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In Africa, female scientists should power female farmers, group says

Women farmers in Africa produce over 60 percent of all food crops. <a href="">CIMMYT (flickr)</a>
Women farmers in Africa produce over 60 percent of all food crops. CIMMYT (flickr)

Women comprise 43 percent of the world’s farmers. In Africa, it’s 80 percent. Women plant, harvest, process and sell their crops, but men continue to dominate agricultural science and research. This may be about to change.

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is trying to close the R&D gender gap. Their program fast-tracks female science careers in agriculture, empowering them to contribute more effectively to hunger and poverty alleviation in their own communities - a model that could be replicated internationally.

Although African women produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops, they receive significantly less (5% as of 2008) of the agricultural training and tools available to men, says the United Nations. A 2010-2011 research report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization shows that women could produce 20-30 percent more if they had equal access. This creates a subsequent increase in household income, health, and community food supply. The East Africa Report emphasizes that research is also pivotal in fostering innovation. Without a seat at the table, women cannot influence practices. Who better to innovate than the farmers themselves?

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