Researcher gives seminar on gender roles, agriculture

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Kathleen Colverson, associate director of international agriculture programs at the University of Florida, presented research on women’s roles in agriculture around the world during a seminar in Waters Hall on Thursday.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, invited Colverson to Kansas State as an educational opportunity for researchers, faculty and students as a part of an ongoing agricultural seminar series.

Colverson shared her research on women’s roles in agriculture in a presentation titled “Why Integrate Gender into Research Projects? The Importance of Systems Thinking.”

According to Colverson and her 25 years of research, gender consists of “socially constructed, changeable and culturally specific roles for women and men.”

Colverson earned her doctorate in agriculture specialization and extension with a concentration in gender development from Cornell University. Over the years, she has travelled the world to see the different roles of women in agriculture.

Some women are the head of the household, responsible for farming and feeding, Colverson said. In other places, women don’t have much to do with agriculture at all.

“Religion, history, culture and education: all these different factors influence gender roles and how they become gender stereotypes in a culture,” Colverson said.

In some areas of the world, women are not left with just household duties, Colverson said. They are often given the “male” responsibilities because the men leave to find work or get caught up in civil wars and conflict, among other things.

Colverson said she believes that male out-migration, or men moving away from home to look for work, is the number one reason why we are seeing more women as the heads of households worldwide.

“[Colverson] gave tools to implicate women in their research in agriculture,” Madame Dieye, director of the National Agricultural and Rural Advisory Agency in Senegal, said. “There is progress on integrating women in agriculture and research.

“Our mission at ANCAR is to support agriculture,” Dieye continued. “We analyze the population to know the responsibilities of men’s and women’s activities and to help women increase their income.”

Jan Middendorf, associate director of SIIL, said inviting Colverson to K-State would help the agriculture researchers at this university integrate gender studies into their work.

“We brought in Dr. Colverson because she is a gender specialist and she works in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab,” Middendorf said. “Their focus is in livestock at the University of Florida, so they’re doing a lot of these Feed the Future Innovation activities that have cross-cutting themes. One of these cross-cutting themes is to integrate gender into your research projects.”

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