Why small grants for Gender and agriculture in the information society?
GenARDIS is for the deaf woman in Ethiopia who can now generate her own income through digital photography. GenARDIS is for rural mothers across rural Africa, who can now provide additional income for their families because they can market to buyers from outside their community. GenARDIS is for small women farmers who are no longer being taken advantage of by the middle man, that can now get a fair price for their crop by sending a simple SMS. It is for farming women in Cameroon who were able to purchase new and more appropriate farming tools thanks to increased revenues and the ability to call into town to order the product. GenARDIS is for the villagers in Tanzania who were tired of walking three hours to get to the market, and took it upon themselves to build and create their own market using radios and mobile phones to get clients. It is for the lives of rural men and women that are changing thanks to access to technologies. GenARDIs is the reason donors like the CTA, Hivos, the IDRC,the IICD come together with the APC to fund research and projects on the ground in rural communities across the world.
The small grants programme, Gender, Agricultrue and Rural Development in the Information Society GenARDIS that started in 2002, was developed to support work at the grassroots level on gender-related issues in ICTs for agricultural and rural development in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.
This third round of GenARDIS received over 200 applications – proof that demand is increasing – and the three-day knowledge sharing workshop in Johannesburg from March 24 – 27 demonstrated that the demand is justified. After two years of research and project implementations in countries like Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia, with projects as diverse as radio drama groups, pest control through information access, and ICTs to promote women’s inheritance and land rights; projects were as diverse as the countries they were implemented in. Grantees presented their outcomes, challenges and analysis and were given the tools to take their research to the next step, beyond GenARDIS – using the results for policy advocacy, formalising research and publicising it through mainstream media and learning about new monitoring and evaluation tools for future use.
Oumy Ndiaye, Head of the Communications Services Division at the CTA, also assisted the workshop in order to learn more about the work being done on the ground, and provided highly relevant comments and questions to the grantees. When asked about her impressions and vested interest – both professionally on behalf of the CTA and personally – on the small grants programme, and why it is so important that it continue, she explained that “GenARDIS is the opportunity to see things moving on the ground.” And she couldn’t be more right. Learning about how the lives of rural women and their families are changing reinforces GenARDIS’ meaning. But as the funding for the programme comes to an end and its future remains uncertain, questions about where the GenARDIS is headed. While there are big dreams for the grants programme, “let’s not move away from the mandate of GenARDIS” she reminds us “ it is not meant to be a large development project budget – it is meant to help small projects get started.”
What’s in store for GenARDIS?
So what’s next for GenARDIS? As this third and final workshop winds down, participants are wondering what the next step is. Unfortunately, the future of GenARDIS is up in the air – but one thing is certain – the desire for GenARDIS to continue by all those involved. Donors, organisers and grantees alike, all share a common conviction to see this project carry on, so that the meaningful work done by all can live on.
Listen to Oumy Ndiaye of the CTA in this short interview.
APC would like to thank all the GenARDIS funders and partners for their support.