Integrating gender in plant health research and action in Southeast Asia

Pests and diseases destroy between 20 and 40 percent of crops globally, which makes plant health management critical for improving food and nutrition security and facilitating income growth.

Interdisciplinary research and regional collaboration in Southeast Asia are already contributing to better control of transboundary plant pests and diseases in a changing climate, but making on-farm management more inclusive, and thereby effective, will be key to success.

In Southeast Asia, household members work collectively, and women play hidden but significant roles as household financial managers and decision-makers. Yet their roles are often undervalued or underrecognized in both research and extension work, and their needs are often not incorporated into agricultural technology development and innovation design.

That’s why the CGIAR Plant Health Initiative collaborated with the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) Fall Army Worm (FAW) Action Plan’s Women as IPM leaders program to organize a regional gender workshop on 6-8 December in Bali, Indonesia with the following six objectives:

  1. Build a community of skilled and enthusiastic researchers and decision-makers that understand and champion the importance of gender responsive research and action.
  2. Share experiences and lessons learnt from agriculture and gender research in the region.
  3. Enhance skills and share tools for best practice gender-responsive research.
  4. Discuss how we can strengthen gender integration for more inclusive and equitable agricultural research and policy.
  5. Discuss what empowerment for women farmers might mean in diverse contexts of Southeast Asia.
  6. Workshop current projects that participants are working on to improve gender integration in their research

50 participants from 8 countries participated in this 3-day workshop to gain knowledge and skills in gender-responsive interdisciplinary research design and methods for more effective plant/animal pest and disease management. Participants had diverse disciplinary backgrounds, but 80% of them are pathologists, entomologists or agronomists.

In the opening remarks, Dr. Nguyen Quy Duong, Deputy Director General of the Plant Protection Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, said, “Interdisciplinary research with a gender lens can help address various problems that farmers face, especially the overuse of pesticides, emerging new diseases and pests, and developing effective prevention and early warning strategies.”

Dr. Nozomi Kawarazuka, a social scientist with the International Potato Center and CGIAR Plant Health Initiative, said “the value of this workshop is that pathologists, entomologists and agronomists from across the region shared their expertise and contributed to developing research design with a strong gender lens, which can transform not only plant health research but also future extension work.”

By the end of the workshop, participants had developed six cross-country, interdisciplinary research proposals with a primary focus on gender-related research questions, using gender-responsive methods, related to the following major pest and disease threats faced by Southeast Asian farmers:

  1. Fall Armyworm (FAW)
  2. Banana fusarium
  3. Tomato diseases
  4. Mango fruit fly
  5. Rice pests and diseases
  6. Poultry New Castle disease

As workshop participants move forward on these proposals, they will have regular support and online meetings to strengthen their research plans and implementation. As Dr. Alison Watoson, of the ASEAN FAW Action Plan secretariat, emphasized “this workshop is not an endpoint but a catalyst for building the community on gender-responsive research in integrated pest and disease management.”