Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Pacific Gender Workshop in Fiji

Earlier this month, ACIAR project teams working in the Pacific gathered in Fiji for a workshop - focusing on gender and our agricultural project activities.  The workshop explored ideas of empowerment both structural (such as land ownership) and individual (skills and confidence). Workshop participants looked at identification of gender-based constraints, opportunities to access knowledge and physical resources.  Interactive and hands-on activities supported and enabled project teams to apply the gender lens to their own projects in practical ways.  
ACIAR gender workshop participants in Fiji June 2017
One of ACIAR’s newest recruits Pacific Country Manager, Mr Vinesh Prasad introduced the workshop, followed by Deputy Permanent Secretary of Agriculture, Fiji Mr Waibuta. He invited all, regardless of gender, to be involved in agriculture in Fiji, and emphasised the need for sustainable outcomes. Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Fiji, Ms Amy Crago was encouraging, reiterating the workshop focus on agricultural research, rather than development.  The selected project teams were part of the pending ACIAR Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative Phase 2 (PARDI 2).
Joy Hardman, Emily Lamberton and Vinesh Prasad put a gender lens to a coffee value chain
Fiji imports 70% of its fresh produce. Farmers from the Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) accompanied by PGS Coordinator David Hickes travelled to the meeting from Sigatoka. The Scheme seeks to make strategic links between smallholders and nearby markets including resorts. This would replace imports with locally grown high-value crops such as tomatoes. A new ACIAR project will link PGS farmers to the private sector and hopes to increase year around supply of high quality produce through implementing protected cropping structures to shield crops from high rainfall. 

The Sigatoka PGS farmers told the group that with the increased revenue from this initiative they improved their situation. They have been able to hire a taxi to bring their produce to market instead of using horses, buy new clothes and one farmer has even built a concrete house with the profits. Project teams aim to work gender outcomes into this project by working with the lead female farmer to pass knowledge on to other women in the village and plan to hold gender separated participatory workshops.
Workshop participants discuss gender and agriculture

Workshop facilitator Joy Hardman kept participants busy, and even threw paper balls at them as they worked through assumptions around gender and climate change based on the Pacific Climate Change Toolkit.  The paper balls actually contained assumptions, which the facilitator responded to.  The Pacific is bearing the brunt of climate change and research questions within the PARDI ACIAR projects are seeking on-farm solutions, as well as options to increase small economic opportunities for small holders.  

ACIAR, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, now requires an increased consideration of gender-based outcomes both at the activity and implications of research finding levels. Time was set aside during the workshop to enable teams to review and revise their project activities in light of gender differences.

Lead female farmer Bulou Ratubuli from the Sigatoka Valley Participatory Guarantee System 

 (PGS) shares the benefits of the ACIAR supported PGS to women farmers
Empowerment for women, men and communities was discussed in small groups.  The gender lens was applied to land use and commodity specific value chains within project teams.  There were presentations outlining what has and has not worked on the ground from the Tropical Fruits and Agroforestry projects, as well presentations on sex-separated data and Australia’s Invisible Farmer project. 

Marita Manley from the PARDI 2 project facilitated the game PowerWalk, which was a fantastic demonstration on the concept of intersectionality. This concept explains that causes for inequality are multifaceted and while gender is one component, other factors that affect a person’s wellbeing can include location, education, employment, ethnicity and marital status. 

Lila Singh-Peterson, Vili Powell, Tami Harriott and Livinia Tiko discuss gender and project research methods
Project teams were given the opportunity to consider how their own projects might impact on wellbeing outcomes in addition to outcomes for productivity and economic empowerment. This discussion highlighted the fact that improvements in productivity do not always benefit people in the same way. 

Increasing gender awareness both within project teams and for project activities enables ACIAR projects to achieve fairer outcomes for all. At the conclusion of the workshop, project teams felt better equipped to include participatory approaches in project activities and some made plans to include additional gender considerations in upcoming work. 

by Emily Lamberton

More information on related ACIAR projects:

Enhanced fruit production and postharvest handling systems for Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga HORT2014/077


Project page

Enhancing value added products and environmental benefits from agroforestry systems in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific FST2014/067


Integrating protected cropping systems into high value vegetable value chains in the Pacific and Australia HORT2014/080