African women’s role in agricultural development

21 12 2009

We share with you an article written by 2009 AWARD Fellow, Petra Abdulsalam-Saghir, from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria. 

The later part of 2009 witnessed pragmatic opportunities and turning around for fast tracking career building, mentoring and networking for African women scientists.

This came about because of the vision and the foresight of a lady, Vicki Wilde, Director, Gender and Diversity Program, (CGIAR) and hosted by World Agro-Forestry Centre (ICRAF). Ms. Wilde and her team of experts took it upon themselves to ensure gender revolution within Africa by developing a programme called AWARD-Africa Women in Agricultural Development and Research.

As rightly put by Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “a green revolution in Africa will happen only if there is also a gender revolution”.

These opportunities are not limited to the African shores alone but also spread to the developed countries where salient talents of African women are exhibited and tapped in order to bring rapid changes to the African continent in the areas of food security and all other areas of science and technology as it affect smallholder farmers.

These opportunities are necessary, now that in Africa, especially where women have multiple roles to play in agricultural sector. Women feed sub-Saharan Africa because 80 per cent of farmers are women and they produce 60-80 per cent of the food crops the poor depend on.

Yet, African women receive just five per cent of Agricultural extension services and training and less than 10 per cent of rural credit facilities. Also, in terms of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Research and Development (R&D) pool, less than 25 per cent of Agricultural researchers are women, mostly having bachelor’s degrees while a few reach positions of leadership.

This diminishes the likelihood that the specific needs of women farmers, who constitute the vast majority of Africa’s farmers will be met. That is why Ms. Wilde’s programme focuses its effort on women because hunger, poverty and environmental degradation cannot be addressed successfully without them. She also feels that highly qualified women, particularly, from countries where women provide much of the farm labour should be a large part of the equation.

It was because of this that the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) was formed. The Award offers 60 fellowships annually which comprise two years of fellowships; designed to boost the female talent pool for African Agriculture.

Fellows are chosen from a large pool of applicants from ten Sub-Saharan African countries, namely; Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Sustainability of AWARD is a must for all. There is a need to strategize on effective ownership, and scaling out of best practices within AWARD. There is a need to monitor enhance capacities of the women participants. There is also a need to domesticate lessons learnt from workshops on mentoring, facilitation skills courses, and research methodologies and plan for its replication in other places outside AWARD, most especially in Africa and in Nigeria in particular. That is where the sustainable enigma of hope for African women lies!

• Petra Abdulsalam-Saghir, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State




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