Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) project in Ghana and Malawi


The research project

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Achieving equitable benefits from sustainable agricultural intensification through more effective tools and metrics (Ghana and Malawi)’ is a research project of the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. SAIRLA seeks to generate evidence and design tools to enable governments, investors, and other key actors to deliver more effective policies and investments in sustainable agricultural intensification. These shall strengthen the capacity of poorer farmers, especially women and the youth, to gain access to and benefit from Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI).

Africa RISING-SAIRLA research in Ghana and Malawi is embedded in Africa RISING, a USAID-funded multi-stakeholder project in sustainable intensification that has been active in these and three additional African countries since 2011. AR-SAIRLA makes use of and builds upon Africa RISING’s experience and infrastructure in Ghana and Malawi with smallholders, researchers, extension staff and local government authorities, development partners, ministries, national and international research institutions, as well as other CG centres, to achieve its goals.

Main challenges the project will address

Policy makers, investors and development program managers need tools to detect when interventions may result in increasing the marginalization of youth and women. Furthermore to be able to mitigate negative effects and enhance the positive effects of adapting their interventions appropriately, requires adequate information about the gendered impact of the intervention.

How the project will address this challenge

Research in Ghana and Malawi will increase decision makers’ capacity in a number of important ways.Firstly, the existing tools available for assessing gender and youth inequities related to sustainable agriculture intensification will be critically analysed. Based on this analysis, a guide will be developed to help implementers know under what circumstances each tool may best be employed, how much it may cost to use it effectively and the limitations of the tools in the contexts of Malawi and Ghana.

Secondly, it will be ensured that tools are appropriately adapted to the local context by carrying out participatory indicator development with farmers and other stakeholders. This will be achieved by drawing on linkages with participatory action research on sustainable intensification via the Africa RISING project and our local partners’ work in ‘genderizing’ standard indicators for agricultural sustainability.

Finally, case studies will be utilised in each country to analyse the conditions where a more active gender transformative approach will be necessary for achieving equity. The use of qualitative analysis allows an insight into the the lived experiences of participants in projects such as Africa RISING regarding the influence of SAI on gender and youth.

Expected changes the project will bring

The project will increase the capacity of decision makers to effectively use tools and metrics for a robust analysis of equity effects and to address inequities.

Research questions

AR-SAIRLA addresses the following research questions:
  • What are the most effective and feasible tools for detecting gender and youth inequities that may occur during sustainable agricultural intensification?
  • What is the comparative advantage of contextualizing these tools with indicators developed through participatory processes with farmers?
  • To what extent and in which contexts can the use of these tools actually result in equitable benefits from sustainable intensification? Under what socio-cultural conditions and in what policy contexts are transformative gender approaches needed?

In pursuit of the first research question, the project team has been working to identify and analyze existing tools for measuring gender equity in sustainable agricultural intensification. This includes assessing the feasibility as well as budgetary implications of using the tools. Efforts builds on work that was initiated by Michigan State University, University of Florida, USAID and Africa RISING to holistically evaluate SAI interventions across five domains (Productivity, Economic, Environmental, Social and Human Condition). In respect of research question two, the project seeks to contextualize the use of tools by involving communities in Ghana and Malawi in participatory indicator development. In addition to that (research question three), qualitative case studies in each country will investigate the conditions where a more active gender transformative approach will be necessary for achieving equity. These efforts are aimed at increasing decision-makers’ ability to detect when interventions may result in increasing the marginalization of the youth and women and to address inequalities.

Key research findings

  • Full Research Proposal (without budget)
  • Stakeholder Analysis (Milestone 1)
  • Baseline Survey (Milestone 1)
  • Progress Report (Milestone 2)
  • Decision-Makers’ Needs Assessment (Milestone 2)
  • Desk Study and Literature Review (Milestone 2)

The research team

Collaborating organizations include:
  • Led by IITA (represented by Gundula Fischer as Project Manager, Bekele Kotu, and Prince Kwesi Otabil),
  • Michigan State University (Phil Grabowski, Leo Zulu),
  • University of Ghana (Irene Egyir, Akosua Darkwah), and
  • Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Judith Kamoto, Jessica Kampanje).

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Gender - eval. of technologies in N.Ghana