Understanding GESI: Pathways to Inclusive Integrated Pest Management in Nepal
This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications coordinator for the Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab.
Nepal is divided into three specific areas — Terai, Hill and Mountain — within which social dynamics vary widely. Given the country’s numerous languages, castes and ethnicities, as well as extensive topographic diversity, community access to valuable resources fluctuates. The latest Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM IL) Associate Award in Nepal — Feed the Future Nepal Integrated Pest Management (FTFNIPM), implemented by International Development Enterprises (iDE) — aims to ensure equitable access to and benefits from integrated pest management practices (IPM) among the many communities in Nepal. The program does this by conducting a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) analysis and developing action plans to identify and address the priorities and concerns of men, women, youth, castes and ethnicities present in the country.
Soma Rana, GESI Specialist, FTFNIPM, iDE Nepal, has over 16 years of experience in the field of sustainable livelihoods and agriculture. With March being Women’s Month, Rana discusses FTFNIPM’s commitment to equitable pest management, highlighting the program’s GESI objectives, insights and progress, and also ponders the pathways she envisions will lead to a more sustainable, productive and inclusive Nepal:
What are the key GESI priorities of FTFNIPM and what major GESI activities are forthcoming to address these priorities?
Our GESI approach centers around using analytical tools to identify the priority gaps and then developing GESI strategies and action plans to close the gaps; inclusion of women, men, youth and marginalized groups in promoting inclusive pest management solutions; and sharing knowledge on the gendered and social dimensions of pest management. The project provides a contextual analysis of the constraints to and opportunities for promoting inclusive scaling of IPM packages within Feed the Future (FTF) value chains and works to institutionalize GESI strategies within Nepal’s agricultural extension services (AES). It also promotes adoption of IPM packages in vulnerable communities, ensuring that trainings are relevant to attendees' needs and work within their time and mobility constraints. The program assesses the potential impact of applying IPM practices and technologies on women’s time and labor through a tool designed under the Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES) program.
Forthcoming, FTFNIPM will document the different pathways available for women to learn about IPM practices, drawing upon the Most Significant Change Technique (MSC), and will document the ways women, youth and other marginalized groups have (or have not) benefited from FTFNIPM activities.
What are some of the currently-known constraints to promoting inclusive scaling of IPM strategies in Nepal and what knowledge is still needed in order to address them?
The major constraints in promoting IPM strategies in Nepal include inadequate knowledge among farmers, technicians and policymakers in applying IPM. While the principles of IPM are relevant, it has been cumbersome to translate them for practical use. In terms of policy, organic agriculture seems well highlighted, but in reality, no subsidy measures are present if farmers wish to produce organically. Knowledge relating to the production of biocontrol agents, biopesticides and other eco-friendly measures could be promoted more by research and extension agencies. At the policy level, perhaps there could be a premium price for IPM-grown products.
Previous research by IPM IL has documented that limited access to information about IPM and limited regular refresher training and coaching can restrain its widespread dissemination, which is why this project implements community business facilitators (CBFs). CBFs are local farmer-entrepreneurs who help deliver supplies from agribusinesses, offer IPM recommendations and are seen by producers as critical sources for information. CBFs visit monthly with farmer groups to take their orders, which provides women access to IPM products that they may not otherwise have while trying to balance their household and farm management responsibilities. Farmer groups and cooperatives serve as an important space for both men and women to discuss improved agricultural technologies and management practices, including IPM. These groups serve as a space where women can attend public gatherings, participate in group meetings and hold leadership positions and speak in public; these spaces did not exist over 15 years ago. However, additional support is required to ensure that women from all backgrounds and situations are able to access such important learning spaces and actively voice their priorities and challenges. Further, CBFs are not able to address all the questions that farmers have regarding IPM, and plant doctors providing services have limited time to offer, so additional training in general, and of more people, would be useful. Strengthening linkages between CBFs and Nepal’s public sector AES providers and the application of gender and socially-responsive approaches will enhance access to the information and guidance that farmers need.
Describe how you think agricultural development activities can address the priorities and needs of women, youth and marginalized communities in Nepal. Why might their voices still be missing in the design of agricultural development programs and policies?
Subsistence farming is less attractive to the youth and marginalized, and has triggered high rates of youth male out-migration. I have observed that the value of women’s participation in income-generating activities and decision-making processes is demonstrated to husbands and families when women earn financial and technical resources for the household and community.
Farming, kitchen gardening, livestock rearing and forest resource management are primarily done by women, although large differences exist in gender roles between caste and ethnic groups, economic class and development regions in Nepal. Despite their crucial role in agriculture, women are rarely acknowledged as agents of change with responsibilities, knowledge, skills and feelings, and they face a serious gender gap in relation to access to productive resources, like extension services and knowledge-sharing. They often lack full rights over use or decisions regarding the sale or management of productive assets such as property and livestock. This increasing and disproportionate gender division of labor has limited the opportunities of women in relation to education and their participation in community leadership, policy decisions and program implementation. Women’s representation and meaningful participation in agriculture-related knowledge-sharing events, policy dialogue and decision-making processes is very minimal in proportion to their contribution in sustaining the farming system.
March is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the important contributions of women. As a social scientist and GESI specialist with over 16 years of experience, what gains do you hope to make in Nepal in your field and in the FTFNIPM project?
A key part of promoting more small-scale enterprise development and retaining people in the agriculture sector will be the prospect of a higher and more consistent income alongside better and regular work. For this, I recommend developing a strategy that ensures agricultural investment links to promoting decent work for both the producer and wage employed.
I hope that in the future there will be more women AES providers who can play a major role in removing the access barriers in the agriculture sector. I hope to see increased opportunities for young women scientists, creating more leadership roles for technology promotion and entrepreneurship. Other gains I hope to see include provision of inputs primarily for marginalized households, including improved grain seed, biopesticides, and materials for polyhouse construction; the establishment of demonstrations on the land of marginalized households; promotion and mobilization of CBFs to provide advisory support to remote rural communities; and partnership with national, provincial and local collaborators for adoption of IPM technologies.