Agricultural Research and Development Opportunity for African Women
By Tukeni Obasi
Some readers of this column may already know about the prestigious African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) programme. The purpose of this entry is to inform all interested women in agricultural research and development that there is an opportunity to be part of the programme as applications are now being accepted for 2013.
For those who may not be familiar with the programme, AWARD is a professional programme aimed at building the skills of women in different ‘agro-allied’ disciplines as well as sub-disciplines within agricultural science, and equipping them with the tools they need to tackle hunger and poverty in their communities. These disciplines include crop science, ecology, horticulture, food science and nutrition, agronomy, forestry and agroforestry, soil science, water and irrigation, entomology, aquatic resources and fisheries, molecular biology, and extension education.
To this end, AWARD particularly identifies young women whose intellectual achievements, leadership record, and demonstrated will and potential to improve the livelihoods of smallholder women farmers are beyond reproach. In the past four years, over 250 professional women in research and development in agriculture have benefitted from the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of their professional careers, take their research many notches higher while accessing many relevant networks and resources, and expand their impact in rural farming communities. Another perk of the programme is the mentorship through which the new AWARD fellow is matched with a senior agricultural scientist who guides and supports her throughout her journey.
The two-year fellowship/capacity building programmes comprise workshops and training courses which cover a wide range of topics including techniques of scientific research, leadership, career building and development, and community development. It is currently funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with support from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
At the moment, the programme is open to women who have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree in one of the listed disciplines. Applicants must also be from one of these eleven African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, and Mozambique. Given the relatively large number of women in agriculture in Nigeria, I know that there are many women who are more than qualified to be part of this programme. Not only will they be better off attending, the Nigerian agricultural sector – which currently suffers from poor industrial capacity, gender inequality, and a dearth of research facilities – will be better off as a result of their improved skills and strengthened resolve to improve the sector.
Within Harambe Nigeria, I have had the chance to work with some of the most promising women in the agricultural fields, some of whom have already begun to receive recognition for their work, and have seen the impact these women have made in their niches. I have also had the chance to meet a past AWARD fellow and see the difference AWARD has made in her life and community. I would therefore encourage more women in the field to keep pursuing excellence. Capacity building and economic empowerment are particularly important for women who make up almost 80 percent of the labour force in agriculture and yet have access to less than 2 percent of the capital, thus undermining their ability to scale up their enterprises and cater to the needs of their families.
The application deadline is September 7, 2012. I encourage my readers to also share this with friends, classmates, and colleagues who might be interested or qualified for this opportunity. Interested applicants should visit www.awardfellowships.org. It is my hope that many women will be encouraged by initiatives like this, will rise up to the challenge to be part of it and, through this opportunity, change the face of agriculture in Nigeria forever.