image description

Giving Agribusiness a Gender Lens

On November 9th, AWARD Director Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg addressed East African innovators, investors, and key partners from the Centum Foundation, the African Development Bank, and Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to launch Gender in Agribusiness Investments for Africa (GAIA). During the pilot of AWARD’s GAIA initiative, innovators had the opportunity to pitch their agricultural innovations or ‘AgTech’ solutions to a panel of judges and investors. Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg explains the importance of closing the gender gap across the agricultural value chain in order to achieve an inclusive prosperity for African agriculture.

What is AWARD? African Women in Agricultural Research and Development. Over the last nine years, AWARD has been focusing on building the capacities of African women scientists, and in particular trying to address the question of a leaky pipeline of African women’s leadership in research and development.

Often times we tend to think of agricultural value chains as starting at the farm or at the farm gate and market, but in reality, they start at the research stage. Even as we focus on gender in agriculture, it is very important we think of gender in agricultural research because scientists make decisions across entire value chains. I’m really thrilled that we have AWARD fellows who made it to this competition and into the group we will be listening to today.

What is GAIA, why is AWARD launching GAIA, and what do we hope to accomplish? GAIA grows out of a couple of concerns for us: one, a realisation that is backed by the data that shows simply having women scientists and empowering women scientists [in ARD institutions] doesn’t automatically translate into better results for small holder farmers, and in particular women small holder farmers. GAIA is our attempt to be more intentional in connecting the dots from what happens in research and innovation to what happens across ag value chains.

We have a couple of value propositions. What are we going to be doing with GAIA? A couple of things. The innovators in this room have been through this process. First, there is a call for applications. Second, we went through a screening process, selecting the best of those applications. All of you in this room went through a rigorous screening process—congratulations to our innovators for making it through that first cut. We set a high bar, and we’re thrilled you’re here; we’ve crossed over that high bar.

After that, there is a boot camp process that you’ve been through over the last couple of days, and then there is this: the innovator investor showcase. Beyond this, there will be continued attempts and commitment to connecting the innovators that we identify and invest in to incubators who are working on growing the kinds of businesses that you are running. With us are a number of representatives from these types of organisations.

The kinds of value propositions that GAIA brings to the table are that:

1) We recognize that the agricultural private sector needs scientists and innovators and a ready pipeline of bankable and scalable innovations to maintain a competitive edge. Often we forget that innovation is how business retain a competitive edge. We can’t just focus on a model of buying cheap and selling dear, but we actually have to bring innovation into our business models on the continent. Agribusiness is an important part of growing African wealth and driving this continent towards prosperity.

2) There is a need for gender diversity amongst those who receive agripreneurship funding. Our research shows that only one to ten percent of who receives funding are women. A big part of GAIA is focusing on women agripreneurs and making sure women have access to other up-takers and other incubators. There is a need for AgTech innovations that actually help bridge the gender gap in African agriculture. I was telling our partners this morning that the one thing that you in this room all have in common is that you have technologies that have the potential to bridge the gender gap on this continent.

Finally, we at AWARD through GAIA, hope to bring the conversation of gender and gender-responsiveness to the agribusiness sector. A lot of times investors care about gender, but don’t know quite how to integrate their concerns around gender into how they do their work. This is an opportunity to support investors and other agribusiness incubators in how they can use the gender lens to increase the efficacy of their investments.


NB: For more information about GAIA and the inaugural boot camp and investor showcase, please visit the GAIA page on our website.


Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg at the African Green Revolution Forum 2016

During the recent African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2016, Nairobi meeting, I got a chance to share my views on African Leadership and Women and Youth in Agriculture at a side event that was hosted by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The event got me thinking about the surge in growth agriculture in Africa and what it means to the continent.

“If current trends are anything to go by, agriculture is positioned to be a major driver of Africa’s economic growth. A World Bank report indicates that, the agricultural Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in sub-Saharan Africa has accelerated from 2.3 percent per year in the 1980s to 3.8 percent per year from 2000 to 2005. The African Development Bank also identifies agriculture, based on value, as the continent’s second- largest industrial sector.

The statistics indicate that the agricultural sector is quickly becoming a major employer in Africa and strengthening the agricultural sector, therefore, will have a significant economic impact on most of Africa’s population.

There are conversations that we must engage in to ensure that the growth of the African agriculture sector will be a reflection of Africa’s prosperity.  Currently, ‘we are at a fork in the road’ and there are two critical questions that MUST be addressed:

  • Is the increase in food production going to follow the usual trend where Africa exports her natural resources compounding poverty on the continent?
  • Will growth in the agricultural sector bring about inclusive growth or will it merely intensify existing structural inequalities that include uneven gender representation and the low ratio of women in decision making positions?

Even as we smile upon the increase in the growth of agriculture, we cannot forget the historical exploitation of Africa’s natural resources which were extracted and sold off cheaply to other continents, in a system that depleted reserves. Moreover, if we do not pay attention to the structural inequalities embedded in the sector, the current growth will only magnify the inequalities.

Another key point to keep in mind as we look to Africa’s agricultural future, is the gender wage gap.  Although it varies between countries, the rural wage gap between men and women in Africa ranges between 15-60 percent. Stereotyping and the misrepresentation of gender, especially the perception that gender is all about poor women in rural areas, has not improved the situation

A study published by World Bank and ONE Africa titled, “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa,” summarises the subject best. The report contends that the productivity of women farmers is a fraction of that of men. This is a wake-up call to African governments. They need to provide farmers – particularly women – with better access to agricultural information and technology among other inputs.

To put a lid on this discrepancy, we must pay attention to mobile technology as it holds a tremendous potential to unlocking some of the answers surrounding this issue. I applaud governments and NGOs that have hopped on the bandwagon and are deploying mobile technology to solve a myriad of challenges. Connecting the dots between factors that affect agriculture and those that influence the economy will have a positive and great impact on the kind of agricultural growth we envision. This will also inform the youth who represent boundless potential in growing Africa’s agriculture.

The potential agriculture has to drive Africa’s transformation is remarkable! We only need to move beyond rhetoric and ask tough questions about what engaging the youth and women in this change process will mean. Paying attention to infrastructure trends and adopting a gender lens to analyze all agricultural interventions, is critical to ensuring that Africa’s agricultural transformation results in the inclusive and sustainable prosperity of ALL AFRICANS.

Thank you.”

Honoring 2016 World Food Prize Laureates

From Left: Professor Roger Guy Poulter (AECF board member), Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Lord Paul Boateng (AECF board chair), Dr. Maria Andrade (AWARD Mentor and honoree), Dr. Jan Low (AWARD Mentor and honoree), Anabela Manhica (2010 AWARD Fellow), and Kola Masha (AECF board member) at UNON during AGRF 2016.

During the recent African Green Revolution Forum Conference (AGRF 2016) that was held in Nairobi, Kenya, AWARD co-hosted a gala dinner in partnership the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). During this event AWARD honoured two former mentors, Dr Jan Low and Dr Maria Andrade for their contribution to agricultural science.

“Earlier today, we heard a very real concern for how we can support women and unleash the African women’s potential to drive our much needed growth and prosperity.

We at AWARD have spent the last nine years doing exactly that—working at the complex, but critical confluence of advanced scientific research, gender equality and capacity building. AWARD works to ensure that Africa benefits from the scientific research talents of its women.

We have had tremendous success, and to date, have invested in 495 of Africa’s leading African women scientists. Our community now comprises over 1100 scientists who all have been touched by our work in sixteen countries.

Ninety-eight percent of AWARD fellows report increased research outputs, eighty-four percent were promoted either during or after their fellowship, and sixty-five percent led or participated in new collaborations.

Some of those AWARD Fellows, Mentors, and their mentees are here with us tonight.

But investing in women scientists is not enough. We need to ensure that the tremendous innovations by African women scientists see the light of day and reach our farmers.

Earlier today, we heard about the tremendous gender gap in agribusiness funding. Our research indicates that only one to ten percent of agribusiness funding goes to women. This is why AWARD has designed GAIA: Gender in Agribusiness Incubation for Africa.

This program will seek to bring gender diversity to the agribusiness investment space to ensure that the scientific innovation lead by our African women researchers sees the light of day—the innovation of women like the two we want to celebrate today.

We have partnered with AECF because we know that it is possible to bring women to the center of male-dominated fields. We know the power of mentoring, leadership training, and skills building in ensuring that women can compete on a level playing field.

AECF is tremendously well-positioned to be a driver of change in a financing sector that is in need of disruption. To the new board, we support your commitment to investing in women, and we stand ready to partner with you through GAIA.

We hope a partnership might result in more investments in the scientific innovations of tonight’s honorees. The women are there. We just need to find them and invest in them.

Tonight, I am honored to ask you to join me in celebrating two women who are members of the AWARD community and who prove that women in agricultural science can transform a continent.“

AWARD Mentors Dr. Jan Low and Dr. Maria Andrade received recognition for their dedication to agricultural science and also for the empowerment of African women scientists. Dr. Andrade and Dr. Low are also the recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize.


(From L-R) Miriam Jerotich (Dr. Linah Kilimo's daughter) , Dr. Linah Kilimo; Chairperson, Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board and Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg; AWARD's Director.

I have always championed for mentorship and placed emphasis on the important role it plays in bridging the knowledge gap between a mentor and a mentee. When I received a call from my long-time friend and mentor, Dr. Linah Chebii Kilimo, recently, asking me to mentor her daughter who was leaving for her doctoral studies in the United States, I jumped at the opportunity.

Dr. Kilimo, is a former Kenyan parliamentarian, served in various capacities in the Kenya government and she is also a professional counselor, peace builder, and a renowned women’s and human rights advocate. Through the years, I have had a series of mentors but it is my experience as Dr. Kilimo’s mentee that I want to share.

When I first met Dr. Kilimo, I was working on my undergraduate thesis in political science and she was in active politics. She has since held a number of ministerial positions and served in various public positions. I walked timidly into her office, introduced myself and stated the purpose of my visit. I was on a ‘quest’ for a mentor and I wanted that mentor to be her. She willingly agreed!!  From then on, I tagged along when she attended meetings and it is at these meetings I learnt a lot of what I know today about.

Despite having a lot on her plate when I met her, Dr. Kilimo took the time to invest knowledge in me, a young graduate student. My initial impression was that she was a very down to earth person and for the first time, I connected with the idea that one can be a powerful leader and still be humble.  

Madam Kilimo has always advocated passionately against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She cares about this cause deeply and this was apparent as she mentored me.  Being her mentee, not only gave me a vision for women’s leadership, but it also contributed to my development as a leader and refined my perspective on what it really means to be passionate about an ideal or a cause. From her, I learnt that identifying a cause, committing to one’s belief - steadfastly sticking to it and being honest about it - is really important. My desire to be a champion for girls and women came together around this time. This gender sensitive advocacy is a common thread that runs through my and Ms. Kilimo’s life.

Although many know I’m [still] a political scientist by ‘trade’ I am now fully planted in the agricultural sector. I have been asked many times why I didn’t follow my mentor’s political path.  My answer always is, you don’t have to be who your mentor is. Do not copy paste somebody else’s life! Live your life and learn from those around you.  Grasp the things others do well and incorporate them in your life. There is an old saying that goes, “a veterinarian is not a cow”, the same way a political scientist studies political systems, but they don’t need to be an actual player within that system!    

Therefore, although, being mentored by Dr. Kilimo was a really powerful experience, I did not need to follow Dr. Kilimo’s career path. I just needed to pick the elements that worked in hers such as leadership skills, humility, passion and determination and apply them.

Madam Kilimo, ‘Asante, your mentorship unlocked something that is really powerful in me. ‘


AWARD presentations accepted at the 2016 European Evaluation Society Biennial conference

By Guest Blogger Apollo Nkwake

Despite decades of development partners investing in ‘capacity development’ is it possible to establish a measure of return on investment?  How do we know when capacity development initiatives work?

We at AWARD are excited that the European Evaluation Society has accepted AWARD’s research for presentation at their 2016 Biennial Evaluation conference.

The two papers accepted for presentation are:

     1. Evaluating the African Women in Science Empowerment model

     2. Retrospective Network Analysis: AWARD’s experience

The presentations will share AWARD’s innovative approaches to measuring impacts of capacity development. As many know, AWARD identifies leading African women scientists for a two-year fellowship. These high potential women scientists participate in leadership and science training, conferences, professional associations, mentoring, among others. 

So what? Do these activities make a difference? Off course we believe they do! But what difference do they make?

Do AWARD fellows become better researchers, leaders, collaborators, innovators, or change agents? The questions get even more complex: how do we know that the differences are because of AWARD’s interventions? Let’s say, as we just found out, that about 67% of AWARD’s post bachelor fellows go ahead to pursue masters and doctoral degrees, to what extent is this success a result of the AWARD fellowship? To what extent is the success as a result of changing national policy or even other factors?

AWARD aspires to apply state-of-the-art methods for program design, implementation and learning in order to deliver on our mission of Investing in African women scientists and institutions to deliver innovative, sustainable, gender-responsive agricultural research and development’s program. Our ability to engage and learn with such global communities of experts and practitioners enables us to use the most appropriate and credible approaches in answering complex questions-such as the ones mentioned above.

One of the papers accepted for presentation discusses AWARD’s approach to empowering Africa women in agricultural research, methods used to measure success and findings to date. AWARD takes a mixed methods approach to measuring fellow’s advancement. Lessons on AWARD’s empowerment measurement approach have been documented in a detailed report.

The second presentation discusses ways in which AWARD’s interventions intentionally (and unintentionally) facilitate networking and how networking is correlated with empowerment outcomes.  This research looked back at historical data (phase 1 of the AWARD fellowship) to answer the following questions:

  • Which elements of AWARD’s interventions, strategies and theories of change intentionally (and unintentionally) facilitate networking?
  • What factors within and outside of the AWARD fellowship (related to geographical proximity, social interactions, etc.) facilitate networking?
  • How is networking associated to empowerment outcomes?
  • How should AWARD better measure network mechanisms and benefits in future?

While fellows benefit from professional associations in very varied ways, this variable had the most complete/consistent social network information in the historical dataset.

The research shows that:

  • There are many ways in which AWARD’s theory of change is intentional about connecting scientists.
  • AWARD broadens geographic horizons. Over the course of the fellowship, AWARD fellows move from locally-based professional associations also joined by close peers into regional and international associations where they previously had few connections.
  • AWARD fellows are dispersed throughout a broad network of professional associations (more than 50, 2008-2011) as would be expected given their diverse origins and disciplines.
  • Dispersion-the fact that fellows tend to be part of professional associations of which other fellows are not members is associated with higher scores on empowerment indices. Fellows who end up on the outer edges of the professional association networks, i.e. those who share few overlaps with other AWARD fellows, score highest in terms of their leadership capability and empowerment indices.

Overall, the results of this project indicate that the potential of network analysis to reveal patterns in the effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of AWARD’s efforts is tremendous.

Celebrating International Women’s Day: AWARD Director, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg

(From L-R) Purity Wanjiku; a flourishing farmer, Wanjira Mathai; Director Partnerships for Women Entrepreneurs in Renewables (wPOWER Hub), Dr. Musonda Mumba; Programme Officer, UNEP's Coordinator, Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) Flagship Programme, Dr. Ramni Jamnadass; Leader, Global Research Project - Quality Trees, World Agroforestry Centre and Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, AWARD's Director, at World Agroforestry Centre celebrating International Women's Day.

"I get hugely excited every time the International Women Day comes around.  It’s the one day the world takes stock of its women and women take stock of themselves and more importantly, the world and women celebrate women. 

This year is no different for me.  I’m taking stock of the work that AWARD is doing in trying to elevate the status of African women agricultural research scientists. Our work seems amplified by this year’s theme, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. Our commitment to see more women take their place in research labs, at policy debates, and across the agricultural sector is unwavering.

We are particularly focused on working to deepen our relationships with a wide variety of partners.  We’ve started at ‘home’ so to speak. This year we’ve partnered with our hosts, the World Agroforestry Centre, in holding a series of events that commemorate this year’s International Women’s’ Day. We recently co-hosted, for the ICRAF staff, the screening of a documentary on the first African female Nobel Laureate, the late Professor Wangari Muta Maathai.  ‘Taking Root’ traces the life journey of Prof. Maathai, a woman of many firsts and an agricultural scientist too! 

Prof Maathai used her love for the environment to champion causes that were close to her heart and to challenge unjust systems in society. Her tools, besides her steely determination and relentless drive, were trees. She drew from mother earth to make this nation and our plant a better place. The AWARD team and I remember, honor, and celebrate her legacy on this special day. 

Join me, as we celebrate a day that offers opportunity to glean from amazing women like Professor Maathai.  We look to her legacy as we pursue gender parity in the lab, on the farm, in the markets, in the boardroom, and in all areas of decision making across the African continent.

This is day that must be celebrated and celebrated loudly, not just by the women, but by all, because it also accords us the moment to stop, reflect and react on how best to get the world’s largest minority group a better place at the global table."

A message from AWARD's Director, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg.