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50 African Women selected as Fellows of USAID Funded Initiative Championing the Empowerment of Women in Agriculture

Updated: Feb 23

Thirteen Madagascan and two Mozambiquan women are amongst 50 African women selected as Policy Fellows for the second cohort of The Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship, an initiative of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The AWARD Policy Fellowship is cultivating a growing pool of African women to catalyze the design and implementation of gender-responsive agricultural policies across Africa.

In Madagascar, an estimated four in five people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – yet the sector’s contribution to total exports (37%) and gross domestic product (29%) is markedly limited. Bottlenecks to agricultural growth include unchecked land use change and associated biodiversity loss; poor access to infrastructure and services, such as irrigation and roads; and the country’s vulnerability to an increasing variety of climate shocks.

In addition to these challenges, “Women are underestimated, especially in the agricultural industry. They are sensitive to the community’s wish for socioeconomic change and they deserve credit,” says Laurette Ratsimbazafy, AWARD Policy Fellow and Regional Director of the Agricultural Development Fund in northern Madagascar.

Women in Mozambique’s conservative communities face similar challenges of inequality within the agricultural sector: “Men usually feel like empowering women is disempowering them [men],” says Doreen Tekedese, Gender Equity, Social Inclusion, and Agri-Business Coordinator at International Development Enterprise in Mozambique. In Mozambique, the agriculture sector employs about 70% of the active workforce  – of which 59% is female labour – but productivity remains low due to underdeveloped value chains and limited agro-processing to add value.

To address the challenges smallholders face and close gender gaps in agrifood systems, transformative policy change is needed – a key focus of the GRASP Policy Fellowship. For its second phase, the GRASP initiative has targeted six new countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Senegal. The selected applicants have at least 10 years’ experience in agriculture and food system policy at national, regional, or continental levels, with most working in social sciences.

As part of their training, the GRASP Policy Fellows learn how to become effective negotiators, sharpen their skills to design gender-responsive policies, and build collaborative relationships with diverse policy stakeholders. They also receive catalytic funding and access to networks to enable them to lead agricultural policy processes that integrate gender.


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