Tackling gender equality improves success rate for AgriFood projects
Gender equality has become an important criteria in most funding and grant competitions, so we asked some expert speakers to share their insight on the topic as part of our GCRF AgriFood Africa Virtual Missions.
The GCRF AgriFood Africa Virtual Missions are all about building a community of stakeholders from African countries and the UK, to work on innovative and sustainable ways to manage food production systems in Africa.
The following four speakers shared their knowledge and told us about inventive projects that are addressing gender equality in Africa. Here’s an overview of their talks. You can watch the full talks here.
- Melody Mentz-Coetzee, Senior Researcher, University of Pretoria
- Zoe Jones, Programme Lead EDI , Innovate UK
- John Jones, Head of Cell & Molecular Sciences, James Hutton Institute
- Azumi Mesuna, Manager of Women’s Rights and Campaigns, Project Manager, POWER Ghana, ActionAid Ghana
Women play a crucial role in the production, processing and preparation of food in Africa. Yet women often have limited access to the resources they require, including agricultural inputs, land and education. Women are also often under-represented in decision-making forums. This means addressing the impacts of gender inequality in food systems could be significant: if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, it is estimated that the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million due to productivity gains. Addressing gender inequality in AgriFood systems and beyond, intentionally integrating gender into policy and programming, ensuring women’s voices inform research or actions, and improving monitoring mechanisms to identify and scale what works are all required.
Not only are the potential impacts of addressing gender inequality on livelihoods clear, but diversity also makes business sense and has the potential to enhance profitability. Consulting company McKinsey found that within executive boards gender diversity increased financial performance by 21%. Diversity within a team can also improve product design and increase a product’s effectiveness and marketability. Google discovered the implications of a lack of diversity during the design of their speech recognition software. It was trained largely using male voices and as a consequence was 70% more likely to understand men.
Due to the significant impacts that addressing gender equality could have on livelihoods and on the success of innovation, funding for AgriFood research and innovation projects often includes a requirement to consider gender diversity, like in the AgriTech Catalyst and the GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards. To be successful when addressing gender in project design, it is important to look at how diversity factors into the project plan. For example how you are going to measure positive or negative impacts, or having targets for diverse user engagement.
John Jones and Azumi Mesuna both shared some real-life examples of how addressing gender diversity can ensure the success of projects.
- Improving lives by working on potato variety choice
The RESOLVE project at the James Hutton Institute is looking to improve potato varieties in East Africa. Potato variety choice in Kenya is led by agronomic traits (yield, size, dormancy), and the traits sought by women who are responsible for the majority of food preparation in rural Kenya (flavour, colour, cooking time, marketability). The project focuses on how to introduce pest resistance into a variety which will suit the requirements of the whole household.
- Working to better women’s rights through local projects
Azumi Mesuna, manager of women’s rights and campaigns at ActionAid Ghana discussed some successful initiatives to address gender as part of the POWER project in Ghana, Bangladesh and Rwanda. Read more from Azumi here.
Gender equality is one of the topics we addressed during our virtual missions. We also talked about finance and insurance as well as Official Development Assistance (ODA). If you’d like to keep up to date with information about the GCRF AgriFood Africa project, click here.