CARE (and Pathways) at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa

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Panelists Jemimah Njuki, Mavis Owureku-Asare, Greg Traxler, and Markus Goldstein

The World Food Prize and Borlaug dialogue is an annual event that brings together stakeholders in the food and agriculture community each October. It is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply — food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

CARE was invited this year to host a side event on Thursday afternoon at the 2013 World Food Prize. We convened a panel on increasing the productivity and empowerment of women smallholder farmers. The panel included Markus Goldstein, leader of the Africa Gender Practice of the World Bank, Greg Traxler, Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mavis Owureku-Asare from the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, who is also an AWARD fellow as well as a Borlaug fellow. As the team leader of CARE’s Pathways program, I shared a presentation about Pathways and moderated the panel. Faheem Khan, Director of Food and Livelihood Justice for CARE introduced the panel and represented CARE at the event.

The side event was attended by over 60 people from universities, INGOs, government and the private sector.

“Our focus is on smallholder farmers, not only because we can improve their livelihoods but because they have potential to feed a growing urban population”, said Faheem of CARE’s work in the Food and Livelihood Justice team. Faheem further elaborated on the growing needs of food for a 9.6 billion population in 2050 saying the world needs to produce the same amount of food in the next 50 years as in the last 8,000 years, a task that will require innovative approaches and partnerships.

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Workshop participants listen to Markus present

Markus presented evidence on a series of evaluations that the World Bank through the Innovations Lab of the Africa Gender Practice has been doing citing success in land registration in Rwanda and extension systems in Ethiopia as some of the successes in reducing gender gaps in agriculture. Despite some of the successes in a few countries, he cautions that while we are getting evidence on what the gaps are and what might reduce these gaps the ‘how to’ of addressing gender inequalities remains a big knowledge gap and programs like Pathways are instrumental in developing evidence on how to implement gender transformative programs.

Greg Traxler talked about the importance of education and having systems at country level that support education of women and girls. He cited programs such as AWARD and RUFORUM that the foundation is supporting to improve education in Africa.

Marvis further talked about the role of AWARD in supporting and accelerating the careers of women scientists through a mentoring, leadership, and professional development support and the work she is doing working with smallholder women farmers on processing of tomatoes in Ghana.“The rate of suicide in the Upper East region of Ghana is growing as farmers become indebted as they cannot sell their tomatoes. This is despite the fact that the country is the second largest importer of tomato products. Working with women farmers in the region to add value and preserve tomatoes through fairly accessible technologies is a way to address this,” explained Marvis during the panel session.

My presentation of CARE’s work on women and agriculture through the Pathways program focused on the approaches that we are using including the integrated Farmer Field and Business School model as well as the importance of engaging men and boys in agriculture and in changing gender relations and promoting women’s empowerment. One of the key messages from the presentation was that the community working in agriculture development must take on gender and women’s empowerment as an integral component of their work in agriculture and not just  as an add on because failure to address gender inequalities and their underlying causes has detrimental impacts on livelihoods, food security and agricultural growth.

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Jemimah Njuki and Mavis Owureku-Asare

CARE’s work was also recognized by other speakers in the forum. Speaking during the main session and sharing the platform with Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain, and Ritu Sharma, CEO of Women Thrive WorldWide, Warren Buffet of the Warren Buffet Foundation said of CARE’s work in Burundi, “Addressing gender based violence is critical for women’s empowerment and what CARE does is to use theatre and other innovative approaches to engage men in eliminating violence against women. They have achieved remarkable results with men appreciating the role that women play in the household and community.”

There were very engaging discussions highlighting some of the key issues in food systems that CARE is also working on and the panel session provided an opportunity to discuss partnerships between CARE and others in this space.

It was a befitting last assignment for me at CARE!

Contributor: Jemimah Njuki/Pathways Team Leader
Photo Credit: Karen Homer/AWARD