Wednesday, January 24, 2024

114. Improving Access to Pesticides for Women in Rwanda

Understanding the Gap In Access to Pesticide

Research published by the Africa Great Lakes Coffee Support Program found that Rwandan female household heads are less likely than male household heads to receive pesticide for their coffee crop (Gerard, Clay, Lopez, Bowman, & Rukazambuga, 2018). Pesticide is important in controlling coffee pests such as the antestia bug, which is associated with the potato taste defect (PTD) —a defect that reduces the value of coffee from Africa’s Great Lakes Region (Bigirimana, Gerard, Mota-Sanchez, & Gut, 2018).

Many roasters fear potato taste defect (PTD) in Rwandan and Burundian coffee. It's a particularly difficult defect because it cannot be screened out before export. There is no tell-tale black mark on a bean, nor can you cup a sample and be 100% sure that the rest of the bag of beans are the same (good or bad). There might be only one bean with PTD in an an entire 132 lbs jute bag, and it can look perfect!

Since detection of PTD is impossible, the industry focuses instead on prevention. That's where pesticide and integrated pest management comes in. Female headed households are about 18% of Rwanda's coffee population. If these farmers are not getting access to pesticides, they are not part of the prevention solution.

In 2015-2017, the study mentioned above was completed by a research team from Michigan State University and shed some light on why this gender difference exists.

The researchers asked female household heads two questions: 

(1) why, if all farmers are supposed to receive pesticide, are female household heads less likely than male household heads to use it? 

(2) What approaches might improve female household heads’ pesticide access and use?

CLICK HERE to read the paper. 

The study finds the following reasons for the gap between females and males receiving and using pesticide.

Reason 1: Difficulty of spraying pesticide because of heavy sprayers—women in Rwanda generally hire laborers rather than doing their own spraying.

Reason 2: Challenges in accessing pesticide from distribution centers, including not being told when pesticide is available and being given insufficient amounts of pesticide.

Additional barriers to pesticide use: cost and difficulty of hiring laborers; concern that pesticide may be dangerous for women to spray.

The researchers then recommend ways to overcome these challenges:

(1) encourage coffee washing stations to spray female household heads’ farms for them (as is done by some cooperatives); 

(2) study barriers to equitable distribution at the local level.

The findings are themselves important as guidance to agronomists and extension services, but the research is also remarkable. This study is an example of how valuable gender disaggregated data can be. The original field survey in 2015 and 2017 collected the data showing a gap exists. Step two was for another research team in 2020 to ask "why?" They designed the study and implemented additional field research to understand and share the answers.

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