African Women in Agricultural Research and Development has announced up to $19 million in joint funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development in support of a fellowship program for women scientists.
Grants of $14 million from the Gates Foundation and up to $5 million from USAID will support the second five-year phase of AWARD's efforts to bolster the research and leadership skills of female agricultural scientists in eleven sub-Saharan African countries. Since 2008, more than two thousand women have applied for two hundred and fifty fellowships, and more than a thousand are competing for seventy places in the next round, which will be announced in December.
According to a 2008 benchmarking study by AWARD, while the majority of those who produce, process, and market food in Africa are women, only one in four agricultural researchers is a woman and only one in seven holds a leadership position in African agricultural research institutions. Preliminary data about the first hundred and eighty AWARD alumnae indicate that they are developing more than a hundred and thirty-seven agricultural technologies and products; that at least 57 percent of them are refocusing their research to be more gender responsive and/or helpful to women farmers; that half increased their average publication rate in peer-reviewed journals; and that 52 percent were promoted.
"Cultivating a new generation of African leaders in food and agriculture is strategically important," said AWARD director Vicki Wilde. "That leadership will be all the more effective when women are highly represented, especially by those technically competent and strategically positioned to generate and promote the innovations needed by rural women and other smallholder farmers."