Involving women in research for economic growth through agricultural technologies and practices: ICRISAT’s initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa


Although both men and women play substantial economic roles in the semi-arid tropics of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), in general women’s preponderant role in agricultural activities in the region cannot be ignored. Cultural norms in the region have long encouraged women to be economically self-reliant and traditionally give women substantial responsibility for agricultural production in their own right. Women in the region have relatively high overall labor force participation rates and the highest average agricultural labor force participation rates in the world. Thus, women farmers in the region, irrespective of their ethnic group, substantially contribute to national agricultural production and food security as they are primarily responsible for food crops – food production as well as processing. As an agricultural research institute, ICRISAT’s initiatives and programs are technology based; and as gender empowerment is high on ICRISAT’s agenda, most if not all of its projects and programs aim at addressing women with new technologies and knowledge to reach higher agricultural outputs. These, combined with other income generating activities, are implemented with an aim to increase women’s income and thus their autonomy and status. In this paper we have taken some major ICRISAT initiatives in some countries of Western Central Africa (Mali, Niger and Nigeria) to look into the implications for economic growth – for women and their families. Three major initiatives led by ICRISAT are reported here: the Groundnut seed project (2003–2007), Tropical Legumes II in first phase (2008–2010), and the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (2009–2012). All these projects have specific activities targeting women and involve technology and crop/seed management practices that were intentionally women-centric with the aim of enhancing women’s capacities and skills in the traditional tasks that they were responsible for, viz. cultivation of crops and seed production.

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Publication: Secheresse; 24(4)
Number of pages: 7
File type: PDF

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