Can agricultural research be more relevant and useful to women, the poor and marginalized? Researchers in the CGIAR have long been grappling with this question and have developed a number of methodologies in response, the best known of which are farming systems research in 1970s and integrated natural resource management in the 1990s.
Ask Agnes Namukasa about sustainably managing fisheries in Kachanga, the lakeshore landing site she calls home in Uganda’s Masaka District, and you will soon learn about toilets. From her perspective, community members won’t address conflict between government enforcers and fishers, competition among neighboring villages, or pollution threatening aquatic ecosystems until they can first organize to address their most pressing daily needs.
In a keynote at the CGIAR Integrated Systems Research Conference earlier this year, I suggested that researchers might look at gender as a leverage point in development. This idea comes from systems thinking, which is—in very simplest terms—a way of approaching an issue that sees the “thing being studied” as part of a larger set of elements that interact in multiple ways to shape outcomes.