Gender and seed systems

Key challenge

Gender needs, interests, challenges and opportunities are largely overlooked by the seed sector, and women’s experiences are often not considered and/or ignored. Moreover, women’s roles, relations and opportunities in seeds systems are shaped not only by gender, but also by other social dimensions such as race, class, culture, income, education, age, ethnicity, indigeneity, and geography. These influential aspects intersect with gender to determine women’s access to reliable supplies of good and quality seed and related inputs. As a result, women farmers have lower production and yield for most crops in Africa. Women usually tend to be involved in informal, subsistence-oriented crop production. They are limited in their access or produce quality seed which is translated in low income, lack of mobility, non-participation in decision making and limited participation in formal seed systems and value chains. Despite playing significant roles in seed production and management and having better knowledge about seed quality, men usually take the final decision on seed selection, adoption and use. Women do not make profits from seed’s safeguarding and management. The seed sector still considers the household or the community as an entry point for seed sourcing and quality and men as the heads of the family instead of considering women directly as producers, customers and clients. Social and gender rules, norms or values influence these outcomes to clearly impact on men and women livelihoods, economics and wellbeing differently.

Action learning questions

  1. What are the indicators of a gender responsive seed system and how can we know whether a seed system is gender responsive?

  2. How do gender dynamics and norms influence the functioning of formal, informal and integrated seed systems?

  3. What inclusive business models can increase the participation of women and marginalized groups in seed systems?

  4. What models work for increased access of marginalized groups to quality seeds in informal, formal and integrated seed systems?

  5. How do we enhance seed quality assurance in seed delivery mechanisms to ensure trust by different genders?

  6. How can youth – young women and men’s engagement increase efficiencies and equity in delivery of high quality seed to women and men farmers?

Activities and outcomes

This action learning project aims to make seed systems more gender responsive and inclusive, therefore gender dynamics that shape or restrict decisions, choices and behaviours of groups, communities and individuals and the parameters of what decisions, choices or behaviours will be identified and addressed. This will not only help to identify and address the differences between women and men in seed systems but also to address the constraints women face in the diverse seed systems to be part of income generation seed production and marketing. Therefore, the first step is to identify indicators of gender responsive seed systems and the way these are gender responsive. Then, diverse business models for diverse groups of women in different contexts will be monitored and reported. The information will support to identify the relationships and mechanisms between seed supply and delivery, seed quality and trust. Finally, knowledge on good practices will be generated to propose effective gender inclusive seed systems models.

At the end of the action learning project we desire that seed systems are gender responsive to co-exist and fully acknowledge the contribution of the various groups of women and men. By ensuring it, women are represented, contributing and benefiting from accessing quality seed and obtaining economic benefits. Therefore, women have the possibility to access new spaces and benefit from socio-economic gains, both from the sale of seeds and of the crops they generate.