The marginalisation of women farmers is well known and well documented. Part of thereason for this marginalisation has been traced back to inappropriate training of agriculturaldevelopment professionals – including agricultural extensionists. Alemaya University in Ethiopia hasshown considerable responsiveness to such observations and criticisms by introducing a full courseon ‘gender issues in agriculture’ in its agricultural extension degree programmes. In addition, theuniversity has been examining ways of including gender issues in all other courses and degreeprogrammmes in the faculty of agriculture. However, field efforts to reach women seem tomarginalise them even more by focusing on small and peripheral agricultural projects like poultry andvegetable production and non-agricultural projects. It is not clear what conditions need to be fulfilledfor meaningful involvement of women farmers in mainstream agriculture. This study was, therefore,meant to enrich the debate on this issue by observing the application of participatory principles intrue-to-life situations. The main objectives of the study were to (a) identify opportunities for gettingwomen farmers involved in mainstream agriculture and, (b) to identify opportunities for improvingteaching at Alemaya University. The study was done in the form of case studies of 23 field extensionprojects conducted by mid-career extension professionals in partial fulfillment of their extensiondegree programme at Alemaya University. The students were encouraged to experiment withinnovative approaches of reaching women in the context of their projects. The study revealed amultiplicity of factors that mitigate against full participation of women in mainstream agriculture.Top among these were general lack of conviction on the part of the extension agents of the need todeliberately target women farmers and the extension agents’ belief that there were cultural barriersthat forbid dialogue between women and men. The study concludes that, whilst supportive policiesand gender-sensitive curricula at training institutions are necessary and essential pre-conditions, theyare not sufficient in themselves to change deeply engrained attitudes at the extension worker/farmerlevel. Innovative and practical ways of breaking down the negative mentality that pays lip service towomen participation still need to be investigated.

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