Abstract: ISDC Science Forum 2023

Mastewal Yami, Independent Researcher, Early Career Scientist 


Integrating gender and youth in Agricultural Research and Innovation (R & I) is important for strengthening the impact and inclusiveness of the research initiatives. The integration is more critical in Africa due to the prevalence of exclusive gender and age norms that undermine the place and role of women and youth in the food systems. There is increased recognition among the research and development community that effective gender and youth integration in R & I would help increase the adoption of products, services, and processes of R & I. In addition, youth and women are likely to rapidly adopt and scale innovation and technology to increase its accessibility to end users.  

This study examined current discussions on gender and youth integration across projects with particular emphasis on the Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) project database. The desk review was supplemented by 30 key informant interviews, and an interactive workshop with key stakeholders working on gender and youth integration issues across Africa. The study used the gender integration continuum conceptual framework, which was spearheaded by the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG). This framework was proposed to critically examine the different approaches across the continuum to increase the understanding of how gender integration, or the lack of it, determines the impact of the R & I projects on women and youth.  

The findings suggest that gender and youth inclusion was primarily project-based and was strongly tied to donor requirements. Meaning, projects that strongly included women and youth were mainly designed to target them as a primary or the only target. Some R & I projects made promising efforts in developing youth and gender-specific work packages as well as action plans outlining the end-to-end engagement of men, women, and youth in R & I. However, there was an imbalance in gender integration vis-à-vis youth integration as youth got little consideration in the R & I policies and practices, thereby reinforcing intergenerational inequality. Factors limiting youth and gender integration in R & I included inadequate gender expertise and competence and women and youth’s insufficient access to leadership roles, therefore, limiting their participation at decision-making levels.  

In conclusion, gender and youth inclusion and participation in R&I requires a holistic approach, one that considers the critical role they can play in innovation scaling. Consequently, there is a need to separate gender and youth in R&I interventions as youth represent a heterogenous group and their distinctive roles can significantly impact Africa’s food system. This could be an entry point for increasing the positive impact of R & I projects on livelihoods, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and entrepreneurship.

Speaker Bio

Mastewal Yami Degefa  

Mastewal Yami Degefa is an independent researcher in social inclusion and agriculture. Her research interests include inclusiveness of agricultural policy processes, and governance issues on land and water resources in Eastern Africa. She took part in numerous studies in international research institutions, and bilateral and multilateral agencies. She conducted trainings on policy and institutional analysis, explorative research design and qualitative research methods. Prior posts include policy scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and post-doctoral fellow at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Mastewal holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences from BOKU University of Natural Resources and Applied Life sciences, Centre for Development Research, Vienna, Austria in 2010.