Women’s Participation in Agricultural Research and Higher Education: Key Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa
The majority of those who produce, process, and market Africa’s food are women, but only one in four agricultural researchers is female (AWARD/ASTI 2009). Available data indicate that women in many African countries enroll in agricultural science as students but upon entering the workforce, face discouraging workplace dynamics. Rather than moving up the career ladder, many drop out and few reach positions of leadership.
An essential step toward improving outcomes for Africa’s smallholder farmers includes strengthening the voice of its women, on the farm, in the laboratories, in markets, and in policy forums. As part of the solution, it is critical to support the careers of African women agricultural researchers so they may contribute to poverty alleviation and food security at the highest possible levels.
AWARD is cultivating a growing pool of African women to be (a) effective within ARD institutions supporting the agricultural value chain; (b) effective across a range of research disciplines serving the sector; (c) responsive to gender issues in the service of women, without excluding men; and (d) technically competent to generate innovations needed by rural smallholders, most of whom are women
Between 2008 and 2013, 2,960 African women scientists from 11 eligible countries representing 450 institutions applied for 320 available fellowships. (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.)
For a synopsis of the ASTI/AWARD study, visit: http://www.asti.cgiar.org/pdf/ASTI-AWARD-brief.pdf
For the full report and individual ASTI-AWARD Country Fact Sheets, visit: http://www.asti.cgiar.org/gender-capacity
For the latest ASTI news and information visit the ASTI blog
Repairing the leaky pipeline
Who are better placed than women scientists to address the needs of African women famers? Women’s contribution to food security is crucial, both in the field and in the laboratory.
Research clearly shows that the number of women enrolling in agricultural sciences is steadily increasing, but women researchers tend to drop out as they move up the career ladder. Termed the “leaky pipeline”, this phenomenon is generally attributed to traditional, male-dominated organizational dynamics, in additional to cultural barriers to women’s education and advancement.
Major constraints faced by women in science careers in Africa:
African agriculture cannot afford this bleeding of human capital, losing its corps of promising female researchers. African agricultural research institutes are in danger of missing the critical range of diverse perspectives necessary to develop appropriate technologies. The science, technology and innovation capacity of Africa would be strengthened through greater participation of its women.
Responding to the challenge
AWARD aims to significantly expand and strengthen the capacity of African women scientists, recognizing their vital contribution to science and research. Africa’s green revolution will come all the more quickly if we stop the wastage of human talent and bring women’s experience to the field and the laboratories. We need to speed up women’s career advancements in Africa now.