To ensure more women participate fully in AKILIMO dissemination events, The ACAI team called on women from regions of Mtwara, Tanga, Mara, and Mwanza at their locations to discuss together the challenges they face that seemed like the main reason for their low participation. ACAI organized these meetings in May 2021, to assess why women’s participation is so low compared to men to improve gender integration on use, uptake, and sustainability of AKILIMO.
Previously, the ACAI team in collaboration with TARI built capacities to Extension agents (EAs) across project targeted areas. Later on, the EAs disseminated AKILIMO tools to more farmers, with the majority of the farmers who were reached with dissemination approaches were men. Fortunately, women were the ones who put AKILIMO knowledge into practice although, their participation was low compared to men. The need to improve on this is highly imperative as it is one of the indications for the sustainability of AKILIMO use by women/groups.
These women were thereafter engaged by the project team to ascertain reasons for their low turnout during dissemination activities. As a result of this, Frederick Baijukya, Thompson Ogunsanmi, and Mwantumu Omari engaged several women groups in focus group discussions (FGDs). Some of the issues raised were household-related engagement, difficulty to meet up to attend dissemination in another long way from their villages, the limited number of female EAs, etc.
To address these challenges, women came up with several suggestions, which include; the need for specific AKILIMO dissemination events solely for women (e.g. if it is training, field day, demos, meeting, etc., should be organized for women only) and to use socio-economic groups activities such as Village Community Bank (VICOBA) where more women gather. This feedbacks also assisted to come up with action plans for women-specific activities in all the locations
On the other side, women suggested that Extension agents cooperate with village leaders to be a part of this process. This is because it will be far more successful if village leaders announce some events to elicit a strong response from women. This will improve women participation in AKILIMO dissemination events and sustain the use of AKILIMO.
ACAI believes that implementing these strategies will build the capacity of more women, resulting in significant improvements in cassava production and improved yields and income.