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Review

When Is Choice Empowering? Examining Gender Differences in Varietal Adoption through Case Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa

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Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Led by CIP, Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Lima 12, Peru
2
Independent Consultant, Norwich NR1 4PT, UK
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Department of Global Development, Cornell University, New York, NY 14853-0001, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: C. Ronald Carroll, Pratyusha Basu and Alessandra Galiè
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3678; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073678
Received: 31 December 2020 / Revised: 8 March 2021 / Accepted: 17 March 2021 / Published: 26 March 2021
This paper examines the question of what makes choice empowering and critiques prevalent approaches to empowerment focused narrowly on agency as the ability of individuals to make their own free choices and act independently. The implications of a narrow focus on agency are illustrated with the examples of technology choice in agriculture, specifically choices involved in the adoption of improved plant varieties. This example elucidates the limits of individual agency and permits an analysis of how choices may be structured to be either empowering or disempowering, with examples from specific plant breeding cases. In view of the importance given to equitable choice of technology for closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity and sustainability, the paper explores what practical steps can be taken towards a balanced approach to empowerment. An approach to designing a new plant variety by constructing choice differently is illustrated, using information on gender relations. The paper derives lessons from the plant breeding cases to inform other kinds of interventions, so that work on how choices are defined is given as much importance for empowerment as creating the option to choose. Agents who exercise power over rules and resources can either reproduce the status quo or innovate; thus, a balanced approach to empowerment requires careful analysis of the elements of choice. View Full-Text
Keywords: empowerment; choice; agency; gender; new varieties; improved varieties; plant breeding empowerment; choice; agency; gender; new varieties; improved varieties; plant breeding
MDPI and ACS Style

Polar, V.; Ashby, J.A.; Thiele, G.; Tufan, H. When Is Choice Empowering? Examining Gender Differences in Varietal Adoption through Case Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainability 2021, 13, 3678. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073678

AMA Style

Polar V, Ashby JA, Thiele G, Tufan H. When Is Choice Empowering? Examining Gender Differences in Varietal Adoption through Case Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainability. 2021; 13(7):3678. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073678

Chicago/Turabian Style

Polar, Vivian, Jaqueline A. Ashby, Graham Thiele, and Hale Tufan. 2021. "When Is Choice Empowering? Examining Gender Differences in Varietal Adoption through Case Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa" Sustainability 13, no. 7: 3678. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073678

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