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Capacity fit to size: Tailoring training for different levels in agricultural research and development institutions

As reflected in our new strategy 2017-2022, one of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD)'s core programmatic activities is in Training. Through training, AWARD designs customized learning experiences focused on building the leadership, mentoring, scientific research and technical gender skills of the agricultural workforce and decision makers. As 2017 comes to an end, we reflect on a critical component of our strategy, institutional transformation. By aiming at individuals from targeted institutions, AWARD seeks to increase capacity within these targeted institutions to lead in scientific research as well as create a more gender-responsive workplace. The training courses are designed to customize learning experiences focused on building the leadership, mentoring, scientific research writing, and technical gender skills of Africa's agricultural workforce and decision makers.

October and November were a buzz of activities for our training team. In the first week of October, AWARD, in partnership with Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), hosted a Leadership Program for Agricultural Research and Development (LEPARD) training in Nairobi, Kenya.  19 participants drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, and Nigeria attended the weeklong training.  The participants all hailed from various research institutions in their respective countries, including Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the Federal University of Technology in Nigeria, the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, the Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research, Mozambique, Sokoine University in Tanzania, the Department of Research and Development, Tanzania, Moi and Eldoret universities in Kenya. The AWARD training team also extended their transformative coaching to deans from RUFORUM universities who were trained in institutionalization of gender in training, research, outreach, and management of agricultural colleges and universities.   

The following week, the AWARD Training Team pitched its tent in Kitale, Kenya, to deliver two courses: AWARD Scientific Writing and Publishing Course and the AWARD Research Proposal Writing Course.  These courses were targeted at staff of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Moi University.  On behalf of the university’s vice chancellor, Professor Mark Odhiambo, School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, gave the opening remarks, lamenting “If I had been equipped with such tools during my earlier years of studies, I would have done things differently.”  Prof. Odhiambo even joined in on the AWARD Research Proposal Writing course discussion.  The courses included one day of field trips, during which participants visited local community-based organizations and tested their familiarity with different gender tools, such as the Harvard model, preference ranking, and gender feasibility analysis.  The weeklong course was attended by a total of 23 participants.  

Further, the AWARD training team in partnership with Gender-Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) and Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) convened a gender awareness training in Uganda to 78 of the top management team of National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). The participants were taken through training on gender policy, implementation frameworks and review of standard operating procedures in the context of their individual institutions.

In November, the AWARD Training Team traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to host a weeklong LEPARD training, this time specifically for heads of various stations of the Tanzanian Department of Research and Development (DRD).  Dr. Hussein Mansoor, the Director General of DRD opened the workshop. As the 27 LEPARD participants were all senior staff from 11 DRD centers across Tanzania, this training carried great potential to strengthen leadership throughout the DRD system, a change which will impact many more DRD employees than just the 27 that attended. 

To cap off the year, the AWARD training team ventured off the African continent to conduct a very special Women’s Leadership and Management Course hosted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India.  The 25 participants were an incredibly diverse bunch, hailing from very different Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers organizational roles, including legal counsel, research, and grants management. In addition to ICRISAT, participants from various research institutions including; WorldFish, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), World Vegetable Centre and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) also attended the training.  By the training’s midway point, participants had already set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch as they employ what they have learned during the training. 

The AWARD training initiative represents another facet of its commitment to strengthening the African agricultural research and development sector. We look forward to another year of working with institutions and individuals to transform agricultural research and development.