rural women and gender departments.

In his opening speech Dr. Hussein Mohammed (ISSD Scientific Coordinator) emphasized that in our activities of the informal sector we have to make sure that 50% of women are involved in CS and PVS. He also made a presentation on: Designing and implementation of Crowd sourcing and PVS approach.

In his presentation, Ato Mesfin Behailu (ISSD Project Manager) briefly described about the Ethiopian seed system and ISSD’s intervention. Participants raised their concern pertaining to involving farmers in PVS & CS and its overall implementation and how to address challenges in due course. They also suggested that the training has to be cascaded to Development Agents at kebele level.

By the end of the training session participants expressed their views that they learnt quite a lot from the training that are aware of alternative seed development and exchange mechanisms other than the customary practices. They are also aware about the role of the different seed sectors; they got awareness on value chain and what their role would be to address the problems.

Overall they rated the training practical in that it enormously strengthened their capacity. From the experiment research design session they learnt on how to minimize errors that would happen during the implementation phase of PVS & CS. This session was also helpful in that they learnt about controllable and uncontrollable factors as well as data collection and management tools.

Participants suggested it is crucial to work through Rural Women and Gender mainstreaming department in order to ensure 50% of female farmers are involved in PVS & CS. As participants testified, it was a new experience in this training event that higher officials and experts were trained together which is taken as an opportunity to give direction and critically following up planned activities as well as cascading and effective implementation – it is taken as an effective strategy to aware agricultural experts at kebele level. Crowd-sourcing includes increasing farmer access to information, promoting market access and farmer collectivization, tracking pest outbreaks, and sharing weather information.

The objective was to conduct ToT for four woreda focal persons, four researchers, twelve enumerators and agricultural works coordinators. It was also intended to brief participants on Gender sensitive crowd sourcing and participatory variety selection.

Ato Abayneh Abiyu is Deputy Head of Limu Woreda Agricultural and Natural Resource Office and he was one of the participants who took the two day training. He gave his personal testament as to what extent he benefited from the training:

By the way it is my first time to participate in a training which focuses on PVS & CS. Now I got awareness that PVS is not entirely done by experts but it is an approach which equally involves farmers at the grassroots level to be researchers themselves. We will make use of the lessons that we have obtained from the training, not only into the ISSD selected kebeles but into the other kebeles in our woreda as well. We will do all our best to make sure that smallholder farmers are fully part of the PVS & CS throughout all kebeles, such that we ultimately ensure food security in our woreda. I think we will surely register radical change in the informal seed system by increasing production and productivity.

Our ultimate goal is towards empowering and enhancing the capacity of smallholder farmers to become researchers and change agents by trying in their own farm lands. In the past, farmers tend to expect of receiving quality seed coming from other agricultural research centres rather than producing themselves. Therefore, farmers need to involve in the research process and produce quality seed if we really want to improve the informal seed system.

Another good part of the training is that it equally involved participants from different background (farmers and experts) in a participatory way. In my opinion, training experts alone doesn’t bring the intended change, but through organizing trainings like this, all concerned stakeholders can easily share responsibility of carrying out assignments and initiate further dialogue on how to effectively execute planned activities.

As a senior official, I will take full responsibility to support and empower experts under my supervision and making sure that the training objectives are met.

Training sessions were devoted to introducing participants with the Ethiopian seed system and ISSD Project; conducting training with CS & PVS groups from ISSD target woredas; introducing participants with basic concepts of gender sensitive CS & PVS; introduce how to design and implement PVS and Crowd sourcing; acquainting participants on how to use observation card in data collection. The training was aimed at creating awareness among ISSD implementing partners on how to implement Crowd Sourcing and PVS. Accordingly, the advantages of crop portfolio diversification were clarified to participants. They were also trained on how to use observation cards and collection of data.

Senait Belete is Rural Women Expert at Damot Gale Woreda of Wolayita Zone. Her main responsibility is helping women farmers to form themselves in different community organizations so as to enhance their economic independence at household level by way of engaging them in micro saving and credit schemes as well as by introducing them with new agricultural technologies. She explains that previously, gender mainstreaming did not get the attention it deserves in the woreda Agricultural offices. Because of lack of awareness creation trainings, many experts do not even know what gender is, let alone the concept of gender mainstreaming and how to address it in the agricultural sector. In addition, budget is not appropriately allocated to plan and implement gender mainstreaming activities. Many experts consider that gender is merely addressing the issue of women. She says:

Due to attitudinal problems women farmers believe that they don’t have equal responsibility in the agricultural production and as a result they were marginalized greatly. The issue of gender has to be mainstreamed at the grassroots level if we really want drastic change.

I found this training unique in that it gathered, we experts and our senior officials together and I think this helps us to build trust with our supervisors for effective planning and implementation because they are the ones who make the final decisions at office level.

I personally commit myself to contribute a lot by making quality seed accessible to female farmers and making sure that they are equally participating in PVS and CS activities.