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Three Questions about the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

The new Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) will be officially launched today during the United Nations’ 56thsession of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City. The WEAI is the first-ever measure to directly capture women’s empowerment and inclusion levels in the agricultural sector.

Chairwoman Rose Peter of the Upendo Women Growers Association in Mlandize, Kibaha, Tanzania, shows off the first batch of sweet peppers the women have grown in their new greenhouse. Photo credit: USAID/Tanzania.

The index is the product of a partnership between USAID, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) of Oxford University, in support of President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative to combat global hunger and poverty.

Paul Weisenfeld, Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security at USAID, Dr. Sabina Alkire who leads OPHI, and Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, Senior Research Fellow for the Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division at IFPRI answer questions about this innovative measurement tool.

Q: What is the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index and what will it mean for the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative?

Paul: The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index measures the empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector to identify ways to overcome obstacles and constraints that hinder women’s engagement and equality. The Index is a significant innovation in its field and aims to increase understanding of the connections between women’s empowerment, food security, and agricultural growth. It measures the roles and extent of women’s engagement in the agriculture sector in five domains: (1) decisions about agricultural production, (2) access to and decision-making power over productive resources, (3) control over use of income, (4) leadership in the community, and (5) time use. It also measures women’s empowerment relative to the men within their households.

The WEAI was developed to track the change in women’s empowerment levels that occurs as a direct or indirect result of interventions under Feed the Future.  The U.S. Government sees the inclusion of women in agricultural sector growth as a key component of the Feed the Future strategy.  We are paying close attention to gender integration at the country-, program-, and project-level, and trying to get it right at every stage of the initiative.  This is where the Index plays a critical role; we want to continue to study, assess, and monitor how our approaches impact women, men, and their engagement in overall agricultural sector growth.

Q: What makes the WEAI so innovative?

Sabina: The WEAI is the first index to directly capture women’s empowerment in agriculture and provides invaluable tools for empowering women and improving gender equality.

The WEAI reveals the areas such as time burdens, community leadership, and control over income and resources, where women are most disempowered. It also shows whether an ‘empowerment gap’ exists between women and men from the same household.

And because it gets closer in, it also transforms our understanding of who is empowered. Until now, wealth and education have been taken as signs of how empowered women are. The WEAI gives a more precise picture. Pilot results from Guatemala, for example, show that 76% of the sample region’s wealthiest women are disempowered in agricultural empowerment. The index is constructed using an adaptation of the Alkire Foster method for measuring multidimensional poverty.

Q: If we’re seeing that wealth and education don’t necessarily mean “empowerment” for women, then what does empowerment mean in the context of agricultural development?

Agnes: It means a woman is able to make decisions, access the tools she needs, obtain a loan if she needs to buy inputs to expand production, join a women’s group, and take on leadership roles to advance agricultural production and tackle shared problems in the community. It means that she can control her income, better manage her time, and make sure she remains healthy and productive in her multiple roles. These factors enable a woman to do things such as produce food for her family; identify and help raise awareness to address problems affecting output – like crop disease or drought –helping communities cope with unexpected shocks; bring her products to market; and have the opportunity to both advance and benefit from economic growth opportunities. 

All of this increases women’s bargaining power within her household and her ability to decide how she’ll spend her income. Our work at IFPRI has shown that women are more likely to spend additional income on their children’s health, nutrition, and education, as well as on other investments that ultimately result in dividends that advance the broader community. We know that empowering women is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. It helps advance families, communities, and the broader global good.

Learn more about the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

 

Picture of the Week

This 3-day old male calf was produced through artificial insemination trainings conducted by the USAID Agriculture Technology Program in Turkmenistan. The breed is a mix between local Brown Swiss (mother) and pure bred Brown Swiss. Photo credit: Zulya Achilova

 

Photo of the Week

Climbing the apricot tree in their garden, these children are happy to be surrounded by a successful harvest. USAID's Productive Agriculture program helps farmers increase production and processing of agricultural products in Western Khatlon, around Dushanbe, and the Sughd Regions of Tajikistan. Photo: USAID Productive Agriculture program

 

What “Capacity Development” Means to Me

This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah attended the Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in San Francisco. U.S. universities share a long history of close partnership with USAID, including collaboration on agricultural capacity development activities in the developing world. See below how some of this work is reaching women researchers in Africa.

The majority of those who produce, process, and market Africa’s food are women, yet only one in four agricultural researchers is female. As an agricultural scientist from Mozambique, I am part of a growing movement to increase the number of female researchers who can help respond to the global challenges of food insecurity and hunger.

I completed my MSc degree part-time so that I could stay close to my children and support their studies and development. Now that they have grown up, I am hoping to attain my PhD and am participating in some of the unique programs offered to researchers like me so that we can pursue our long-term goals. For me, that goal is empowering rural women through informal agricultural education that will enhance their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities as a whole.

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is a professional development program supported by USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science. As an AWARD Fellow, I am working to improve the livelihoods of those living in my country’s rural communities through the dissemination of agricultural technologies, using innovation platforms for technology adoption in maize and other crops – a method that involves all actors in the value chain – and at the same time testing the use of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for both humans and livestock. This sweet potato variety helps reduce vitamin A deficiency in children under 5 years old and can improve food security not just in Mozambique, but also throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Its use for livestock can reduce the cost of animal feed, providing additional benefits to smallholder farmers.

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Engaging Universities to Address the Global Food Security Challenge

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a national association of 217 state university systems, land-grant universities, and related organizations across all 50 states. This week, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and several Agency representatives are attending APLU’s Annual Meeting, the premier annual summit for senior leaders of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state universities.

USAID has enjoyed a long and productive history of partnerships with U.S. universities — partnerships that are critical to our success in many areas and dating back to our very founding 50 years ago. These institutions’ education, research, and engagement missions directly align with USAID’s charge to help people overseas struggling to make a better life. USAID partnerships with U.S. universities have focused on research and graduate training for promising young developing country scientists and on strengthening colleges and universities abroad to create the next generation of agricultural leaders. Together, we have made great progress. But there is still so much more to be done.

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From Seed to Harvest: Supporting the Next Generation of Leaders to Reduce Global Hunger

This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is attending the Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in San Francisco. USAID shares a long history of close partnership with U.S. universities, including collaboration on agricultural capacity development activities in the developing world. See below how some of this work is reaching women researchers in Africa.

Last month, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend the 2011 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa as a fellow in the Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program. The event saw participation from hundreds of leaders and experts in policy, industry, and research from all over the world, convened there to discuss global food security and agriculture.  Throughout the week, I encountered countless high-powered individuals who have been working tirelessly to achieve global food security by facilitating increased production among small-scale farmers.  They have made a compelling case for improving the effectiveness of U.S. investments in global food security and for addressing the troubling gap between population growth and food production.

An example of these investments to build long-term food security, my own research through the Borlaug Program has focused on an important aspect of the food supply: pre- and post-harvest losses.  From the time that seeds are planted to the time that farmers harvest and store their crops, good farming practices are essential to agricultural productivity.  Food security is compromised when farmers plant damaged seeds, leading to unviable crops; when poor farming practices result in a poor crop yield; or when improper storage and loss of crops prevent farmers from reaping the rewards of months of hard work.  Therefore, one clear way to help reduce global hunger is to reduce pre- and post-harvest losses.  My goal is to be able to find a lasting solution to the problem of postharvest grain storage faced by the farmers in my home country of Nigeria.

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USAID Supports South Sudan’s First Agricultural Trade Fair

Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.

In South Sudan, farmers, researchers, and the private sector are coming together with the help of USAID to showcase the new nation’s agricultural potential.

On November 9 to 12, USAID supported the first agricultural trade fair in Juba, South Sudan. National and international entrepreneurs came to learn about opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry. Farmers from 10 different states showcased their products, including items such as cassava, bamboo, flowers, beeswax, gum arabic, fruit, vegetables, and dried fish. Among displays of tractors and farm equipment, students learned about the agricultural industry and experts demonstrated planting and irrigation techniques at interactive exhibits.

“Agriculture affects every citizen of South Sudan, a nation in which more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry for their livelihood,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Peter Natiello at the opening of the fair.

Republic of South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny welcomed farmers and exhibitors who came from across South Sudan and the region to attend the fair. As an example of South Sudan’s enormous potential, Vice President Machar described how rich Western Equatoria state is in its agricultural production, including mangoes and pineapple, but farmers face challenges in bringing their goods to market. “This is where we need investors to come in who can buy products and preserve them, either process it locally, can it, or dry it, and then send it to the areas that do not produce these products,” he said.

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In Turkmenistan, USAID Brings New Opportunities to Farmers and Students

In my 24 years with USAID, I have served around the world but somehow had never made it to the former Soviet Union – until last month.  So it was with great excitement that I anticipated my first visit to Central Asia, eager to learn more about the region and our programs there.

The most memorable part of the trip was visiting USAID projects in Turkmenistan during my first three days in the region.  I visited the historical city of Mary (Mar-ree), a caravan city in southeastern Turkmenistan on the original Silk Road about an hour’s flight from the capital, Ashgabat. In the Mary region, USAID is funding a well-received Agricultural Technology Project that works to increase the agricultural productivity of small greenhouse farmers, by providing technical assistance and training in new greenhouse technology.  I toured various greenhouses in the region, including some that USAID has helped rehabilitate.  From what I was told, the yield of various crops (mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, etc.) has doubled in the rehabilitated greenhouses.  Techniques used include raised roofs, improved heating systems, better irrigation techniques, and more appropriate fertilizer usage.

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For the Hungry, Raising Awareness = Action. We are the Relief.

The sun was beaming down on us. Some were clearly starting to feel tired, hungry, and thirsty.

“Are we there yet?” joked a young man a few feet ahead of me.

“Apple cider?” asked a man standing behind a table set up along the road just for us. “We have cookies, too. Take what you’d like!”

We were less than two miles into a six-mile CROP Hunger Walk in Arlington, VA. Sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), about 2,000 CROP Hunger Walks are organized each year by local groups in communities across the United States to raise awareness about hunger at home and around the world.  I was honored to have been invited to help kick off the walk and participate with about 100 others who were taking time out of their Saturday morning to demonstrate a commitment to ending the plight of those suffering from hunger.

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In Rome, Land Governance Negotiations Move Forward

The U.S. is chairing the UN FAO Committee for Food Security’s intergovernmental negotiations on Voluntary Guidelines for the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VG).  To date, these negotiations  have included over 70 countries, the private sector, multilateral institutions and some 50 civil society organizations (CSO).   By the end of October 2011 approximately 70% of the VGs have been negotiated and agreed to.  The US is hopeful that this process will be completed in early 2012.

The nature of these negotiations is unique in the UN system as civil society participates on an equal basis throughout the dialog process before consensus is reached among the members.  Civil society organizations have been very collaborative and brought much-needed field-level information to the discussion of the VGs.  The USG was frequently in agreement with the CSOs, and  publically aligned with them on the need to complete the VG before the Committee for Food Security or any other body takes on the highly charged issue of “land grabbing” under the rubric of Responsible Agricultural Investments.

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