“Agriculture employs about 80% of the workforce in Malawi while contributing to 30% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Most of the people employed in the agriculture sector are women and the youth. Nevertheless, they still have limited access to ownership and control of finances and productive assets, resulting in them being unable to contribute to agricultural growth, food and nutrition security.” These remarks were made by Mrs. Yanira Mtupanyama, Chief Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in Malawi, at the launch of the Malawi African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (MAWARD).
Held on May 30, 2018 at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) Bunda Campus, the launch dabbed “Strengthening the Role of Women in Agricultural Research and Development through Mentoring and Role Modelling”, was attended by participants from government ministries, non-governmental organizations and agricultural institutions including the Ministry of Water Resources in Malawi; One-Acre Fund; Mombera University; Chitedze Agricultural Research Station (CARS); African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD); UN Women; Malawi’s National Commission on science and Technology, and LUANAR.
AWARD country chapters are designed to catalyze networks for advocacy, knowledge sharing and intra-country collaborations, and they play a critical role in advancing AWARD’s mission. In countries such as Malawi where agriculture tremendously influences the economy, it is imperative that all actors are strategically engaged. Initiatives such as AWARD’s country chapters play a huge role in opening or expanding possible horizons for inclusive engagement.
Speaking at the launch, AWARD Fellow Jacqueline Kazembe noted that, 102 Malawi scientists including fellows, mentors and fellows’ mentees have directly benefited from the AWARD Fellowship initiative. She emphasized that MAWARD seeks to provide a framework for these individuals together with others who share in their vision, to work toward bridging the gaps in Malawi’s agricultural economy.
LUANAR’s Vice-Chancellor, professor G.Y. Kanyama Phiri mentioned that LUANAR has immensely benefited from AWARD’s interventions including both the fellowship and training initiatives. He noted that “Because of AWARD’s leadership and gender series training courses, LUANAR now has a more gender-responsive research team and faculty members and more of our female students continue to benefit through AWARD’s mentorship program.”
Speaking at the launch, AWARD’s Deputy Director Programs, Dr Michèle Mbo’o-Tchouawou, highlighted that AWARD has expanded its mandate to include two more initiatives on Gender in Agribusiness Investments for Africa (GAIA) and on Gender Responsive Agricultural Research and Development (GRARD). She underscored that, with these new initiatives, AWARD is now investing in African women and men scientists, research institutions and agribusinesses so that all the actors in the agricultural sector can take up important roles and deliver research innovations that better serve the needs and priorities of the people and influence social and policy change in the continent.
“Through MAWARD, we will be able to build a strong foundation for success as we forge connections between research and practice. It is my sincere hope that, as we officially launch MAWARD today, we will all be inspired enough to be the champions of positive and transformative change within our institutions, for the agricultural sector in Malawi and for the African continent,” concluded Dr Mbo’o-Tchouawou.
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