Mar 30, 2021
Nigerian and Zambian AWARD Country Chapters Partner to Convene a Dialogue

Commemorating this year’s International Women’s day theme calling for collective action to #choosetochallenge, AWARD’s country chapters, Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD), and  Zambian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (ZaWARD), partnered toward a webinar to strengthen their working relations and expose them to more career opportunities.  Held on March 8, 2021, the webinar titled “Choose to Challenge: Women Taking Charge in Agriculture” invoked dialogue on achieving success for women in agricultural research, the place of mentoring in promoting gender equality in STEM, and capacity building as a tool to accelerate inclusive agricultural development in both countries.

The AWARD country chapters provide avenues for the AWARD Fellows to coalesce and foster AWARD’s intra country engagements. Ms. Mutibo Chijikwa Mushenywa, a 2010 AWARD Fellow and ZaWARD’s Vice President, stated that the webinar provided an excellent opportunity for both ZaWARD and NiWARD Fellows to establish solutions that are essential to solving smallholder challenges. “This was a learning opportunity for us. For instance, tomato farming in Zambia faces numerous challenges ranging from annual post-harvest losses to market price fluctuations. NiWARD shared the different methods they use to process and preserve tomatoes, which we can adopt”, she said.

The meeting also provided a platform for them to deliberate on how to forge ahead in championing policies that will enable women scientists to drive Africa’s economic transformation and its sustainable development agenda.

Prof. Oluyemisi Fawole, a 2015 AWARD Fellow and NiWARD’s President, drew attention to the importance of widening the channels that increase women’s participation in research. She pointed out that addressing inequities and challenges unique to them— African women scientists- creates awareness about the gaps and how to fix them. Ms. Mushenya pointed out the benefit of research institutions and organizations like AWARD that are strategically placed to pivot women to the core of essential discussions and transformative policies. She asserted that the AWARD Fellowship opened numerous doors for her, enabling her to accelerate her career progression and equipping her with skills to better engage with farmers.

The webinar participants mentioned intentional mentoring and capacity building as tools for growth opportunities for women scientists to thrive. While speaking on mentoring as a tool to promote women’s participation in innovative and transformative research, 2013 Nigerian AWARD Fellow Dr. Blessing Okogbue highlighted her experience as a Fellows’ Mentee and as a Fellow in the AWARD’s mentoring program. She stated that through mentoring, she was able to form strategic networks that positioned her for success. Her Zambian counterpart, 2011 AWARD Fellow, Ms. Marcy Chisi Sakala, added that to improve smallholder farmers’ efficiency to meet the growing demand for food security, there is a need for diverse and intensified capacity-building methods. Ms. Sakala carries out out-grower schemes with women farmers and provides them with mechanized services for ploughing. She also offers online training to the farmers, especially now that a hands-on approach is not possible.

Being a first of its kind, the webinar provided an opportunity for the Fellows to identify critical strategies for women empowerment in both countries. They also noted that the partnership would provide a suitable platform for collaborative research and promote visibility for the Fellows and the farmers. “We plan to work on proposals together that could generate some income for us to push our projects forward,” said Ms. Mushenya



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