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Another step towards empowering women in agriculture

I am at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa this week to meet with Hunger Fighters from around the world.

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg (Director, AWARD) repeated a statement by President Obama during his recent trip to Kenya – “if you don’t put out half your team you will not win the game”; and for agriculture, if we are not empowering our women scientists we will not win the war on hunger and poverty.

DG & Chapwa Kasoma

With Chapwa Kasoma

One of the delegates I met was Chapwa Kasoma, who is one of those young scientists who can provide solutions to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN announced last month. Chapwa commented that for African women there is a culture of submission that holds young women back. Fortunately for Chapwa, she now is being mentored by Dr. Damaris Odeny who leads ICRISAT’s Biotechnology program in Nairobi. Damaris is also an AWARD fellow who spent time with Dow in the USA during 2012 to learn about technology and business processes applied at Dow to ensure research translates to improved technology in farmer’s fields. 

I also listened to an inspiring talk by Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program  and a World Food Prize laureate (2003).   She called out the need for women and men to mentor young women agricultural scientists. Catherine has also written an article for the Daedalus journal titled: “Invisible Women”, in which she highlights the need to educate girls to empower them to contribute fully to development.

The article quotes a statement Catherine made in 1995 at the UN in which she stated “Women eat last. In almost every society in the world, women gather the food, prepare the food, serve the food. Yet most of the time, women eat last. A woman feeds her husband, then her children, and finally – with whatever is left – she feeds herself. Even pregnant women and breast feeding women often eat last when, of all times, they should eat first”.

ICRISAT’s annual report for 2014 recognized outstanding women farmers in Africa and Asia and how we integrate gender at every stage of the value chain – the same approach Chapwa and Damaris are using in Kenya.


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