This past weekend I had the privilege to meet and learn from women farmers in northern Mozambique and Salima District of Malawi. I was so impressed and proud that ICRISAT technologies, such as improved groundnut, pigeonpea and more recently sorghum varieties, are empowering women to earn more income. This in turn is giving women control over their financial resources so they can send their children to school and improve the nutrition of their families.
One of these women I was honored to meet, is Beatrice Ngongonda, a pigeonpea farmer in Salima Malawi. She has planted about 5 acres with the Mwaiwanthualimi variety that matures in 6 months (medium duration) and is well adapted to most of Malawi. We provided 5 tons of this variety to the Vice President of Malawi last April for seed increase, and Beatrice is one of hundreds of proud seed producers around the country of this emerging cash crop.
I was truly impressed with their resilience, hope and joy as these women harmoniously sang a powerful message on their important role as farmers and their desire for a better livelihood through access to improved ICRISAT technologies. According to the FAO, if women farmers in developing countries had parity they would produce over 20% more food. This would make a huge difference in not only food production but better nutrition, management of natural resources and more rapid and equitable economic development.
I am especially proud and impressed with the dedication and passion of our women staff to make a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers – especially women farmers who play such a vital role in agriculture around the globe.
ICRISAT is committed to the Pledge for Parity (#PledgeForParity) for its
women employees and the farmers we serve through our science and partnerships. To this end, I will be setting up a mentoring program convened by myself as the head of ICRISAT to support our dedicated women to realize their full potential. In doing so, ICRISAT will realize its own full potential as an organization to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families in the Semi-Arid Tropics of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Happy International Women’s Day!