4 12 2009

Facilitation skills:  The key to successful training

At a recent facilitation training workshop organized by AWARD in Nyeri, Kenya, 20 AWARD Mentors, staff and trainee trainers enhanced their facilitation skills.  As part of its capacity-building mandate, AWARD is currently running a training of trainers (TOT) program.  The current AWARD trainers share their skills with trainee trainers drawn from across the continent.   

The workshop was led by facilitation experts, Community at Work.  Much as most participants had facilitation experience, they still took home valuable lessons.  This was a practical course that had all participants engaged.  They learned how to deal with group dynamics and incorporate all participants in the session.   The skills gained at the workshop, such as active listening, are useful in day-to-day communication, such as meetings and workshops. 

Margaret Kroma, Dorothy Mukhebi and Pauline Bomett are already sharing the skills gained at the workshop with other staff members.  During a recent AWARD retreat, staff shared skills such as chart writing and giving feedback.  

AWARD is explicitly designed to empower African women in agricultural research and development to serve as champions of rural women and to increase their visibility. Through its specially tailored leadership training courses, AWARD Fellows learn to navigate organizational gender issues, leverage team talents, manage conflict and use influence appropriately. Fellows also put their leadership skills to practice while serving as role models to inspire girls and younger women to take up a career in agricultural science.

“You have made a significant contribution to my life, career and science.  You have empowered me with group dynamics, leadership and facilitation skills.  I am grateful for all that knowledge that I have acquired.”
Eric Chilembwe, AWARD Mentor, Participant at facilitation skills course             

 Feedback from previous AWARD training sessions

“I am still reeling from the impact of the Women’s Leadership Course. The training was so practical and helpful. I wish there could be a system of passing this knowledge to the young women, aged 25-30 years, as early as possible. They will grow challenged to create impact in their lives without loss of time.
Dora Kilalo, AWARD Fellow, Kenya
“I enjoyed the leadership course and I left Nairobi feeling empowered. The 360 degree survey was revealing. At the final evaluation, I said to myself, ‘It should have happened ten years ago.’  It is never too late! I believe my life has just started.”
Grace Bolfrey-Arku, AWARD Fellow, Ghana



4 12 2009

In recognition of World AIDS Day, we feature a Ugandan fellow who has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS, Esther Wamono, nutrition surveillance officer with Action Against Hunger/Action Contre la Faim (ACF).  Esther is mentored by Dr. Joyce Kikafunda, associate professor, food and nutrition sciences, Makerere University, Uganda.  She holds a master’s degree in applied human nutrition from Makerere university.                     

A recent graduate, Esther, 31, is already tackling the high levels of malnutrition in her resource-rich country, especially among children under five years of age and people living with HIV/AIDS. Her master’s thesis focused on nutrient enhancement in bananas to improve the nutritional intake of people living with HIV/AIDS. As part of her research, Esther developed nutrient-enhanced banana flour which she supplied to rural women living with HIV/AIDS. The flour was well-accepted by the women who agreed that the staple food has great potential to increase their nutrition and food security.

 “AWARD is helping me to network with professionals outside my own field to address the challenges of rural women. Fighting poverty and hunger requires a multi-disciplinary approach including nutrition, agriculture, social workers and the women farmers themselves.”

Esther says her participation in AWARD’s professional development courses has resulted in greater self-confidence. During the AWARD mentoring orientation workshop in October 2009, she developed her life purpose goal: to eliminate malnutrition among women of reproductive age and children under five years of age in Uganda.

“I decided that the first step on my professional road map was to get a job with an international NGO,” says Esther, who previously worked as a research assistant at Makerere University. She successfully applied to Action Against Hunger/Action Contre la Faim (ACF) and began her new job as a nutrition surveillance officer in November.

“The duty station is in Karamoja region—a hunger and malnutrition-stricken area in Uganda where security is still a major problem. It was not easy to make up my mind to move from Kampala to the northeast, but I remembered the moment during the workshop when we fellows closed our eyes and imagined ourselves doing everything in our power as individuals to make Africa a better place.”

Esther combines her professional research on nutrition and HIV/AIDS with hands-on care for women and children affected by the disease and by malnutrition. In Kampala, she offers nutrition counselling and education to poor urban families through an outreach program at her church and she has served as a volunteer at an orphanage.


4 12 2009

Poetry writing has now become an AWARD tradition.  At last year’s mentoring orientation workshops (MOWs), three poems were composed, inspired by Thema’s Journey and the mentoring orientation workshops.   AWARD Fellows, Emanuella Eguagie (Nigeria) and Mboka Mwanitu (Tanzania), together with mentor Dr. Kenneth Wiyo (Malawi) and Stephen Mensah, trainee trainer, (Ghana) also caught the poetry bug.   This year, two AWARD Fellows wrote and recited the following poems at the MOWs.

My Journey in AWARD by Dr. Beatrice Akello, research officer, National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda

My journey in AWARD
Started when I received an award.
This journey started in June,
With my mind so in tune,
My heart full of anticipation,
Waiting for the fate of my application. 

My journey in AWARD
Is indeed a great reward.
For African Women
in Agricultural Research and Development.
Who have always longed for a great future,
But couldn’t go against their culture.

My journey in AWARD
Taking me proudly forward,
Guided by a woman called Vicki Wilde,
With her team of people so wise,
Who dared to start to dream,
To make true, another woman’s dream.

My journey in AWARD
Leaves me feeling awed.
Beholding African women,
Oh, great African women,
Gathered because of AWARD fellowship.
I cannot help but, my Creator worship.

My journey in AWARD
Has given me a great reward.
Hearing the Indian Ocean roar,
My imagination can’t help but soar
About all the wonderful rewards
For women in AWARD.

My journey in AWARD
With other women in AWARD.
Please hear my word as we take the walk.
As we receive our rewards while we walk,
Let us never forget to reward
The other women in the world

The Story of My Sister

4 12 2009

The Story of My Sister, by Phoebe Kirigo Mwaniki

All across Africa, the ululations could be heard,
Women dancing, and everyone was glad.
A baby girl is born, and in joy she was clad.
Rizibuka, Wamono, Karuhanga, Numafo, Kithika, Osoniyi was her brand,
Darling of my brothers, my grannies and my dad.

s we all grew and went to school together with my brothers,
We were taught by the society that we were different from our brothers.
Ardo, Wamono, Nadhoka, Mutonyi, Cherunya should cook and serve my brothers.
Remember, this is the destiny of our sisters and our mothers.
Destiny! Lugwana, Tuei, Matsimbe, Hamiyanze, Chisenga didn’t believe this to the letter.

And college was over, interviews came calling in one by one.
We need a pilot” and my brother was gone.
A centre director, “a man’s job” my next brother followed.
Remember “chiefs” are much better being men; our last born brother followed.
“Darlings”, my mother told us, “these are men’s jobs, you are just a woman.”

As if they were a different breed of women,
Wilde, Alice, Margaret, Gorrettie, Sarah, Ramni, Lusike, Joyce,
Florence and others, have dared the omen.
Adorable women, achievers in the world of men,
Ruth, Gichangi, Imbuni, Okafor, Mwaniki, Kimani, Karanja and Omenwa,
Daring too, have followed in the footsteps of these women.

A new day has come, and the sun has finally shone,
Weaving in the world of science, has not been without a whine.
A helping hand we needed, a platform to the gold mine,
Rendering to the community, the dreams of the fellows.
Delivering to the fellows, the joy of the mentors.

At the peak of a desire, a dream was born.
She dreamt, she has made us dream and we will make others dream,
And as all these dreams come to be true, we will change Africa.

AWARD fellow, Mary Njenga attends Environmental Leadership Program

8 09 2009

AWARD fellow, Mary Njenga shares her experiences at the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) held from 26 June to 18 July 2009 at the College of Natural Resources, Center for Sustainable Resource Development, University of California, Berkeley, USA. 

Mary Njenga is a research officer with Urban Harvest-CIP and a PhD student at the Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi under the lead supervision of Prof. Nancy Karanja.  Mary’s PhD research is also affiliated to World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) under the supervision of Dr. Ramni Jamnadass. 

The Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) offers a summer certificate course in Sustainable Environmental Management, co-directed by Dr. Robin Marsh and Dr. David Zilberman.  Others in the team were Don Lauro, Elna Brunckhorst, Jade Sasser, Joy Harewood and Aaron Wilson. This year’s course had 34 students from 25 countries.  ELP 2009 curriculum covered ecological footprint and sustainability, population, poverty and the environment, and a special open-to-the-public conference on bioeconomy: energy, food and the environment.  Based on her work, Mary was among three ELP students invited to make presentations and be a panelist during the Perspectives on Biodiversity: Agriculture and food security session.

Mary’s presentation was on urban agriculture and urban ecosystem services.  She highlighted the role of urban agriculture ensuring food security, income and urban resource re-use.  In her presentation, she demonstrated how urban agriculture benefits women and youth groups.    

Mary making a presentation at the ELP event

Mary making a presentation at the ELP event

This was a timely presentation, since urban agriculture was receiving attention as a productive sector of USA urban food security.  On 8 July the Mayor of San Francisco asked all departments to conduct an audit of land under their jurisdiction to create an inventory of land suitable for gardening.  http://www.sfgov.org/site/mayor_index.asp?id=107483

Other topics in the course include environmental policy services and marketing, leadership for collaborative change, climate change science and policy and water and sanitation management and governance. The course was very interactive through lecturers, guided crop and livestock field visits, practical work and demonstrations, as well as social events.

Participants receive partial scholarships from ELP, which itself receives support from institutions and individual friends of the program.  An event took place during the course where participants joined the program coordinating team for dinner with ELP friends and donors at Sandy and Bernie Magnussen’s home. Dick Beahrs, a key supporter of ELP and a former Board Member of ICRAF was also present at the event.  Mary was among the two ELP participants selected to give speeches during this event. She highlighted key lessons learnt that she was taking home, which were:

(i)  the importance and approaches on how to integrate and balance social, economic and environmental issues in research and development work

(ii)  skills on effective leadership for collaborative change and

(iii)  a network of environmental leaders and friends around the world speaking the same language for a sustainable future.

 The course coordinating team and lecturers were very warm and the participation of some of them throughout all sessions created a chance for feedback and revisions as the course progressed.  Participants had a chance to interact with Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

 Mary received a full scholarship from ELP, while her travel and living expenses were met by Doyle Foundation, Scotland to whom she is very grateful.  ELP participants were invited to apply for a small competitive grant for initiatives to be implemented in collaboration with UC Berkeley in 2010. Mary had a very special homecoming upon learning that she was one of the winners of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship 2009, offered by Gender and Diversity, a CGIAR program that supports scientific capacity, provides mentorship, leadership and management training. At the same time she won the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) ECOPOLIS graduate fellowship 2009 which will go a long way in supporting her PhD study.  To all who contributed to a very productive and exciting one month, Mary says THANK YOU.

* Mary heard about the Beahrs Environmental Leadership program through an announcement distributed through the Gender & Diversity database for women scientists and professionals which was forwarded to her by Dr. Jan Low, the CIP SSA regional leader.  To join the database, go to:  http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/cast_the_net/default.asp

Hillary Clinton meets AWARD

6 08 2009

5 August 2009 was a historic day for the CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program. Our AWARD project for African Women in Agricultural Research and Development met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton!  

During Hillary Clinton’s official visit to KARI-Nairobi, AWARD fellows had the opportunity to showcase their pro-poor R&D. In her official speech that followed, Secretary Clinton emphasized the importance of women in agriculture saying, “The AWARD program is a great example. It supports women scientists working to improve farming here in Africa and to fight hunger and poverty. And we need women represented in our laboratories as well as our fields. And I really congratulate the AWARD women for being pioneers in plant science.”

AWARD mentor Dr. Lusike Wasilwa (KARI), with hat on right, discusses the impacts of the AWARD fellowship program with (from left to right) US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, and US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, while AWARD fellow Margaret Mulaa and AWARD Director Vicki Wilde look on

AWARD mentor Dr. Lusike Wasilwa (KARI), with hat on right, discusses the impacts of the AWARD fellowship program with (from left to right) US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, and US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, while AWARD fellow Margaret Mulaa and AWARD Director Vicki Wilde look on

We also had the privilege of meeting US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose speech at the same event included, “I’m so proud to be here with the recipients of the AWARD fellowship. They are making a difference in the region. And I and others at USDA look forward to working with them to enhance their success in the future.”

Full transcripts of the official speeches are available at: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/08/126911.htm

AWARD fellow Sheila Ommeh explains her research on indigenous chicken for disease control to distinguished audience including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Kenyan Minister of Agriculture Isaac Ruto and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai

AWARD fellow Sheila Ommeh explains her research on indigenous chicken for disease control to distinguished audience including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Kenyan Minister of Agriculture William Ruto and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai

See full size imageClick here to watch a slideshow on the visit by Secretaries Clinton and Vilsack on You Tube

Leading Scientists Urge Policymakers to Put Women at the Center of Investments in African Food Security

5 08 2009

Activating Women in Research Roles Critical to Achieving US Food Security and Development Goals, said Women to Vilsack, Clinton at Nairobi Event

 NAIROBI, KENYA (5 August 2009) — Expressing concern over the lack of women in decision making roles in agricultural development issues in Africa, a group of leading African women scientists urged African leaders and US policymakers to put women at the center of efforts to address chronic hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

During a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to research facilities outside Nairobi, the group, comprising both veteran and up-and-coming Kenyan women scientists, argued that, only if women can exert more influence over priorities, policies and programs, will sub-Saharan Africa be able to ward off future food crises and cope effectively with more frequent drought and other impacts of climate change.

“The outstanding achievements of the women of the AWARD program serve as a model and inspiration to women farmers all over Africa,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in his response to AWARD fellows. “As part of President Obama’s international initiative to help millions become food secure, a focus on women farmers will be an important and integral part of this effort.”

Women account for as much as 80 percent of Africa’s food production. But their access to land, to vital services, such as credit, and to improved technologies is extremely limited. They receive only 5 percent of agricultural extension training and 10 percent of rural credit. Furthermore, few agricultural projects are being designed to address women’s specific needs. Only a quarter of its researchers and development experts are women, and only 14 percent of the management positions in agricultural research and development are female.

 “Science is crucial to building a pathway out of poverty,” said Sheila Ommeh, a Kenyan scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). “Yet, few young Africans are pursuing careers in agricultural research and science. We need support in expanding that number.”

Measures like the US Global Food Security Act of 2009 are a step in the right direction, the group said. But the impact of this initiative will be limited unless it is reinforced by more targeted efforts to provide Africa’s women farmers with the technical and financial resources they must have to respond to new economic opportunities.

“Investing in women is the smart solution to Africa’s hunger,” said Kenyan horticulture professor Mary Abukutsa-Onyango. “It will help ensure that US development resources yield maximum returns in reducing food insecurity and poverty.” The women called on Clinton and Vilsack to help convey it to African policy makers.

 The scientists form part of a program called African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Coordinated by the Gender & Diversity Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), AWARD provides 60 fellowships yearly to boost the female talent pool supporting Africa’s farmers, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Agriculture is recognized as an engine for economic growth in Africa. What is less well recognized is that women run this engine. From before dawn to after dusk, they keep all its parts moving,” said Vicki Wilde, director of the Gender & Diversity Program of the CGIAR. “We cannot defeat hunger and poverty in Africa unless women have a strong voice.”

Despite the limitations faced by Africa’s female farmers, recent cases demonstrate how well-crafted policies and programs can achieve major impact by targeting women, based on knowledge of their important role in agricultural production, according to the World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development.

A CGIAR program aimed at widening the impact of improved bean varieties reached more than 35 million rural people in seven countries of eastern and southern Africa by targeting women, who primarily grow the crop. Bean experts relied on informal channels to which female farmers have ready access, like community and church groups, for distributing small, affordable packets of bean seed. Offering 30 to 50 percent higher yields, the highly nutritious and marketable new beans are helping women bolster household food security and raise their incomes.

Ommeh and Abukutsa-Onyango pointed to further opportunities for smart investment in women farmers, focused on the production of local chicken breeds that are resistant to disease and marketing of indigenous African vegetables. The scientists also stressed that, in order for such initiatives to multiply and succeed, it is vital that African women gain more influence over priorities, policies and programs.

An encouraging sign are recent findings showing the gender gap in Africa’s agricultural science narrowing. Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of female professional staff in Africa’s agricultural research and higher education grew from 18 to 24 percent, according to a recent study carried out by AWARD and the CGIAR-supported International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“Even women scientists who have completed their education and entered the work force may still drop out because of obstacles they encounter on the career ladder, so few reach positions of leadership,” said Wilde. “AWARD better enables these women to stay on track by supporting them in their efforts to help farmers in their countries.” Now in its second year, AWARD has provided fellowships to 120 women scientists from 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

AWARD’s focus on strengthening women’s leadership capacity is consistent with more than 15 years of rigorous gender analysis dealing with rural households. For example, the World Development Report 2008 concluded that “women need to be engaged at far more senior levels than is generally the case – in scientific research, in ministries of agriculture and in local governments.”

“To bring about Africa’s long-awaited revolution in smallholder production,” Wilde explained, “agricultural research and extension organizations must recognize the importance of women farmers and of their social networks for diffusing technology and knowledge. They urgently need to recruit and train more female staff, especially in places where cultural norms restrict interaction between males and females.”

Click here to watch interviews on AWARD on CNBC Africa on YouTube