Intensifying its investment in Africa’s agricultural-driven prosperity, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) has recently launched its country chapter in Senegal, bringing the total number of AWARD country chapters to eleven. The journey toward the Senegalese Association of Women in Agricultural Research and Development (SenAWARD) goes back to October 2019 when AWARD convened francophone AWARD Fellows, Mentors, and Fellows’ Mentees in Cote d’Ivoire to lay the foundation for the creation of a francophone chapter, capitalizing on the AWARD Pan-African Fellowship.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization emphasizes that agriculture remains the backbone of many African economies, accounting for 57% of total employment, 17% of gross domestic product, and 11% of export earnings. Over the years, the perceived role of agriculture in Africa’s development and growth has considerably changed. Traditionally, the agriculture sector was a passive contributor to development by providing food and labor to industrialization. Today, this view has been swept aside by the possibility of transforming traditional agriculture into a modern sector and its active role in initiating broader development.
Researchers and scientists are at the heart of this agrarian revolution, the cogs that keep the agricultural wheel spinning. Nevertheless, a 2014 study, Taking Stock of National Agricultural R&D Capacity in Africa South of the Sahara, records that women are grossly underrepresented in agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa. The gender gap has resulted in non-inclusive agricultural research systems and reduced productivity, stifling progress toward food and nutrition security in line with The African Union’s AGENDA 2063 – The Africa We Want. For AWARD, this gap is an opportunity to highlight the transformative value of inclusive agricultural research.
SenAWARD’s vision is to be a multi-stakeholder platform for cross-learning and sharing ideas to help revitalize agriculture in Senegal. The membership is open to all Senegalese women or residents of Senegal who work in the agricultural sector. On July 10, 2021, the chapter held its General Assembly, where new officials were appointed, with Dr. Fatou Ndoye, a 2018 AWARD Fellow, elected as its President.
For the last 13 years, AWARD has been working to advance inclusive agricultural research by supporting African agricultural researchers and institutions to prioritize and embrace gender responsiveness. Through its tailored fellowships for agricultural researchers, AWARD has strengthened African women’s leadership and research skills in agricultural science, empowering them to contribute more effectively to alleviating poverty and increasing food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
AWARD has coalesced the over 1,500 beneficiaries of the AWARD Fellowship across Africa and beyond into country chapters that cascade the mission toward gender responsiveness in their respective countries. These country chapters mobilize AWARD Fellows, Mentors, Fellows’ Mentees, and other practitioners interested in driving gender-responsive agricultural research and development. The country chapters build on members’ experiences with AWARD’s interventions to forge joint advocacy on gender responsiveness and promote empowerment among professional scientists and other stakeholders in the national/regional research and development institutions.
To date, AWARD has facilitated the establishment of 11 country chapters: MaWARD (Malawi), Ke-AWARD (Kenya), Rwanda-AWARD (Rwanda), MozAWARD (Mozambique), TanzaWARD (Tanzania), NiWARD (Nigeria), UgAWARD (Uganda), EWARD (Ethiopia), GhaWARD (Ghana), ZaWARD (Zambia) and SenAWARD (Senegal).
AWARD country chapters, through which we bolster our intra-country and institutional engagement, progressively record remarkable developments. In Kenya, Ke-AWARD recently partnered with the Laikipia County Government for a training exercise where 33 agricultural extension officers in Laikipia East were equipped with skills and knowledge on agro-processing, feed formulation, marketing, and livestock production for increased milk yields in the region.
In southern Africa, the Malawi African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (MAWARD) received a commendation from Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Mr. Lobin Lowe, for its efforts in promoting more inclusive and gender-responsive agricultural value chains.
The Ghanaian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (GhaWARD) held mentoring initiative workshops at Hohoe E.P Senior High School and OLA Girls Senior High School. These sessions were led by and Dr. Faith Agbozo, Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Health and Allied Sciences and a 2015 AWARD Fellow, and Ms. Matilda Dzomeku, a Senior Research Scientist at CSIR-Food Research Institute and a 2013 AWARD Fellow, respectively.
The future of Africa’s agricultural research and development is rife, and AWARD’s engagement with the country chapters resonates across the different regions to advance the agenda on inclusive and agriculture-driven prosperity for Africa.
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