Several conferences and consultations had already been organized to tackle issues on agrobiodiversity conservation, as well as those on womens role in agricultural development. However, this consultation was one of the few activities so far organized that simultaneously address agrobiodiversity and gender concerns. The limited attention given to the link between these two domains was somewhat evident in the organizers difficulty in identifying potential participants with experience and interest in both.
An increasing amount of empirical evidence now points to the key role that women play in agrobiodiversity conservation. Yet there remains a need for research and development workers, together with policymakers and donors, to better understand the contributions that women make as agrobiodiversity managers. Moreover, there is a need to fully examine the agro-economic and sociocultural circumstances surrounding women as they take up this role, among their multiple roles within rural farming households and communities.
The consultation sought to address these challenges through a bottom-up process involving a review of field-level experience and using lessons learned to guide programme planning and policy development. Case experiences from nine countries in Asia (i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand) served as inputs to the discussions.
The four-day schedule was structured according to the following main sessions:
a) opening programme with an overview of the consultation theme;
b) presentation and discussion of case studies;
c) synthesis of discussion points and issues;
d) small-group sessions to formulate recommendations; and
e) presentation and criticism of recommendations.
The anticipated outcome of the consultation was:
a) strategies to strengthen institutional partnerships among government, research organizations, non-governmental organizations, and communities to assist rural women in their role as local agrobiodiversity managers for food security; and
b) recommendations for research, policy and programme development to improve the contribution and participation of rural women to conserve and improve agrobiodiversity systems in the Asian region.
The core participants in the consultation were country experts involved in community-level projects that support womens participation in agrobiodiversity conservation. To help review and process these project experiences, resource persons were also invited to share their own critical perspectives.
FAO, which initiated the idea of this consultation and funded the activity, collaborated with CIP-UPWARD and SEARCA in planning and organizing this forum. Together with the rest of the participants, the co-organizers had insightful deliberations on the theme, and the consultation generated ideas on how to further the goals of agrobiodiversity conservation through a strategy that would enhance womens participation.