On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Dr. Mariame Maiga—Regional Gender and Social Development Advisor for the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF)—calls upon policymakers to examine the role gender plays in agricultural and sustainable development. “Unless we bridge the gender gap in the agricultural sector, to facilitate equitable access to agricultural production resources, we will not be able to meet [regional goals for food security],” says Maiga.
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“This kind of challenge requires confrontation on a daily basis,” says Maiga. “The countries involved know that they need to deal with gender in any program or process because they need to think about how to address cultural challenges.” According to CORAF, women represent at least 62 percent of the active farming population in Africa. “We say that a minimum of 40 percent of women should benefit from CORAF projects,” says Maiga.
CORAF reaches women with gender-smart and climate-smart technologies that help women with day-to-day labor and long-term business development—these technologies range from yield-boosting resources to fish drying and smoking equipment. “In Burkina Faso, we have a technology for drying mangoes. One woman using the technology is now working with more than 100 women and young people because she developed a business. We have so much material on gender outcomes like this,” says Maiga.
“[Our policies and strategies] aim to ensure equitable access to agricultural research and social development resources and opportunities for women and men—especially for anyone from marginalized communities in West and Central Africa,” says Maiga. For CORAF, gender equity efforts must involve strategies to support men as well, amplifying their voices in projects. “For example, men are often not allowed to cook or even go to kitchens. This is the socio-cultural perception [we’re trying to transform],” says Maiga. By transforming these cultural perceptions, Maiga hopes CORAF can help men access resources normally out of their reach, improving their livelihoods.
CORAF hopes to build a sustainable agriculture industry by improving representation for youth and women in all sectors of the industry, including in research and policy-making. Maiga outlines youth scholarship programs and women’s scientific capacity building projects that aim to integrate these voices into national agricultural research. And the policy-making realm, “policymakers need to know it is important to facilitate access to decision making positions for women in agricultural and sustainable development projects for the future.”