Gender gaps: Bane of Africa’s agricultural R&D

A woman farmer attending crops on a farm
Copyright: Panos

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  • Lack of adequate women agricultural scientists hampers Africa’s food security
  • Project aims to boost collaboration between women scientists
  • Partnership could help more women create innovations to aid food security

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[NAIROBI] Africa’s agricultural production is negatively affected by gaps in gender-responsive agricultural research, experts say.

The gaps include fewer agricultural female researchers than male counterparts. Gender-responsive research addresses the distinct needs and priorities of men and women.

According to the experts increased production and dissemination of gender-responsive research and innovations in agriculture could be a significant game-changer for Africa in realising food and nutrition security sustainably.

The experts were speaking in Kenya last month (19 February) during the signing of a partnership between Kenya-based African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and France’s Agropolis Fondation.

“We want to increase scientific research collaborations and partnerships between Francophone and Anglophone women scientists to ensure a Pan-African transformation of the agricultural sector.”

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development

The partnership will see Agropolis invest US$1 million aimed at structuring fellowship activities such as building science skills through courses and development of leadership capacity that will increase collaborations between female scientists in Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

The partnership will see AWARD, according to its director, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, expand into Francophone Africa, the Pacific, South-East Asia and even Europe.

During the signing of the partnership,, a new cohort of 28 fellows was commissioned from Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Togo, with mentors from across Africa.

“We want to increase scientific research collaborations and partnerships between Francophone and Anglophone women scientists to ensure a Pan-African transformation of the agricultural sector,” Wanjiru-Rutenberg said.

Wanjiru-Rutenberg tells SciDev.Net that although gender-responsive agricultural research should address the distinct needs of men and women, their aim is to reach women as only one in every four agricultural researchers is female, a gap they aim to close.

She added that Francophone African women in research and scientific leadership are even fewer than their counterparts from the Anglophone Africa.  

“The contribution of female agricultural researchers from Francophone Africa is 15 per cent, which is less than the continent’s average of 20 per cent,” noted Wanjiru-Rutenberg, adding that the continent needs to build scientific systems and institutions that reduce this gap and help find sustainable solutions to agricultural challenges in Africa such as climate change.  

Pascal Kosuth, director of Agropolis Fondation, added, “We want to support African agricultural scientists to advance on research fronts in agricultural technologies such as seed systems.”

He noted that there is a need to increase the quantity and qualities of women in agricultural research as they connect more with the communities and could help preserve agricultural biodiversity.

Rosine Nzietchueng, head of higher education at the French Embassy in Kenya, said that the creation and sustenance of North-South and South-South links between scientists will help female scientists advance their knowledge and develop innovations that can spur food and nutrition security.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.