The Gender & Social Difference work of Future Agricultures covers learning across the FAC thematic research programmes. It is based on the widespread perception that ongoing social, economic, political, and environmental change processes in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are leading to increasing levels of disadvantage based on social difference.
Over the past 12 months, based on existing research, our challenge has been to argue and gain support for a shift in the framing of the rural populations as collections of isolated, atomised individuals with only individual and separate interests, the equating of gender with women in policy and practice, and supporting narratives that place women and men in opposition to one another.
How can we understand social difference?
Along with others, we have argued for analysing rather than collapsing social difference, both between and within different social groups, and for placing individual experiences in their dynamic social, economic and political contexts. We have termed this a social relational approach that takes into consideration specific social contexts and situations. Our next task is to demonstrate practically how such an analytical approach can be brought to bear on agricultural research and policy processes. Our ultimate goal is to make progress in enabling all social groups benefit from the technological and institutional innovations within agriculture in sub-Saharan agriculture.
Processes of change
Our future research and documentation will focus on demonstrating how such an approach might change the problem analysis, and therefore the policy solutions to changing the status and position of disadvantaged groups. Our focus is on processes of change: identifying the circumstances which allow structures to either open or limit access to opportunities, and learning more about the kinds of support both women and men will need if they are to benefit from and/or adapt to change (in policy, technology, markets, climate etc.).
We are interested in identifying gaps in evidence, and therefore opportunities for future research and policy intervention, that would both challenge some of the accepted notions about gender and social relations in agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.