Friday, October 2, 2015

Women scientists are needed for agric growth – AWARD

The Director of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, has said that the continent cannot afford to neglect women scientists in its plan of achieving food sufficiency. She decried the attitude of seeing African Women role in agriculture from the narrow view of women bh l 23lkkfarmers in the villages, forgetting the multitude of women scientists and researchers in agriculture in the continent. Speaking at a side event as part of the on-going African Green Revolution Forum in Lusaka, Zambia , Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg said for the continent to increase production and feed itself successfully that it must harness all the resources at its disposal be it women or men. “A few months ago when President Obama was in Kenya, he said, ‘if you are playing a football match and you only put half of your team on the field and leave half on the bench, you will lose the game for sure’,” she said. “So why would Africa continue to play with only half the team when we have available on this continent the intellectual resources of women like this?” Wanjiru added that the question is how to unlock the challenges facing the continent which requires the unity of purpose between the men and women in feeding the continent. She said AWARD is about unlocking the potentials in women scientists that will change the agricultural research and development sector and “most importantly, transforming the face and reality of agriculture in Africa.” AWARD, according to her, provides fellowships to strengthen the research and leadership skills of top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan African. “465 African women scientists have participated in the program since 2008, from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia among others.” One of the awardees, Chapwa Kasoma, a plant breeder and field supervisor with Dupont Pioneer in Zambia, shares her experience on what she is currently doing as a researcher . She said she is developing new varieties of groundnuts to address plant disease and dangerous infestations with aflatoxins that are a major threat to food and economic security for farmers in eastern Zambia. Chapwa Kasoma said that during her training with AWARD, she was told to list her goals for the future. “The most amazing thing is that the goals we set were actually achievable,” she said. Rhoda Mukuka, an AWARD fellow for 2011, said the program has provided her and other fellows the opportunities to excel and increase their visibilities through opportunities they have been provided. She said they don’t just conduct research as women but also translate their insights into practical applications that can make a difference for Africa’s farmers. Rhoda , who was mentored and had mentored others, said “each fellow is matched with a mentor, a respected male or female scientist in her area of expertise. “She attends a Mentoring Orientation Workshop with her mentor where they contract their goals for their year of working together. After her year of being mentored, the fellow takes on a junior scientist as her own mentee.”

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