image description

Madiba, Scholars, and the future of Africa

Founded in 2003 with nearly 450 beneficiaries since inception, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) commemorates the centenary year of Nelson Mandela in July 2018 through the attainment of the milestone of 100 Mandela Rhodes Scholars in residence in this hallmark year.

This is a guest blog by Judy Sikuza. It was originally published on The Mandela Rhodes Foundation website.

At a presentation of the Africa Peace Award to Mozambique in November 1997, Mr Mandela proclaimed that “the time for Africa’s renewal, for our continent to occupy the pedestal of the successful, has come to pass. Africa yearns and deserves to redeem her glory, to reassert her centuries-old contribution to economics, politics, culture and the arts, and once more to be a pioneer in the many fields of human endeavour.” In absorbing this quote, one cannot help but revel in the certainty with which Mr Mandela painted this future vision of the African continent, and honour his subsequent efforts towards its realisation. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, whose purpose is building exceptional leadership in Africa, is one of the key vehicles in the Mandela Legacy organisations that seeks to make real the very dream of ushering Africa, with dignity, into its rightful place as an equal and competitive presence in the global world.

Founded in 2003 with nearly 450 beneficiaries since inception, the MRF commemorates the centenary year of Nelson Mandela in July 2018 through the attainment of the milestone of 100 Mandela Rhodes Scholars in residence in this hallmark year. This achievement was a commitment made to the founding patron 15 years ago, and serves as a living testament of the vision that Mr Mandela had of providing education and exceptional leadership development opportunities to young leaders from across the continent. The 100 Scholars in residence come from 19 African countries, amongst these: Ivory Coast, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Togo and many others. Their areas of study range from Philosophy, International Relations, Biochemistry, Economics, Linguistics, Health Innovation, Media Theory and Practice, Information Technology and Renewable Energy. Each of the 100 Scholars being funded by the Foundation this year speak with great excitement and clarity about the kind of Africa they want to be part of leading, challenging not only the notion of Africa as a continent that is always “catching up” – but one that is driving innovation through leap frogging in technological advancements, creating new economic models that ensure true distribution of wealth, telling uniquely African stories in African languages, and using renewable energy as the driving source that fuels our economies and homes.

The Foundation’s investment in these young African leaders speaks directly to Mr Mandela’s idea of building a generation of leaders and influencers in their respective fields who will substantially re-imagine and co-create a new dawn for Africa. As the entire world celebrates the centenary year of the birth of one of its greatest sons, this landmark is an invitation for all of us to reflect with gratitude, accountability, responsibility, and possibility. The gains made across the African continent in the post-colonial era must be acknowledged and celebrated, but we must equally admit they were not without their complications. Liberation movements across the continent came into political power with socio-economic policies that sought to right the wrongs of the past. But the lure of absolute power and greed have unfortunately plagued too many nations from which our Mandela Rhodes Scholars originate, including the very country that Nelson Mandela helped lead into democracy. So this centenary milestone is an opportunity for all of us to take stock of the hard battles won for the benefit of the greater good, whist simultaneously not tiring in our efforts to continue to accelerate the progress made towards the true transformation of the African continent.

The 100 Scholars in Madiba’s centenary year serve as a physical manifestation of the possibilities that lie ahead for our future as a continent. Their passion, dedication, intellect, and commitment to ethical leadership gives hope that when others gather in another hundred years, the fruits of freedom, peace and prosperity that will exist among all Africans can in part be attributed to the courageous and creative efforts that resulted from Mandela Rhodes Scholars of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. May the ‘Madiba Magic’ then continue to inspire and guide us, especially in the more difficult parts of the next hundred years. And as we carry forward the baton handed over to us by Madiba and his comrades, may we as young Africans continue to Aspire To Be and remember that it seems impossible until it is done. And rest assured, it shall be done.

Apollo Nkwake wins the 2017 American Evaluation Association ‘Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator Award’

Apollo Nkwake, an outstanding monitoring and evaluation expert and an Associate Research Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University, is among six individuals and two organizational teams honored for their outstanding work over the past year.

Nkwake is the immediate former senior manager for monitoring and evaluation at African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).  

While receiving his award at the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), Nkwake expressed his delight noting that “It's such an honor and great delight to receive this award. This inspires me to pay even more attention to systematic inquiry, competence, integrity/honesty, and respect for people and responsibilities for general and public welfare within my practice. “

Read the whole press release here: AEA ANNOUNCES 2017 AWARD WINNERS

The AWARD family wishes to congratulate Nkwake and his colleagues on receiving the prestigious awards!

About the AEA awards

AEA offers awards in eight distinct areas to acknowledge outstanding colleagues and outstanding work. Through identifying those who exemplify the very best in the field, AEA honors the practitioner and advance the discipline. In any given year, there may be no winner or multiple winners for a particular award. Each proposal is judged on its individual merit.

AWARD Communications Department Welcomes Two!

From Left: Dorine Odongo, AWARD's Communications Manager and Lauren Chang, AWARD's Communications Associate

I am pleased to announce that there have been two recent additions to the AWARD team: Dorine Odongo and Lauren Chang.  Both of our new members will be joining our Communications department.  Dorine is heading the department as our new Communications Manager, while Lauren is learning the ropes as a Communications Associate. 

Dorine has worked both as a research officer and a research communications specialist in agricultural research and development. She holds a master’s degree in Agricultural Information and Communication Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences.

Dorine joins us from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) where she served as the Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist for two research programs: Livelihoods, Gender and Impact; and Sustainable Livestock Systems. She was responsible for producing and implementing communication and stakeholder engagement strategies for different projects across different countries. As part of her role, Dorine led the program-level external and internal communications and media relations, supported learning and exchange, developed specialist strategic partnerships and helped to guide and channel knowledge generated through the program for widest application and use.

Passionate about research uptake, Dorine serves as a board member of the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT), where she is responsible for advisory in ‘Applied Research and Livelihood Support Training’.

We are excited to have Dorine join us as we move into our new 2017-2022 strategy. She will work with the rest of the team to raise AWARD’s global and regional profile. She will lead in producing and implementing our strategies for advocacy and engagement to demonstrate why gender responsiveness in agricultural research and development matters.

Recently graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, Lauren joins AWARD through Princeton in Africa, a year-long fellowship for recent college graduates designed to develop young leaders committed to Africa and its advancement.  She is the second Princeton in Africa Fellow hosted by AWARD.  Lauren holds a B.A. in Biology and a Certificate in Writing.  She is passionate about conservation, STEM education, and gender equality. 

During her undergraduate career, Lauren worked as a lab assistant in an entomology laboratory, completed a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU), and interned with U.S. federal congresswoman Doris O. Matsui.  Lauren will assist the AWARD Communications department in capturing and sharing the growth and progress of AWARD, supporting our past and present fellows, and cultivating the AWARD voice.

Please join me and the rest of the AWARD staff in congratulating and welcoming Dorine and Lauren to the AWARD family!

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

Since 2008, the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) has, through individually tailored two-year fellowships, reached more than 460 Fellows and worked with more than 350 mentors across Africa. This prolific network of researchers in agricultural research and development in different countries created through the AWARD Fellowship program, has resulted in creation of country chapters, comprising AWARD Alumni Fellows, Mentors, Mentees, and other individuals interested in driving the agenda for gender and agricultural research and development.

On September 13-16, 2017, the Nigeria country chapter, Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) held its fifth annual general meeting and national conference themed ‘Diversity and inclusiveness in agricultural transformation’. Held at Park Inn Radisson, Abeokuta, Nigeria on September 13-16, 2017, the conference brought together over 200 participants from universities, research institutes, and other AWARD country chapters.

AWARD Director, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, while giving the keynote address at the event emphasized the role and importance of gender responsiveness in the growth of the African economy. “Embedding gender responsiveness in Africa’s agricultural research and development will allow us to understand the different distinct roles of men and women who are positioned differently across agricultural value chains and in turn build an agriculture sector that will not only feed all Africans, but one that can lift a majority of us out of poverty,” she noted.

Read her full speech

AWARD's New Deputy Director

I’m excited to share with the AWARD community the onboarding of AWARD’s Deputy Director for Programs, Dr. Michèle Mbo’o-Tchouawou.

Michèle represents exactly the kind of passionate and committed leader that AWARD needs as we march confidently into our new strategy.

A rising superstar, Michèle is a gender expert, a gender economist to be specific, with experience working on socioeconomic dynamics including gender dimensions of agricultural research on the continent.

Michèle joins us from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) where she contributed to the broader agenda on gender and equity for livestock and agricultural development. As part of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) team, Michèle has been working with national partners to ensure inclusiveness and systematic gender mainstreaming in agricultural investment plans, programs, and interventions in line with the strategic objectives of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). As part of her responsibilities at ILRI, Michèle provided support for collecting and compiling data as well as updating the CAADP M&E indicators for the East and Central Africa region as per the CAADP results framework. 

Michèle holds a PhD in Economics and a Masters’ degree in Networks Economics and Information Management from the University of Paris-Sud 11, France. She also received a Masters’ degree in Management and International trade from the University of Clermont-Ferrand II, France and a BSc. in Business Administration from HEC (Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales), Rabat, Morocco.

A native of Cameroon, she brings a valuable Francophone Africa perspective to our work and will help us grow our presence and attention to the region.

As Deputy Director for Programs, Michèle will provide overall leadership in the development, management, strategy, quality, and managed growth of AWARD programs. Working closely with me, she will help enhance AWARD’s performance and credibility as an essential player and expert on gender responsive agricultural research and development by leading AWARD’s day to day engagement with regional, continental, and global stakeholders.

Please join me in congratulating Michèle and welcoming her to the AWARD family!


AWARD Welcomes New Staff

I’m delighted to introduce Mr. Hailemichael Beyene, AWARD’s new Program Research and Evaluation Specialist.

Hailemichael joins us from the International Livestock and Research Institute’s (ILRI) Addis Ababa campus where he served as the Results Based Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Specialist for the Ethiopia Livestock and Irrigation Value chain for Smallholders project (LIVES).  He previously worked with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, where he was an M&E Specialist on an African Development Bank (AfDB) funded Agricultural Sector Support Project (ASSP).  He also has experience working as a Social-Economic Research Officer at Ethiopia’s Southern Agricultural Research Institution (SARI).

Hailemichael holds a Masters’ degree (with Distinction) in Development Evaluation and Management from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and a BSc in Agricultural Extension from Alemaya University in Ethiopia. He is a specialist in several areas of M&E including research, impact evaluation, equity focused evaluation, and sustainability evaluation.  He holds specialist certifications from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Canada’s Institute for Development Economics and Administration, and the Government of India’s National Water Academy among others.

An active contributor to Africa’s growing M&E sector, Hailemichael serves as a board member of the Ethiopian Evaluation Association (EEvA) and is a member of the African Evaluation Association (AfREA).  He has also published extensively on M&E in the African context.

Hailemichael is an important addition to the AWARD team as we move into our new 2017-2022 strategy and he will work with the rest of the team to raise AWARD’s global and regional profile as a leader in generating, curating, disseminating, and applying evidence for gender responsive agricultural research and development. Hailemichael will assist Michele Mbo’o Tchouawou, our new Deputy Director of Programs, with AWARD’s research, monitoring, evaluation, and data analysis activities.

Please join me and the rest of the AWARD staff in congratulating Hailemichael and welcoming him to the AWARD family.

FARA and AWARD: Working Towards a Gender Responsive Agricultural Research for Inclusive, Agriculture Driven Prosperity for Africa

Watch Dr. Yemi Akinbajo's opening remarks here

Guest Blog: Opening Remarks from Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) at the Launch of AWARD’s GRARD initiative, July 11, 2017.


I would like to extend my warm greetings to African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and its partners in the launch of AWARD’s initiative, Gender Responsive Agricultural Research and Development (GRARD).

As the apex organization charged with the strategic role of coordinating agricultural research in Africa, we at FARA are excited to partner with AWARD to strengthen the commitment and capacity of African research institutions to conduct more gender responsive agricultural research. It is not a light thing to be an institutional partner with AWARD as you commence this noble journey into the world of gender responsiveness. It will be a long, tardy and demanding ordeal, but definitely a worthwhile journey. FARA is pleased to partner with you from Day 1. Although I am not a football fan, for the discerning, let me leave you the phrase ‘You’ll never walk alone’ reminiscent of Liverpool FC.

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

The S3A and Gender responsiveness

The S3A is now in its Roll-Out phase with preliminary activities now happening in 42 African countries. This is scaling at work. Scaling must be a collective action happening at the same time with all aces on the desk at the same time. At a time when the human resources for AR4D is waning, it is therefore timeous that AWARD is launching the GRARD at this time. There could not have been a better synergistic moment. On our part, we are also mapping the capacity dynamics through the e-Capacity initiative of FARA. This aligns very well with the mapping work of AWARD.  FARA believes that without the catalytic role of the science agenda in a gender-responsive manner, the African transformation dream will only be a mirage. This is because the role of science in enhancing agricultural productivity, competitiveness and market access in Africa is too important for it to be outsourced.  AWARD is wired to respond to emerging opportunities and challenges facing the continent and its quest to become food and nutrition secure and improve the welfare of its people. It is also weaving together key networks and stakeholders on the continent and globally reinforcing the capacity of Africa to improve its agricultural science and innovation for food and nutrition security and reduce poverty in compliance with the relevant SDGs.

As a network of networks, supporting African agricultural research institutions is at the core of our work with scientific research playing a critical role in enhancing agricultural productivity, competitiveness, and market access.  We at FARA agree with the foregoing AWARD core values, and we fully support its notion that gender responsiveness has the potential to enhance agricultural research for Africa’s sustained and inclusive economic growth.  This is because gender responsiveness offers a powerful tool through which agricultural researchers can be intentional in addressing the constraints of African farmers at the margins, especially women and youth.

As one of the four core programmatic thrusts of AWARD, GRARD is geared to respond to the needs and priorities of a diversity of women and men across Africa’s agricultural value chains. I am convinced that gender responsive research is more efficient; it results in more inclusive, better targeted, more relevant innovations with higher rates of adoption. This is a significant point of convergence with FARA values and mission that are heavily laced with gender responsiveness.

Like AWARD, FARA envisions a robust, resilient, and gender responsive agricultural innovation system working to drive prosperity and food and nutrition security for Africa.  Contributing towards this vision, AWARD is investing in African scientists, research institutions and agribusinesses to deliver innovative, sustainable, gender-responsive agricultural research and innovation – the reason why many of you are in this room today.

I am personally convinced that AWARD’s new initiative focused on Gender Responsive Agricultural research and Development (GRARD) will actively catalyse transformative change in African agricultural research by supporting African research institutions and scientists to conduct agricultural research that responds to the needs and priorities of a diversity of men and women across agricultural value chains.

AWARD is the continent’s leading knowledge hub on gender and agricultural research so partnership with AWARD offers FARA access to the leading innovation and thoughtful leadership on the subject.  As such, FARA is proud to partner with AWARD as we work together to ensure inclusive agriculture-driven prosperity for the African continent.

As a tail piece, let me encourage you that the close of this workshop is the beginning of a new zest of life in Africa’s AR4D spectrum – in this world of hashtags, let me encourage you to do three things - Go out there and Be Calm: spread the #Genderword, Be Calm: be #Gendersmart, and Be Calm: be #genderresponsive

Let me therefore close with my very cordial wishes to you all as you work assiduously to lace up African AR4D in a gender-responsive manner, find time to soak up the lovely atmosphere that Nairobi has to offer as you become ‘genderized’!

Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of your workshop. 


Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo is an agricultural research for development expert.  A Nigerian national, he has spent the past three decades of his career in Africa and Europe working in the domains of international agriculture, food and nutrition security, natural resource management including crop-livestock integrated systems, market-oriented production systems, regional value chains, urban agriculture and land use management, sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation.

Dr. Akinbamijo is a strong analytical and strategic thinker. He is an active contributor to the global discourse on strategies for attaining a sustainable and inclusive agricultural transformation. He is also a consummate networker who is solidly plugged into an extensive community of stakeholders in the African agricultural and rural development landscape, including donors.

Power, Privilege, and the Obligations of Belonging

A commencement speech by Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg | May 212017

Justice Robart, President Murray, distinguished guests, and most importantly, class of 2017, I am tremendously thankful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to address you and pray to do it justice.

A lot of graduation speeches seem to offer advice on how new graduates should live their lives.  I’m not yet 40 and don’t feel wise or experienced enough to offer such advice. It feels like I’ve only just graduated Whitman myself.

As a wife and the stressed out mother of an 8yr old and a 2 yr old, I struggle to balance pursuit of a meaningful career with building a strong family life. I’m still trying to figure out the answers for myself.

But I think these are the same qualifications; wife, mother, and committed change agent, that compel me to use this speech as an opportunity to point our collective attention to some of the urgent challenges and tremendous opportunities that we face at this moment in history.

Today I want to celebrate your bright shining faces and these robes that mark your new belonging to a global educated elite. My goal for today is to challenge you to think about the power, privilege, obligation and opportunity that come with your new degrees.

Let me apologize early but my speech is not going to be light or funny. Its actually quite heavy. I was a Politics major here at Whitman who went on to become a Political Scientist so I definitely want to talk about politics. (On our way here, my husband and I argued about whether I was being too nerdy and philosophical.  I told him you’d understand me since you’re smarter than average and we all took encounters which is what this speech is really all about)

I want to honour the fact that we are living in the proverbial ‘interesting times’ and that you, the class of 2017 are graduating into a world that is currently tight with political and social tensions.

I would characterise wealth inequality and diminishing opportunities as the most important problems that shape the world you are joining us into.

Around the world, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, doors to opportunity are rapidly closing and people are increasingly more desperate as they seek dignified lives for themselves and their children. 

Young men and women from across Africa are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean knocking on European doors that are locked increasingly tighter. 

Some of your families here today risked it all to cross a hostile border in search of opportunities North. Now there is talk about building even taller walls.

Across what is now called ‘flyover country’ much of the formerly middle class America is coming to terms with the fact that the American dream doesn’t buy what it used to.

We are chocking and gasping for clean air in the midst of a climate catastrophe as factories consume more natural resources than Mother Earth can sustain, automation decimates jobs, and cities become graveyards for the dreams of our youth.

So who is to blame?

America’s current political leadership, voted into power by a significant percentage of the population, has very particular ideas about which kinds of people are to blame, which kinds of bodies belong in America, and which ones should be excluded.

From Moscow, Russia to Moscow, Idaho with Brexit in between, much of the electorate around the world is eagerly pointing an accusing finger at the ‘other’, the ‘stranger’, the immigrant.

In the midst of all this, we, Whitman graduates stand as some of the most privileged of our generation.

We are the beneficiaries of some of the most expensive education on the planet and whether you came from a family of poverty or wealth, by virtue of your Whitman education, you stand on the threshold of more opportunity than most of your peers around the world will ever know.

What is your obligation?

And here I’m not talking of guilt.  I’m not talking about that almost-delicious feeling that permits us to wring our hands in narcissistic self-flagellation, and then step away from our obligation to work towards justice.

When I challenge us to think about our obligation, I'm speaking from an almost spiritual perspective that to whom much is given, much is also expected.  I mean that, by virtue of this expensive and precious Whitman education, we also carry a level of obligation to make the world a better place.

We are not the first generation that has had to do this kind of difficult work. My husband is an American Jew and last month we visited the Holocaust memorial in Berlin for the first time. We also visited the burial place of his great grandparents who were killed in the banality of that evil. 

Berlin reminded me that generations who came before us have faced the difficult work of recalibrating the meaning of justice, rebuilding more inclusive societies, and crafting institutions that can hold those in power to account. 

But we find ourselves at this point in history because the work of previous generations remains incomplete.  And like these United States whose union calls for continued perfecting, the ties of justice that bind our human family together need continued nurturing and occasional repair.

You must feel overwhelmed hearing me challenge you to use your Whitman degrees to repair the world (What a wonderful Jewish concept. Tikkun Olam). But I promise you that on that journey, it is the things that seem hard that are simple and the things that seem simple that are hardest.

The late Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai talked about purposeful actions that seem small but change the world by challenging systems. She talked about her ‘little thing’ being planting trees.

My ‘little thing’ has been a concern for wasted talent.

A few years after leaving Whitman, I founded Akili Dada, a leadership incubator that invests in talented young women from poor families who are passionate about driving social change in their marginalized communities.

Today, 141 brilliant girls from the poorest families across Kenya have received full scholarships to access a high school education that was previously inaccessible. 100% of these girls go on to earn full scholarships to universities around the world, further magnifying the impact of our scholarships.

As part of our investment, these young women leaders are required to design and implement social change projects to serve their communities. 

In the last decade, hundreds of thousands in poor communities have been touched by the work of Akili Dada. We are not only growing a cohort of female leaders for the continent, we are also shifting society’s attitudes towards women, especially young women in leadership.

As you think about how you might leverage the privilege that comes with your Whitman degree into impact in the real world, allow me to quickly share three lessons from my Akili Dada journey that might help:

  1. Start with what you already know. What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome to get to where you are today? Who else are facing similar challenges?  What worked for you and how can you scale it up to help others?  Its that simple. No need to go off saving Africans in far off places (unless you’re an African, in which case come back home!). For me, Akili Dada was born out of trying to scale up the ways that my Whitman experience had changed my life and to make that kind of experience available to hundreds more girls.
  1. Money is important but its not worth worshiping. I struggled really hard to raise money for Akili Dada. Really hard.  Here I was, a scholarship kid myself trying to raise scholarships for other kids. At Whitman, I made close friends with kids who had never known a day of poverty.  Living with them, rubbing up against their daily lives taught me that wealth doesn’t make you happier, wiser, or immune to the pain of being human. It was one of the most important things I learnt here and allowed me to be more authentic as I sought to build a network of high net-worth supporters of Akili Dada’s work.
  1. At the same time, we can’t afford to ignore money. For too long, we on the Left have pretended that money is dirty and those with wealth are automatically on the wrong side of justice. At the same time, the Koch brothers have leveraged their wealth into tremendous political power and policy influence. Progressives needs to arrive at a more sophisticated understanding of money and wealth.  Here I come back to this idea that privilege carries obligation. Some of the most inspiring wealthy people I have met are those who are principled in how they leverage their wealth into social change. Many of them I have met through Whitman.

Today, two of the young women of Akili Dada are members of my beloved Whitman community.

Michele Buyaki, who has just completed her first year at Whitman, and Faith Nyakundi who graduates today.  That the three of us are here today, is confirmation that pursuing your ‘little thing’ does make a difference.

In important ways, the story of Akili Dada here today, is very much the story of Whitman. It is the story of opportunity opened up, expanded and multiplied.  It is the story of how privilege can be leveraged into impactful change.  It is the story of us as a Whitman community and it is an incredibly hopeful story unfolding at a politically important moment.

It is one that I pray will inspire you as you navigate the tensions of the current political moment and work out how you will leverage your unique privilege to fulfil your obligation to repair the world.

On behalf of fellow Whitman alumni from years past, I congratulate you and welcome you to this exclusive Whitman alumni community where membership comes with an obligation to make the world a better place!

Thank you!

Watch her video

View her photos

Join the Conversation on Gender and Agricultural Productivity

Please join me on June 12 - 25, 2017, for a critical online discussion on gender and agricultural productivity that I am facilitating on behalf of both the African Development Bank and AWARD.

This important discussion is intended to support the Gender Focal Points at the African Development Bank in their work to buttress the implementation of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy. The conversation is also part of AWARD’s ongoing baseline study on the state of gender in agricultural research on the continent.

Energetic contributions from across the continent are needed to ensure that gender remains central to the Bank’s implementation of its Feed Africa Strategy.  Your contributions will also inform AWARD’s own way forward as we seek to support African scientists and research institutions better respond to the needs and priorities of the diversity of men and women across agricultural value chains.

Please click here to visit the AfDB Gender in Practice Community of Practice (GiP CoP) and register to contribute to the discussion. You can also send your contribution by email to

I look forward to learning together as we support the Gender Focal Points ensure that gender remains central to the Bank’s Feed Africa initiative.

The discussion will be organized in three phases as below, and you are welcome to contribute to all or some of the phases:

Phase 1: Gender gap in agricultural productivity (June 12 –25)

Facilitator: Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg PhD, Director, African Women in Agricultural Research (AWARD)

A recent study measuring the economic costs of the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda finds that closing the gender gap could lift as many as 238,000 people out of poverty in Malawi, 119,000 people in Uganda, and approximately 80,000 people in Tanzania every year. (11) Success in the achievement of poverty reduction and elimination of hunger as part of the Feed Africa strategy is dependent on a supply side approach whereby needs of both women and men are taken into account when designing and implementing interventions.  This phase will explore the questions such as: how does the gender gap in agricultural productivity occur and why?; what are the implications of this gender gap, especially for women in subsistence agriculture?; how have these realities been integrated into interventions and projects to reduce the gender gap in agricultural productivity and address the challenges of subsistence agriculture?; how should the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy; through its flagship initiatives and programmes be used to reduce the gender gap in agricultural productivity and support a strong foundation for Africa’s agricultural transformation?

Phase 2: Gender gap in Agribusiness, industries and markets (26 June – 10 July)

Facilitator: Ndiaye Tacko, Senior Gender Officer, FAO Regional Office for Africa

The Feed Africa Strategy seeks to design and lead the operation of areas that are both critical to drive transformation and for which the Bank is able to leverage its comparative advantages. (7) It is crucial to support women’s participation in value addition, agribusiness, agro industries as well as commercialization of agricultural products. Well-designed interventions in the sector will enable women to participate at all levels of the value chain; and will have the potential to bolster the achievement of the goals of the Feed Africa Strategy. This phase will explore questions such as: what are the challenges to women’s engagement in priority value chains, agribusiness and industries, including value addition, and commercialization of agricultural products?; how have DFIs –including the AfDB- and other development partners supported women’s engagement in these sub-sectors?; how should the Bank address these challenges?; and how could the ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth initiative, be used to support gender equality in these sub-sectors?

Phase 3: Gender gap in agriculture finance (11 July – 24 July)

Facilitator: Toda Atsuko, Director for Agricultural Finance and Rural Development, AfDB

Women often have limited control and ownership over assets such as land. They also lack the ability to post hard collateral for loans -which are necessary in the resource intensive agriculture sector-.  In addition to socio-cultural constraints which limit their activities in the agriculture sector; women face constraints in accessing training and capacity building and membership in producer organizations. These unique challenges make access to finance a much bigger challenge for women compared to men in the agricultural sector. This phase will explore the questions such as: what are the main challenges to gender equality in agriculture finance?; what has been done – by the AfDB, DFIs and stakeholders - to address the gender gap in agriculture finance? Which financing mechanisms could be successfully used to tackle gender equality in agriculture finance?; How can the Bank through the Feed Africa Strategy address such challenges, as it works to bolster food security on the continent?; and what experiences and lessons could be used to buttress the effectiveness of the Bank’s interventions in this area?

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.