Women account for 60 to 80 percent of the agricultural workforce in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. However, women are not highly represented in agricultural research, where they can address the issues of hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has recognized and is acting on this significant imbalance, which led to the important development of the program African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).
The Gender & Diversity Program of CGIAR developed the AWARD project in 2008 to tackle the issue of how to advance and expand the role of women in agricultural development and innovation in Africa. Following a three year pilot program in East Africa supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, CGIAR established the AWARD career program, two-year custom fellowships for African women scientists and professionals conducting agricultural research and development aimed at rural communities.
With 320 fellows and more than 200 organization partners, AWARD supports professional women from eleven different African countries. The program covers a broad range of disciplines and also offers one year of mentoring, equipping top women scientists with skills to accelerate their careers and contributions to poverty alleviation and food security in Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the Agropolis Foundation are a few of the projects top supporters.
With the success of the program since 2008, AWARD is partnering with the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development in Dakar, Senegal and Agropolis Foundation in Montpellier, France to develop the career development program in five francophone African countries. This pilot program and the applications of almost 3,000 women received to date for the AWARD fellowships demonstrate the considerable need for women’s career development in this field.