Session 1: Integrating Equity into Food Systems Research and Development

19 October 2021, 12:00 UTC


Nozomi Kawarazuka (CGIAR)

Nozomi Kawarazuka is social anthropologist at the International Potato Center, based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her research draws on critical social theory and political ecology to explore social power relations in the adoption and distribution of agricultural technologies, in particular, for marginalized populations such as ethnic minorities, women and young people. Her recent studies include understanding the gendered impacts of labor migration on farming practices, rural youth and agriculture, and gender analysis in informal food systems.


Brendan Brown (CGIAR)

Brendan Brown aims to bridge the gap between the biophysical and social sciences, translating agronomic interventions into real world impact for rural communities. His work focuses on the creative co-development of innovation pathways that build enabling environments to facilitate the adaption and implementation of potentially beneficial technologies. He currently focuses on researching pathways to facilitate the sustainable intensification of agriculture in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. Based in Kathmandu, he works across a portfolio of projects in South Asia including SRFSI, CSISA and ‘Roadmaps for sustainable intensification’ (ACIAR-funded).


Mine Pabari (Athari Advisory)

Mine Pabari is the Managing Partner of Athari Advisory and a visiting research fellow at CLEAR-AA. Previously, Mine working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a membership Union that “harnesses the experience, resources and reach” of its members and experts from across the world. As the Deputy Director, Programmes of IUCN eastern and southern Africa Regional Office, Mine’s role involved overseeing the development and delivery of a large complex programme across 24 countries. Recently, Mine co-edited the book, Using Evidence in Policy and Practice – Lessons from Africa, together with Prof. Ian Goldman. Mine also has extensive experience as facilitator, trainer and evaluator. This includes working with Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation in supporting Governments working with IFAD and organisations such as MasterCard Foundation to strengthen their capabilities to better manage towards impact.


Session Details

Agricultural development programmes address social inequality often implicitly, by working in poor populations. Agricultural interventions can reduce, but also perpetuate and exacerbate social inequalities among intended beneficiaries. In panel discussions, we explore how equity can be integrated pro-actively in the methods and targets of development-oriented agricultural research.

In this webinar we discuss the role of development-oriented agricultural research in relation to the pledge of the United Nations to “leave no one behind” in progress towards No Poverty, Zero Hunger, and Reduced Inequalities. Throughout the webinar, the central question is:

How can we pro-actively integrate a social equity perspective in food systems research and development?

Many agricultural technology interventions have led to positive impacts in poor populations across the world. Inevitably, not everybody benefits: some people are excluded from an intervention or passed by, some people do not have the capacity or interest to adopt a technology, and technologies cannot be beneficial everywhere. Research on agricultural technology interventions has focused primarily on comparing adopters and non-adopters—largely ignoring impact distributions among those who try out a technology, and seldom investigating what drives impact differentiation.

A recent systematic literature review (Thuijsman et al., submitted) identified the few studies that presented impacts per welfare category or along a distribution. These studies confirmed what you may expect: in absolute terms, the poor derived smaller benefits from technology interventions in agriculture than the better-off. In relative terms, benefits were greater among the poor in some instances—primarily as a result of starting out from a lower baseline value.

We may celebrate when improvements are achieved in poor populations, at the very least because it is better than no improvement. The populations that were included in the reviewed intervention studies were poor by global standards, also the better-off among them. So, on an aggregate level, inequality is addressed—but there is differentiation nonetheless.

Unequal benefits are not inherently problematic—but we need to be careful about unintended negative consequences. If some people benefit more than others, power balances may shift, labour may be displaced, or there may be increased competition for resources, at the expense of those with poorer access. We want to avoid that some people are worse off after an intervention. However, indirect effects or how households depend on each other are rarely investigated.

As long as farming interventions take place with the intention to alleviate hunger and improve livelihoods, it is important for the agricultural research and development sector to (1) recognize the poorer among the poor, (2) acknowledge unequal impacts, (3) explicitly aim to avoid negative consequences, and (4) include interventions to mitigate against these negative consequences where they occur.