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AWARD’s Nigeria country chapter holds its fifth annual general meeting

Keynote speech by Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, AWARD Director, at the fifth annual general meeting and national conference of the Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD)

Diversity and inclusiveness in agricultural transformation: What role for gender responsiveness?

Prof Enikuomehin, Prof Sanni, Prof Henshaw, Prof Omemu, Prof Williams, Prof Onagbesan, Prof Adebayo, Mr Olagunju, AWARD Fellows, Mentors, Fellows’ Mentees, government representatives, institutional partners, ladies and gentlemen, (All protocols observed) good morning.  

I am delighted to join you today for the fifth annual general meeting of the Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) and National Conference themed diversity and inclusiveness in agricultural transformation. This is, indeed, such a timely and opportune moment to push forward the diversity and inclusivity agenda in agricultural transformation.

Why so?

It has become cliché to remark that women make a significant contribution to agricultural production, but do not get as much recognition and opportunities to influence policy and decision-making.  As a result, there is need for greater efforts aimed at making the agricultural sector more gender responsive and concerted action from several actors leading to the birth of ‘inclusive agricultural value chains’ as a key agenda.

At the global level, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all: Closer home at the continental level, the African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 emphasizes the need for inclusive growth, gender equality and youth employment to propel African countries to be among the best performers in global quality of life measures. These principles have been cascaded at the regional and national development blueprints.

Work towards a more inclusive and gender-responsive agricultural sector is also timely because it comes at a moment when the newly released ‘Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017’ highlights the need for a more holistic and multi-sectoral approach in tackling the challenges faced in agriculture, for inclusive agricultural transformation. It the report, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, 2016 Africa Food Prize Laureate and Immediate former President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) notes that inclusiveness is a choice and countries need to make specific choices on these issues.

What is AWARD doing to contribute to more inclusive agricultural transformation?

I am proud to say that at AWARD, we have made that conscious choice. Having started almost ten years ago, the AWARD fellowships, a career development programme, has to date reached 465 fellows and 397 unique mentors (of whom 46 percent are men) from 16 sub-Saharan African countries.

AWARD has been instrumental in the creation of country chapters, of which NiWARD is a shining example.

Since the inception of AWARD’s fellowship programme, Nigeria has been one of the most active and biggest beneficiaries. To date, almost a quarter of all fellows, 117 fellows and 88 mentors from Nigeria have benefitted from AWARD. A hundred and two (102) fellows’ mentees have also benefited from the fellowship. Of these, almost 90 percent of AWARD fellows and mentors in Nigeria are in the universities and research sectors. This has contributed to building the requisite critical mass of highly trained and equipped women researchers in agricultural research and development and offers a tremendous opportunity for collaboration, networking, joint learning, and inclusive growth in agricultural innovation systems that we so much desire.

Some of our fellows have made significant contributions and received impressive accolades in different ways. Notably, here in Nigeria AWARD fellows have won coveted and prestigious awards and prizes including the Global Innovation through Science and Technology. (GIST) Tech-I competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies, the L'oreal UNESCO Sub Saharan Fellowship for Women in Science and,  the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women's Mentoring Women in Business Programme.

Nigerian voices have been key in offering guiding leadership for AWARD, from Professor Stella Wiliams who chaired AWARD’s Steering committee, to Prof Sanni Lateef who serves as Vice Chair of the committee now.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Closer to my heart and the focus of my speech today, is the newly released AWARD’s phase III strategy 2017-2022. The Strategy focuses on three main pillars: Pillar one- Individual; seeks to have capable confident and influential African women scientists lead critical advances and innovations in agricultural research for development. Our fellowships program which has since expanded into Francophone Africa is a key component of this pillar.

The second pillar addresses the institutional level and seeks to support the African agricultural research and development institutions that prioritize and embrace gender-responsive agricultural research in both policy and practice. This pillar focuses on supporting institutions and the scientists who work there have the skills and capacity to design research agendas that can drive sustainable and inclusive growth.

We have also begun a program that is supporting Agripreneurs build more gender-responsive agribusinesses.

Pillar three of the AWARD strategy works towards creating an enabling environment by ensuring that gender responsiveness becomes an embedded cultural norm and practice.

Why gender in promoting diversity and inclusiveness in agricultural transformation?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Even though our African economies are growing at a rapid pace, there can be no African prosperity if we leave significant percentages of our populations behind.

Between 2000 and 2014, 5 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies were in Africa. On average for Sub-Saharan Africa, GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.9 percent between 2000 and 2014, compared to 1.7 percent per year for all OECD countries in the same period.

Agriculture is positioned to be a major driver of Africa’s economic growth.

Current trends already indicate growth in a positive direction with the World Bank reporting that Agricultural GDP growth 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 (AfDB) identifies agriculture as the continent’s second-largest industrial sector by value and a McKinsey Global study estimates that it will grow by 6 percent per year until 2030

But even with that growth, we are at a fork in the road and we, as Africans, need to make important decisions.

We must decide whether increased food production will be part of an agriculture that follows previous paths of extraction to export of Africa’s natural resources, the fertility of our soils, and serves only to grow our poverty.

We can’t forget Africa’s bitter history and the continued threat of the extraction & appropriation of African resources in ways that do not build African prosperity.

The agricultural sector employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of Africa’s gross domestic product. If we don’t pay attention to the structural inequalities currently embedded in African agriculture, agricultural growth will merely magnify these inequalities. However, strengthening African agriculture would have the significant economic impact that reaches a majority of Africa’s population. We are at a moment in history where we can decide to build an agriculture sector that will not only feed ALL our people but one that that can lift a majority of our people out of poverty.

Gender responsiveness is a key tool in our toolbox. Gender responsiveness allows us to understand how different types of men and women are positioned differently across agricultural value chains.

I conclude by thanking you our hosts, the Local Organizing Committee, the members and leaders of NiWARD, and all of you for partnering with us on this journey.

I am also thankful for the warm welcome I have received. This is my first ever trip to Nigeria and I wish I was a Nigerian. Maybe you’ll adopt me on my next visit!

Thank you and God bless you.

To learn more on the AWARD Alumnae Country Chapters, please visit: http://awardfellowships.org/institutions/country-chapters/