Increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers has the greatest potential to accelerate agricultural-driven development in Africa. Yet, persistent gender gaps across all sectors continue to cripple global efforts toward sustainable development and improved livelihoods. At the same time, communities dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods are at a disproportionately higher risk of the adverse effects of the global warming of 1.5oC recorded in 2018.1 

The world needs urgent and concerted efforts toward enabling agricultural-dependent communities to thrive in the face of a changing climate. The key to finding solutions is an enhanced focus on the systemic causes of the gender divide in various sectors, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The year 2019 marked the midpoint of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) 2017-2022 strategy. This ambitious strategy seeks to contribute toward Africa’s agriculture-driven prosperity by focusing on three pillars of agricultural research and development (ARD): individuals, institutions, and the enabling environment. 

We are excited to highlight some of the outcomes of the first half of the strategy implementation and how we, together with our partners, are accelerating global efforts toward sustainable development goals, especially in the context of a changing climate.

Gender-responsive agricultural research is a significant opportunity for systemic transformation that we continued to harness in 2019. We intensified our mission of equipping African researchers and institutions to deliver agricultural innovations that better respond to the needs and priorities of a diversity of women and men across Africa’s agricultural value chains. 

We forged partnerships with eight national agricultural research institutions in six African countries, which saw us customize and deploy various interventions to build their gender responsiveness. The interventions included customized institutional fellowship programs and mentoring programs and supporting partner institutions to develop their gender strategies and leadership programs. 

We scaled our investments in strengthening the pipeline of women in leadership in ARD. Through the pan-African AWARD Fellowship targeting francophone Africa, we reached an additional 208 scientists from 13 sub-Saharan countries (nine francophone countries, four anglophone countries). This scaling has brought the total number of direct beneficiaries of the AWARD Fellowship to 1,516 scientists from 40 countries over the past 12 years. These are scientists at different career levels, ranging from emerging scientists who participated as AWARD Fellows and fellow’s mentees to senior scientists who participated as mentors.

Through the One Planet Fellowship, we fostered a robust global network of capable and influential researchers and research leaders able to deploy a gender lens to analyze their research’s potential to bridge the gender gap in African agriculture and help smallholders adapt to a changing climate. 

We are encouraged by the tremendous appetite for enhanced capacity in climate change research and leadership, as indicated by the overwhelming number of applications for the inaugural cohort of the One Planet Fellowship (more than 2,400 applicants for 90 available slots in 2019 and 2020).

While this is a harsh reminder of the reality of the imbalance between demand and supply of capacity development on the continent, it is also an opportunity for increased partnerships to build local talent to address climate change in Africa. We acknowledge and appreciate funding support from the European Union and Canada‘s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), who joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the BNP Paribas Foundation in funding the One Planet Fellowship.

In exploring the nexus of gender and leadership in political governance and agriculture in Africa, our work (published in the 2019 annual trends and outlook report: Gender equality in rural Africa: From commitments to outcomes2) revealed that failure to tackle institutional deficiencies and promote accountable and robust leadership exacerbate the gender gaps recorded across Africa. We scaled up an intervention that addresses systemic causes of gender inequality in STEM and highlights the strategies and approaches that improve the numbers and experiences of women in STEM.

Moving forward, we are energized to build on the successful outcomes from the first half of our strategy implementation as, together with our partners, we work toward our vision of agriculture-driven prosperity for Africa. 


Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg
Director, AWARD


Professor Lateef Oladimeji Sanni
Chairperson, AWARD Steering Committee