Rural women farmers as drivers of progress and change

ICRISAT stall at the Sharefair.

Rural women farmers as drivers of progress and change

ICRISAT stall at the Sharefair.

ICRISAT stall at the Sharefair.

Engaging with rural women farmers for technology dissemination and value chain development was the focus of the United Nations’ regional “Sharefair for Rural Women’s Technologies” held in Nairobi, Kenya. ICRISAT was represented by Dr Esther Njuguna-Mungai, Scientist – Gender Research, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, and two women innovators of the ‘Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement’ (HOPE) Project.

Some highlights of the discussions were:

  • Focus on consulting women about their views when working in research and development; giving women’s voice an opportunity in agricultural conversations
  • Ensuring tools are designed and developed that can ease the burden of labor for women, especially the smallholder farming systems that are currently labor intensive and dominated by women
  • Connecting the dots in agriculture and nutrition conversations
  • Linking women farmers to agricultural finance; promoting development of investment ideas so that finance is an enabler
  • Women’s participation in decision making process that influences investments into agriculture
  • Women’s participation in data collection, interpretation and retention in their communities, to avoid the ‘pirate approach’ in data collection
  • Consideration of farmers’ adoption curve, packaging information to suit different categories of farmers to enhance innovations and adoption of technologies;
  • Review agricultural curriculum in universities and other academic institutions to accommodate the dynamics in the field, and train graduates to add value.

Two women farmers working with ICRISAT on the HOPE project demonstrated the possibilities of empowerment through agriculture. Ms Esther Moshi, from Tanzania displayed different value added products that her group – JAGEF – makes from sorghum which is high in micronutrients. Some of the products include sorghum composite flour, snacks and wine, which were key in informing the participants of the potential of sorghum not only as a food crop but also as an industrial crop.

Mrs Margaret Osuru, a finger millet farmer from Kenya, demonstrated how to make value-added products from finger millet, which is naturally high in calcium, including buns, chapatti, millet flakes while sharing their key nutritional values.

Explaining the importance of sorghum and millets. 

Explaining the importance of sorghum and millets.

These products generated a lot of interest from participants and were in line with the nutrition theme of the event.

The ICRISAT stall also displayed the improved varieties of grain legumes that were developed under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes in collaboration with partners and National Agricultural Research System in Kenya.

Three roundtable discussions were held at the event: (i) Technologies to promote rural women’s productivity and empowerment, (ii) Gender, Food security and Nutrition and (iii) Research-Farmer Linkages.

Dr Njuguna-Mungai, represented ICRISAT on the ‘Research-farmer linkages’ round table session.

The capacity of women to organize and generate a ‘voice’ was also highlighted in sectors that have been subsidized by women – women in HIV-AIDS care where women have contributed greatly in home-based care, women in education and women in agricultural extensions.

The discussions ended with a call to invest in women and build on their current knowledge in groups, organization and inclusiveness.

The UN Women’s Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa, in partnership with the African Union, Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme hosted the event at the United Nations Office in Nairobi from 15-17 October.

The initiative that coincided with the International Day of Rural Women (15 October) World Food Day
(I6 October) and the International Day for Eradication of Poverty (17 October).

The three-day event aimed to focus attention on rural women as drivers of rural progress and change, and showcase small-scale innovations led by women from eastern and southern Africa.

It offered a platform for policymakers, academics, food producers, investors, technology innovators and others to interact with the women innovators with the aim that women-led innovations are shared, incubated and scaled up.

The HOPE project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.